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On This Day in History, February 27: A Brooklyn-Bred Literary Whiz

Irwin Shaw was born in Manhattan on Feb. 27, 1913, but his family moved to Brooklyn soon after, where he attended grade school and later, Brooklyn College.

His first successes as a playwright were “Bury the Dead” (’36) and “The Gentle People! A Brooklyn Fable” (’39), which was produced by the Theatre Guild. The setting of the latter was Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay.

During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army in Europe and later wrote for the army newspaper Stars and Stripes.

Shaw’s greatest success was his novel about the war, The Young Lions (’48). The novel traced the destinies, fated to cross, of individual soldiers on both sides of the war, and it demonstrated Shaw’s talent for realistic dialogue and his feeling for the common man. It was made into a memorable movie in 1958 with Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Dean Martin.

His other novels include The Troubled Air (’50), Two Weeks in Another Town (’59 — also made into a movie in ’62 starring Kirk Douglas and Edward G. Robinson), Voices of a Summer Day (’65), and Evening in Byzantium (’73). His bestsellers Rich Man, Poor Man (’70) and Beggarman Thief (’77) were made into highly rated TV dramas.

Brooklynites not only admire Shaw’s literary achievements, but also his exploits as the starring quarterback while at Brooklyn College.

He died on May 16, 1984.

February 27, 2012 - 9:38am


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