R. C. Sherriff
|Born||Robert Cedric Sherriff|
6 June 1896
Hampton Wick, Middlesex, England
|Died||13 November 1975 (aged 79)|
Kingston upon Thames, England
|Occupation||Playwright and screenwriter|
|Period||1920s to 1960s|
Robert Cedric Sherriff, FSA, FRSL (6 June 1896 – 13 November 1975) was an English writer best known for his play Journey's End, which was based on his experiences as an army officer in the First World War. He wrote several plays, many novels, and multiple screenplays, and was nominated for an Academy Award and two BAFTA awards.
Sherriff was born in Hampton Wick, Middlesex, to insurance clerk Herbert Hankin Sherriff and Constance Winder. He was educated at Kingston Grammar School in Kingston upon Thames from 1905-1913.[n 1]
After he left school, Sherriff worked in an insurance office as a clerk (from 1914) and as an insurance adjuster (1918 to 1928) at Sun Insurance Company, London. Sherriff served as an officer in the 9th battalion of the East Surrey Regiment in the First World War, taking part in the fighting at Vimy Ridge and Loos. He was severely wounded at Passchendaele near Ypres in 1917.
Sherriff studied history at New College, Oxford from 1931 to 1934. He was a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Society of Antiquaries of London.
Sherriff wrote his first play to help Kingston Rowing Club raise money to buy a new boat. His seventh play, Journey's End, was written in 1928 and published in 1929 and was based on his experiences in the war. It was given a single Sunday performance, on 9 December 1928, by the Incorporated Stage Society at the Apollo Theatre, directed by James Whale and with the 21-year-old Laurence Olivier in the lead role. In the audience was Maurice Browne who produced it at the Savoy Theatre where it was performed for two years from 1929.
Sherriff also wrote prose. A novelised version of Journey's End, co-written with Vernon Bartlett, was published in 1930. His 1939 novel, The Hopkins Manuscript is an H. G. Wells-influenced post-apocalyptic story about an earth devastated because of a collision with the Moon. Its sober language and realistic depiction of an average man coming to terms with a ruined England is said to have been an influence on later science fiction authors such as John Wyndham and Brian Aldiss. The Fortnight in September, an earlier novel, published in 1931, is a rather more plausible story about a Bognor holiday enjoyed by a lower-middle-class family from Dulwich. It was nominated by Kazuo Ishiguro as a book to 'inspire, uplift and offer escape' in a list compiled by The Guardian during the COVID-19 pandemic, describing it as "just about the most uplifting, life-affirming novel I can think of right now".
His 1936 novel Green Gates is a realistic novel about a middle-aged couple, Tom and Edith Baldwin, moving from an established London suburb into the then-new suburbs of Metro-land.
Sherriff was nominated along with Eric Maschwitz and Claudine West for an Academy award for writing an adapted screenplay for Goodbye, Mr. Chips which was released in 1939. His 1955 screenplays, The Dam Busters and The Night My Number Came Up were nominated for best British screenplay BAFTA awards.