You’re Never Too Old to Win an Oscar, or Learn the Alexander Technique
George Bernard Shaw: I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend—if you have one.
Winston Churchill: Cannot possibly attend first night; will attend second—if there is one.
The above quoteto George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, which was first produced in 1912 when Shaw was fifty-six years old. Twenty-six years later, in 1938, he received an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for his adaptation of the play to the big screen. He was 82 years old at the time, making him one of .
Two years earlier, in 1936, Shaw had met F.M. Alexander for the first time. Shaw was eighty years old, and he began having lessons with Alexander. He was “fascinated” with Alexander’s teaching, and he certainly benefitted from it in more ways than one. “Not only did Shaw obtain relief from his angina and other problems”, but he and Alexander “struck up a warm friendship based on their common love of music hall”. When he came for his lessons, Alexander’s teaching room would “echo with snatches of Edwardian songs”. From 1936 onward, Shaw was a regular visitor to Alexander’s teaching practice. In 1937 Shaw said: “Alexander has established not only the beginning of a far-reaching science of the apparently involuntary movements we call reflexes, but a technique of correction and self-control which forms a substantial addition to our very slender resources in personal education”.
Apparently one point on which they did not see eye to eye was diet. Shaw was a vegetarian and a teetotaller, “which F.M. deplored, assuring the old man that he would benefit from eating a good steak washed down with burgundy”. George Bernard Shaw and his wife were also invited to Alexander’s 70th birthday celebration in January 1939. Unfortunately they were unable to attend, because “we have given up going out in the evening, had it been a luncheon!”
George Bernard Shaw died in 1950 at the advanced age of 94 years. Having met Alexander in 1936, he had continued having lessons for the rest of his life, which “he was convinced had been prolonged by the Alexander Technique” – “he had always said that his lessons from F.M. had added at least 10 years to his life”.
So if you are thinking that you, or someone you know, may be too old to benefit from the Alexander Technique, you can look to George Bernard Shaw as an example of what is possible. And perhaps now may also be the time to dust off that old screenplay. You just never know...
Quotes and material from Michael Bloch’s book “F.M. The Life of Frederick Matthias Alexander” and Jackie Evans’ book “Frederick Matthias Alexander: A Family History”
Bradley Newman teaches the Alexander Technique in Sydney. For more information see firstname.lastname@example.org .or email Bradley on