The Papers of Irwin Shaw

Accession Number 92-036


Irwin Shaw was born in the Bronx in 1913.  He grew up in Brooklyn and attended Brooklyn College, graduating with a BA in 1934.  A prolific writer, Shaw published five plays, eighty-four short stories, and twelve novels, including the best-selling Rich Man, Poor Man.  During his lifetime he also wrote screen plays and as a young man wrote scripts for two popular radio serials.

His writing career appears to have begun in the early 1930s when, as a Brooklyn College student he wrote for the school newspaper and edited the yearbook.  His first play, Bury the Dead, opened in 1936 at the Ethel Barrymore Theater.  The play received sensational reviews that brought Shaw acclaim as a promising young playwrite.  During the period of the mid 1930s to the early 1940s Shaw penned a variety of short stories and plays, and was invited to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter (1936).

In 1939 Shaw married the young actress Marian Edwards whom he had met in Hollywood, and in 1942 he entered the army.  His experiences in the army provided material for several short stories as well as the novel The Young Lions (1948).  The Young Lions was followed in 1951 by the best-selling novel The Troubled Air.  During the 50's Shaw's writing, including Lucy Crown met with much commercial success, but by the 1960s his critical reputation had suffered, as his novels were unfavorably compared to his earlier short stories.  His marriage had failed by 1967, but during the next decade he produced some of his most popular novels, including Rich Man, Poor Man.

By the mid 1970s, Shaw was drinking heavily and his health was deteriorating. He and Marian reconciled and remarried in 1982, but he died in May of 1984 of prostate cancer.

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