John Van Druten
John William Van Druten
1 June 1901
|Died||19 December 1957 56) (aged|
|Resting place||Coachella Valley Public Cemetery|
John William Van Druten (1 June 1901 –19 December 1957) was an English playwright and theatre director. He began his career in London, and later moved to America, becoming a U.S. citizen. He was known for his plays of witty and urbane observations of contemporary life and society.
Van Druten was born in London in 1901, son of a Dutch father named 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, produced in New York in 1925. However, it was banned in London by the Lord Chamberlain's office owing to its then controversial portrayal of a schoolboy falling in love with his headmaster's wife. In Britain, 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 more successful playwrights of the early 1930s in London, with star-studded West End productions of his work, including Diversion (1927), 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 in Essex, which was shortly followed by major successes with Old Acquaintance (NY December 1940 – May 1941 and London with Edith Evans) and The Voice of the Turtle (1943), which ran for three seasons in New York and was filmed with Ronald Reagan. His subsequent play, I Remember Mama (1944), ran for 713 performances. It was later made into a movie and a television series. In 1944, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. His play Make Way for Lucia (1948), based on the Mapp and Lucia novels of E.F. Benson, was premiered in New York, but did not have its first professional British production until 1995.
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). When I Am a Camera opened on Broadway in 1951, The New York Times drama critic Walter Kerr wrote a famous three-word review: "Me no Leica."
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, he was in a relationship with Carter Lodge (died 1995), who was the manager of the AJC Ranch that Van Druten, British actress Auriol Lee and Lodge bought together in Coachella Valley. When the relationship ended, Lodge continued to live on the ranch with his new partner, Dick Foote. When Van Druten died in 1957, he left the entire property of the ranch to Lodge and the rights in his work, including "I Am a Camera", which entitled Lodge to earn a percentage from the movie Cabaret (1972).
He died at Indio, California on 19 December 1957 of undisclosed causes. He is buried in the Coachella Valley Public Cemetery.
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:
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 Second World War.
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I Remember Mama is a 1948 American drama film directed by George Stevens from a screenplay by DeWitt Bodeen, whose work was adapted from John Van Druten's stage play. Druten, in turn, had based his play on Kathryn Forbes' novel Mama's Bank Account, which was originally published by Harcourt Brace in 1943. The story in all its variant forms recounts the everyday life and economic struggles of a Norwegian immigrant family in San Francisco in the early 20th century. The film stars Irene Dunne as the mother, as well as Barbara Bel Geddes, Oscar Homolka, Ellen Corby and Philip Dorn. Homolka portrays Uncle Chris in the film, a role he had performed earlier in the Broadway production.
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I Am a Camera is a 1951 Broadway play by John Van Druten adapted from Christopher Isherwood's 1939 novel Goodbye to Berlin, which is part of The Berlin Stories. The title is a quotation taken from the novel's first page: "I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking." The original production was staged by John Van Druten, with scenic and lighting design by Boris Aronson and costumes by Ellen Goldsborough. It opened at the Empire Theatre in New York City on November 28, 1951 and ran for 214 performances before closing on July 12, 1952.
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Young Woodley is a 1925 play by the British writer John Van Druten. It concerns a schoolboy at a top British public school who falls in love with his headmaster's wife and is eventually expelled. Because of its negative depiction of public school life and its controversial subject matter the play was originally banned in the United Kingdom and was only staged in 1928. However, it was a major success in the United States and Van Druten moved there to work. The ban in Britain was eventually lifted and it ran for over 400 performances in the West End making a star of its lead Frank Lawton. It was revived at the Finborough Theatre, London, in 2007. It was included in Burns Mantle's The Best Plays of 1925-1926.
I Am a Camera is a 1955 British comedy-drama film based on the 1945 book The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood and the 1951 eponymous play by John Van Druten. The film is a fictionalized account of Isherwood's time living in Berlin between the World Wars. Directed by Henry Cornelius, from a script by John Collier, I Am a Camera stars Laurence Harvey as Isherwood and Julie Harris recreating her Tony Award-winning performance as Sally Bowles.
Auriol Lee was a popular British stage actress who became a successful West End and Broadway theatrical producer and director.
London Wall is a play by the British writer John Van Druten that was first staged in 1931. It based on the romantic entanglements of the staff at a firm of British solicitors in London. It premiered in May 1931 and ran for 170 performances at the Duke of York's Theatre in the West End. The play remained largely forgotten until it was rediscovered by the Finborough Theatre with a production in 2013 and a subsequent West End adaptation at the St James Theatre.In 2014 a production was staged by the Mint Theater in New York.
I Remember Mama is a play by John Van Druten based on Kathryn Forbes' novel Mama's Bank Account, which was loosely based on her childhood. It is a study of family life centered on a Norwegian immigrant family in San Francisco early in the 20th century. The play premiered on Broadway on October 19, 1944 at the Music Box Theatre in New York City, where it ran for 713 performances; it was produced by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The cast included Mady Christians, Oscar Homolka, and Joan Tetzel. Marlon Brando played a minor role, making his Broadway debut as Nels.