[John Van Druten, playwright.] Typed Letter Signed to theatre historian W. J. Macqueen-Pope, with personal reminiscence and touching 'many points' including British 'old theatre' in Hollywood, Dodie Smith, J. T. Grein, his theatre library.

John Van Druten [John William Van Druten] (1901-1957), English playwright and theatre director [Walter James Macqueen-Pope (1888-1960), theatre historian]
Publication details: 
5 October 1949. A. J. C. Ranch, Thermal, California.
SKU: 22940

It is puzzling that Van Druten, one of the most successful British playwrights of the early 1930s, should not have an entry in the Oxford DNB. The present entertaining and informative letter is written from the A. J. C. Ranch in Coachella Valley, which Van Druten purchased with his then-lover Carter Lodge and the British actress Auriol Lee (it was named after the initals of their first names). Van Druten left his interest in the ranch to Lodge (by then in a relationship with Dick Foote), together with the rights to his work, including his dramatic adaptation of his friend Christopher Isherwood's story 'I am a Camera'. (See Isherwood's diaries, and Peter Parker's biography of him.) 2pp, 8vo. Signed 'John van Druten'. A long letter, closely typed. In fair condition, on aged and creased paper, with slight rust staining to corner of one leaf from paperclip. The letter begins: 'Dear Mr. Macqueen-Pope, | Your letter which came yesterday really cries for an answer to so many points.' He begins with a paragraph 'about the Kali Fizzing Towers', the song 'Old French Bonnet', and 'the bells of Paree, not Calais'. The next paragraph concerns 'Dodie', i.e. Dodie Smith, author of 'The Hundred and One Dalmations', and MP's book 'Twenty Shillings to the Pound'. He moves on to a discussion of the contents of '[t]he Agnes Platt book', which leads him to the critic and playwright J. T. Grein (1862-1935), who was a friend of Van Druten's father 'in his younger days: they came over from Holland more or less at the same time, and shared lodgings somewhere in Shepherd's Bush. I never knew him in my childhood, but his Sunday Times pieces were held up to me as models of dramatic criticism - and when I wrote my first one-act play (at the age of 14) Father sent it to Grein, who wrote back something nice about it.' He has, for 'where it is situated', 'a fairly good theatre library', and describes some of its volumes, enquiring whether one 'would be of any service to you in writing GHOSTS AND GREASEPAINT (which I am very eager to read)'. Another book, which he offer to present to MP 'as a token of the very great pleasure your books have given me', is an American volume on Charles Frohman. The letter ends in personal reminiscence. He recalls that his 'own first theatre was ALICE IN WONDERLAND, around 1906, with Marie Studholme - I think Seymour Hicks was the Mad Hatter - and Phyllis Bedells as the First Oyster. The first play I ever went to in the evening was THE BALKAN PRINCESS, about which you write so much and so glowingly. And I think I remember almost everything I ever heard about the theatre from the age of four onwards.' After a reference to his 1935 autobiography he asks MP if he knows the words to the tearjerker 'Ring down the curtain, I can't sing tonight', which is 'something my nurse used to sing to me'. In the penultimate paragraph he writes: 'A number of lesser fry from the old theatre turn up in America, apart from the stars who have taken to Hollywood. Not long ago, when casting a place, there appeared Richard Temple, who told me he was married to Evie Greene. And there are Margery Maude, and Lydia Bilbrooke, and Hazel (formerly Kathleen) Jones - and I am always able to give them their biographies when I meet them - sometimes to their slight embarrassment. Margery Maude told me, when I informed her that I had seen her Titania, with Tree, in the production with the real rabbits - that the poor rabbits all died from licking the green paint of the hill-slopes. Did you know that?' He feels that he 'could go on for ever', but must not 'exceed this page'. He concludes by declaring himself to be 'a very ardent awaiter of all the forthcoming books that you mention'. A postscript at the head of the first page reads: 'I do so agree with your description of London as lacking in all standard and quality. The West End distressed me very badly this year.'