chapter  4
14 Pages

Choices and Censorship – Play of Fame and Infamy: John van Druten, Playwright and Lawyer

Though emerging popular media create new worlds of normative challenge, the need to challenge norms is well illustrated by the worlds falling away from us. This chapter presents a brief biography1 of a life from just a few decades ago – that of John van Druten, who worked when the law of censorship was easily harnessed to individual authoritarian whim, supported by the self-serving repressions of paternalism and prejudice. An idiosyncratic snapshot of the era, van Druten’s life pans from the prosaic and mundane to the glittering and sublime – a jobbing playwright adept in the steady production of entertainment, touching upon social conscience of moderate gravitas. Somewhat less well remembered in recent years, van Druten is best recalled as the dramatist creator of I Am a Camera, now popularised in the hit musical and film Cabaret. Generated originally by the work of Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories, the play came to being through the drive and creativity of van Druten, for whom British disquiet at the moral issues raised by the play typified those very characteristics he sought to escape in his journey to California in the late 1920s.