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Born in Hackney to Russian Jewish emigres, Oscar Lewenstein grew up in the seaside town of Hove but returned to London at age 14 when the family business failed. Embracing Marxism, he found work at the Workers' Bookshop after leaving school and later, championing the plays of Bertolt Brecht, was instrumental in bringing "Mother Courage" to the Stratford East and Devon Festival before producing "The Threepenny Opera," with Peter O'Toole, and "Saint Joan Of the Stockyards," directed by Tony Richardson.
His World War II experience teaching illiterate recruits to read and write convinced him he had a talent for organizing and led him to becoming the general manager of the Unity Theatre, a left-wing theater club, prior to his moving on to general manage the Royal Court Theatre in 1952. There, envisioning a writers' theater run on repertory lines, he formed the English Stage Company in 1956 with Ronald Duncan and George Devine. Their third production, John Osborne's "Look Back In Anger" (1956), paved the way for a new generation of British playwrights.
During the 60s, in association with Lindsay Anderson, Peter Brook and Tony Richardson, he produced several gritty, working-class films including "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" (1960) and the Oscar-winning "Tom Jones" (1963) that introduced actors like Tom Courtney and Albert Finney. Lewenstein served as artistic director at the Royal Court from 1972 until 1975, co-producing many of its shows and overseeing the transfer of its productions to the West End. One notable example from this period, "Entertaining Mr. Sloane" (1975), featuring Malcolm McDowell, was part of an entire season the Royal Court devoted to the work of Joe Orton. He produced his last film, "Rita, Sue and Bob Too" in 1987 and published his autobiography, "Kicking Against the Pricks" in 1995.
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