John William Van Druten
(1901-1957) was an English playwright and theatre director, known professionally as John Van Druten
. He began his career in London, and later moved to America becoming a US citizen
. He was known for his plays of witty and urbane observations of contemporary life and society.
Van Druten was born in London on 1 June 1901
, son of a Dutch father, Wilhelmus van Druten and his English wife Eva. He was educated at University College School
and read Law at the University of London
. Before commencing his career as a writer he practised law for a while as a solicitor and university lecturer in Wales
He first came to prominence with Young Woodley, a slight but charming study of adolescence, which was produced in New York in 1925, but was unaccountably banned by the Lord Chamberlain's office. In England, it was first produced privately (by Phyllis Whitworth's Three Hundred Club) and then at the Arts Theatre in 1928. When the ban was lifted, it had a successful run at the Savoy Theatre in the West End with a cast including Frank Lawton, Derrick de Marney and Jack Hawkins. The play was filmed twice. It was revived at the Finborough Theatre, London, in 2006.
He was one of the most successful playwrights of the early 1930s in London with star-studded West End productions of his work including Diversion (1928), After All (1929), London Wall (1931) with Frank Lawton and John Mills, There's Always Juliet (1931), Somebody Knows (1932), Behold, We Live (1932) with Gertrude Lawrence and Gerald du Maurier, The Distaff Side (1933) and Flowers of the Forest (1934).
He later emigrated to America where he wrote Leave Her to Heaven (February 1940), a drama set in London and Westcliff-on-Sea, which was shortly followed by major successes with Old Acquaintance (NY December 1940-May 1941) and The Voice of the Turtle (1943), which ran for three seasons in New York and was filmed with Ronald Reagan.
In 1944, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
His 1951 play I Am a Camera, together with Christopher Isherwood's short stories, Goodbye to Berlin (1939), formed the basis of Joe Masteroff's book for the Kander and Ebb musical, Cabaret (1966).
He died at Indio, California, on 19 December 1957.
- The Return Half (1924)
- Chance Acquaintance (1927)
- Young Woodley (NY 1925, London 1928)
- Diversion (1928)
- The Return of the Soldier (from Rebecca West's novel, 1928)
- After All (1929, NY 1931)
- London Wall (1931)
- Sea Fever (with Auriol Lee, from the French, 1931}
- There's Always Juliet (1931, NY 1932)
- Hollywood Holiday (with Benn W Levy, 1931)
- Somebody Knows (1932)
- Behold, We Live (1932)
- The Distaff Side (1933, NY 1934)
- Flowers of the Forest (1934)
- Most of the Game (1935)
- Gertie Maude (1937)
- Leave Her to Heaven (1940)
- Old Acquaintance (1940, NY 1941)
- Solitaire (adaptation, 1942)
- The Damask Cheek (with Lloyd Morris, 1942)
- The Voice of the Turtle (1943), which ran for three seasons in New York
- I Remember Mama (adaptation of Kathryn Forbes' family memoir, Mama's Bank Account, 1944)
- The Mermaids Singing (1945)
- The Druid Circle (1947)
- Make Way for Lucia (1948)
- Bell, Book and Candle (1950)
- I Am a Camera (1951) from Christopher Isherwood's Berlin stories. New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for 1951-52
- I've Got Sixpence (1952)
Van Druten directed the last nine productions of his own plays (see above).
At the St. James Theatre, New York in March 1951 he directed the first production of The King and I (1,246 performances). He also restaged this production at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, in London, October 1953 (946 performances).
At the Theatre Royal, Brighton in November 1954 he staged a production of The Duchess and the Smugs.
Van Druten wrote two autobiographies:
- The Way to the Present (1938)
- The Widening Circle: Personal Search, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York (1957)
He also published two novels - a version of Young Woodley (1928), and The Vicarious Years in 1955.
He also published a book on his work Playwright at Work just after the World War II.
- Who's Who in the Theatre, Twelfth edition, ed John Parker, Pitman, London (1957)
- The Oxford Companion to the Theatre, ed Phyllis Hartnoll, Oxford (1985) ISBN 0192115464
- The Oxford Companion to American Theatre, ed Gerald Bordman, Oxford (1992) ISBN 0195072464