The idea for "The Winslow Boy" began just before the end of World War II, when Terence Rattigan ("The Browning Version," "Separate Tables") was approached by Anatole de Grunwald, his producer at the RAF film unit, where he was working as a screenwriter, to come up with a proposal for a film about British justice. When he suggested writing about the 1910 trial of George Archer-Shee, Grunwald passed on the idea. Encouraged by the rejection, Rattigan decided to write it as a play. Structured as a four-act (a typical format for the Victorian and Edwardian eras), Rattigan wrote it in six and a half weeks. The role of Sir Robert Morton was offered to John Gielgud, who refused it, and went instead to Emlyn Williams. It opened at the West End's Lyric Theatre in 1946 and ran for over a year, winning Rattigan the first of his two Ellen Terry Awards for Best New Play. It opened in New York the following year, and was awarded the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Foreign Play of the Year. "The Winslow Boy" was one of Rattigan's most immediately popular plays, with 476 performances in London and 218 in New York, followed with a year by productions in France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, South Africa, Greece, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Israel and Hungary.
"The Winslow Boy" was also turned into a memorable film in 1950, directed by Anthony Asquith and produced by Anatole de Grunwald, with a cast that included Robert Donat, Margaret Leighton and Cedric Hardwicke. The play has been mounted consistently in repertory over the years and more recently has enjoyed some highly regarded revivals, notably a successful off-Broadway production in the early 1980s and Wyn Jones' 1994 West End production. Rattigan himself was particularly fond of the play. "If 'The Browning Version' is my passport to heaven," he once said, "then 'The Winslow Boy' is the leather wallet that contained it."