In a program from November of 2011, Andrew Patner’s guest is author Jay R. Tunney, discussing his book The Prizefighter and the Playwright: Gene Tunney and Bernard Shaw (Firefly Books, Buffalo and Richmond Hill, Ontario) about the long and deep friendship between his father, the American boxer and bibliophile, and the greatest English-language playwright of the 20th century.
Tunney (1897-1978) was the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world (who beat Jack Dempsey twice, in 1926 and 1927, the latter in Chicago’s Soldier Field) when he retired from boxing in 1928 at age 31. Shaw (1856-1950) had a lifelong fascination with boxing and had published an early novel, Cashel Byron’s Profession (1886), on an intellectual boxer who prefigured the bookish Tunney.
The two men met in the late 1920s and Tunney and his wife Polly Lauder Tunney spent a month of their honeymoon in 1929 together with Shaw and his wife Charlotte on the Adriatic island of Brioni. Among others they spent time with that month? The German composer Richard Strauss. Tunney and Shaw remained close until Shaw’s death at 94 in 1950.
It’s a beautifully written book on a fascinating and little-known subject.