On May 8th 1956, Look Back in Anger changed theatrical history. It's a fact. But why? And in what ways? And could it possibly be true that Osborne wrote very little else of consequence, as some of his harshest critics maintain? And what exactly did his outbursts against the world in which he found himself really represent?
Osborne believed in an England which he saw successive governments destroying, and saw himself as almost a lone voice screaming protest - it was as simple as that. But this protest was maintained at a terrible cost, to his wives, to his professional standing, to his health, to his pocket, and eventually to his own self-confidence. He made an epic journey from the most successful playwright of his generation, to a forlorn and almost forgotten figure, railing at those who preferred to ignore him. But what was really extraordinary was that throughout that journey, he never lost the fiery power of tongues.
A unique aspect of this two-hour film is the recent discovery of extracts from some of the original stage performances of Osborne's most famous plays, material of great historical importance not seen for almost 40 years. - Laurence Olivier in The Entertainer; Albert Finney in Luther; Nicol Williamson in Inadmissable Evidence; Robert Stephens in Epitaph for George Dillon; Jill Bennett in A Patriot for Me, with a very young John Osborne as Reidl. Apart from a behind-the-scenes look at Osborne's Oscar-winning film, Tom Jones, other contributions are from David Hare, Richard Burton, Claire Bloom, John Heilpern (Osborne's authorized biographer), Peter Nichols, Christopher Hampton, Jocelyn Herbert, Claire Bloom, Charles Wood, Kenneth Tynan, Tony Richardson, Natasha Richardson, Lindsay Anderson, Peter Bowles, Ben Walden, Terence Frisby, Bill Bryden, Sylvia Syms, Anthony Page and the late Helen Osborne, with extracts from other plays performed by Peter Egan and Tom Hollander.