Irish dramatist, literary critic, a socialist spokesman, and a leading figure in the 20th century theater. Shaw was a freethinker, defender of women's rights, and advocate of equality of income. In 1925 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Shaw accepted the honour but refused the money.
George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin, where he grew up in something close to genteel poverty. "I am a typical Irishman; my family came from Yorkshire," Shaw once said. His father, George Carr Shaw, was in the wholesale grain trade. Lucinda Elisabeth (Gurly) Shaw, his mother, was the daughter of an impoverished landowner. She was 16-years younger than her husband. George Carr was a drunkard - his example prompted his son to become a teetotaller. When he died in 1885, his children and wife did not attend his funeral. Young Shaw and his two sisters were brought up mostly by servants.
A man of many causes, Shaw supported abolition of private property, radical change in the voting system, campaigned for the simplification of spelling, and the reform of the English alphabet. As a public speaker, Shaw gained the status of one of the most sought-after orators in England. In 1895 Shaw became a drama critic for the Saturday Review. Articles written for the paper were later collected in OUR THEATRES IN THE NINETIES (1932). Music, art, and drama criticism Shaw wrote for Dramatic Review (1885-86), Our Corner (1885-86), The Pall Mall Gazette (1885-88), The World (1886-94), and The Star (1888-90) as 'Corno bi Basetto'. His music criticism were collected in SHAW'S MUSIC (1981). After lacing a shoe too tightly, an operation was performed on his foot for necrosis; Shaw was unable to put his foot on the ground for eighteen months. During this period he wrote CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA (1901) and THE PERFECT WAGNERITE (1898).
The Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen had a great influence on Shaw's thinking. For a summer meeting of the Fabian Society in 1890, he wrote THE QUINTESSENCE OF IBSENISM (1891), in which he considered Ibsen a pioneer, "who declares that it is right to do something hitherto regarded as infamous." Shaw's early plays, WIDOWER'S HOUSES (1892), which criticized slum landlords, as well as several subsequent ones, were not well received. His 'unpleasant plays', ideological attacks on the evils of capitalism and explorations of moral and social problems, were followed with more entertaining but as principled productions. "To a professional critic (I have been one myself) theatre-going is the curse of Adam. The play is the evil he is paid to endure in the sweat of his brow; and the sooner it is over, the better." (from 'Preface' to Saint Joan) . CANDIDA was a comedy about the wife of a clergyman, and what happens when a weak, young poet wants to rescue her from her dull family life. But it was not until JOHN BULL'S OTHER ISLAND (1904) that Shaw gained in England a wider popularity with his own plays.
In the Unites States and Germany Shaw's name was already well-known. Between 1904 and 1907 The Royal Court Theatre staged several of his plays, including Candida.
In his plays Shaw combined contemporary moral problems with ironic tone and paradoxes, "Shavian" wit, which have produced such phrases as "He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches", "England and America are two countries divided by a common language", "Christianity might be a good thing if anyone ever tried it", and "I never resist temptation because I have found that things are bad for me do not tempt me." Discussion and intellectual acrobatics are the basis of his drama, and before the emergence of the sound film, his plays were nearly impossible to adapt into screen. During his long career, Shaw wrote over 50 plays. He continued to write them even in his 90s. George Bernard Shaw died at Ayot St. Lawrence, Hertfordshire, on November 2, 1950. He was cremated and it was his wish that his ashes be mixed with those of his wife, Charlotte - she had died seven years before, "aowed and crippled, furrowed and wrinkled," as Shaw depicted her in a letter to H.G. Wells.
Since the days of the silent films, Shaw had been a fan of motion-picture. He also played in the film Rosy Rapture - The Pride of the Beauty (1914). Shaw did not like much of the German film version of Pygmalion (1935), and the penniless producer and director Gabriel Pascal persuaded the author to give him the rights to make films from his plays. "Mr Pascal, you're the first honest film producer I have ever met," Shaw told him at their first meeting and gave him a pound note. Pygmalion, produced by Pascal and directed by Anthony Asquith and David Lean (uncredited), was a great success. In one article, Pascal was picked with the Pope and Hitler as one of the ten most famous men of 1938, but his career ended in the financial fiasco of the spectacle Caesar and Cleopatra (1945). Among several other films inspired by Shaw's plays are Saint Joan (1927), How He Lied to Her Husband (1931), Arms and the Man (1932), Major Barbara (1941), and My Fair Lady (1964). Pascal's co-director in Major Barbara was David Lean, but for thousand pounds Lean agreed to give the full credit to Pascal.