RC Sherriff

Novelist and playwright

1896–1975

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Biography

Writing in the late 1960’s Sherriff said “The other day I went to give the prizes away at a nearby school. Afterwards there was a little reception, with coffee and cakes. An old lady who brought me a cup of coffee said, “I did enjoy Journey’s End, Mr Sherriff. Why don’t you write something else?”

On his return from fighting in the First World War, Sherriff settled down into a suburban life in London, working as an agent for an insurance company and writing plays in the evening. The plays were written to be performed at fundraising events for his beloved Kingston Rowing Club.

Journey’s End, which was inspired by Sherriff’s own experience of fighting in the First World War, was his sixth play but the first to be given a professional production. It was an immediate, outstanding and phenomenal success. Thirty one separate productions ran concurrently around the world and it was translated into twenty six languages. Its success, however, was both a boon and a burden to Sherriff for although it allowed him to give up the day job and devote himself full-time to writing it often overshadowed his later work or was used as the yardstick against which it was measured unfavourably.

Fortunately for Sherriff he was not only a playwright but also a novelist and a screenwriter. When his second professional play, Badger’s Green, flopped, he wrote a best-selling novel, The Fortnight In September. This attracted the attention of Hollywood and Carl Laemmle at Universal asked him to write the screenplay for The Invisible Man. Sherriff, accompanied by his widowed mother, went out to seek his fortune working for the new-fangled ‘talkies’. When his stock began to wane in Hollywood he returned to England and wrote the screenplay for The Four Feathers for Alexander Korda. His reputation restablished he went on to write screenplays for classic films such as Goodbye Mr Chips (for which he received an Oscar nomination), Lady Hamilton, Odd Man Out, The Night My Number Came Up and The Dambusters.

But Sherriff had not lost his love of the theatre and, in the years following the end of the Second World War he had what he referred to as an “Indian summer” of playwriting success with Miss Mabel, Home at Seven, The White Carnation and The Long Sunset. Even so occupied as a playwright and screenwriter he did not lose his urge to write novels and he followed the success of his first novel with The Hopkins Manuscript, Chedworth, Another Year and others.

Now, while Journey’s End continues to define Sherriff’s reputation, much of his work remains ripe for rediscovery.

CV

Book

Theatre

Writer

Director Allan Davis
Starring
  • Jean Kent
  • Paul Rogers
  •  
    The moral dilemma of Richard Medway.  He thinks he might have killed a man but can't remember whether he did or not.
    Duchess Theatre
     
    Director Bryan Bailey
    Starring
  • Melvyn Hayes
  • Edward Woodward
  •  
    A new vicar in London's docklands tries to bring the Church into the homes of his parishoners.
    Guildford Theatre
     
    Director Bernard Miles
    Starring
  • Joseph O'Connor
  • Josephine Wilson
  •  
    Drama set amongst the Romans who stayed behind when the legions finally left Britain in A.D. 410. 
    Mermaid Theatre
     
    Director Noel Wilman
    Starring
  • Meriel Forbes
  • Sir Ralph Richardson
  •  
    Ghostly tale of a stockbroker who refuses to leave the trappings of his life behind.
    Globe Theatre
     
    Starring
  • Sir Ralph Richardson
  • Marion Spencer
  •  
    Gripping mystery drama.  An ordinary decent citizen is caught in a waking nightmare.  A West-End hit in 1950.
    Wyndham's Theatre
     
    Starring
  • Mary Jerrold
  • Josephine Middleton
  • Clive Morton
  •  
    Highly acclaimed comedy of murder for the best of motives. 
    Duchess Theatre
     
    Starring
  • Keneth Kent
  •  
    The last days of Napoleon in exile.
    Old Vic Theatre
     
    Starring
  • Margaret Watson
  • Hugh E Wright
  •  
    Comedy.  When Mr Spooner wins a small fortune he wants life to carry on as before but friends and family won't let him.
    Embassy Theatre
     
    Starring
  • Felix Aylmer
  • Louis Goodrich
  • Horace Hodges
  •  
    Comedy of English village life.
    Prince of Wales' Theatre
     
    Director James Whale
    Starring
  • Laurence Olivier
  • H G Stoker
  • George Zucco
  •  
    Ground-breaking play depicting life in the trenches in the First World War
    Apollo Theatre
     

    Film