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John Van Eyssen
Photo by Anthony Buckley, 1955
Matthew John Du Toit Van Eyssen

(1922-03-19)19 March 1922
Died13 November 1995(1995-11-13) (aged 73)
Fulham, London, England, UK
Literary agent
Years active1950–1991
Spouse(s)Shirley Goulden (divorced 1977)
Partner(s)Ingrid Bergman
ChildrenDavid Van Eyssen

John Van Eyssen (born Matthew John Du Toit Van Eyssen,[1] 19 March 1922 – 13 November 1995) was a South African born actor, agent and film production executive. He moved to Britain following the Second World War, attending the Central School of Speech and Drama.[2] In 1951 and in 1954 he played the role of Lucifer in the York Cycle of Mystery Plays, first revived in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain.[3]

Van Eyssen appeared in films from 1950 as well as on stage (playing Cassio in Orson Welles' 1951 production of Othello, for example[4]) but achieved his greatest fame as an actor when he portrayed Jonathan Harker in the Hammer Film Productions version of Dracula (released as Horror of Dracula in the US) in 1958.[5]

He left acting in 1961 to become head of the Grade Organisation literary agency.[6] His subsequent clients were Franco Zeffirelli, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller.[5] He left the business in 1965 to work for the UK division of Columbia Pictures, eventually becoming Managing Director in July 1969.[6] Among the films he oversaw were A Man for All Seasons (1966), Born Free (1966), Georgy Girl (1966), To Sir, with Love (1967), The Taming of The Shrew (1967), and Oliver! (1968).[5] Both Oliver! and A Man for All Seasons won Best Picture Academy Awards.[7] In 1970, he was promoted to Worldwide Head of Production (ex-USA) and moved to New York.

After his tenure at Columbia, Van Eyssen became an independent producer, returning to the UK in 1991 to establish Britain's premier showcase for talented young filmmakers, the Chelsea Film Festival.[8] He was longtime companion to Ingrid Bergman in the years before her death in 1982.[9]

His son, David Van Eyssen, is a visual artist, and a producer-director known for the science fiction webseries RCVR.[10][5]


Year Title Role Notes
1950 The Angel with the Trumpet Albert Drauffer
1951 Murder in the Cathedral 5th Priest
1953 Four Sided Triangle Robin
1953 Three Steps in the Dark Henry Burgoyne
1954 The Men of Sherwood Forest Will Scarlett
1955 The Cockleshell Heroes Marine Bradley
1957 Brothers in Law Mr. Forbes - Barrister. Uncredited
1957 The Traitor Lieut. Grant
1957 Quatermass 2 The P.R.O.
1957 Account Rendered Clive Franklyn
1957 The One That Got Away German prisoner #5
1958 Dracula Jonathan Harker
1958 The Whole Truth Archer
1958 Moment of Indiscretion Corby
1959 Carlton-Browne of the F.O. Hewitt
1959 Carry On Nurse Surgeon Stephens
1959 I'm All Right Jack Reporter #1
1959 Blind Date Insp. Westover
1960 Make Mine Mink Rowson Uncredited
1960 The Criminal Formby
1961 Exodus Detective Uncredited
1961 A Story of David Joab
1963 Like Two Drops of Water Uncredited


  1. ^ "John Van Eyssen". Archived from the original on 15 January 2009.
  2. ^ McFarlane, Brian; Slide, Anthony (5 May 2018). The Encyclopedia of British Film: Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780719091391.
  3. ^ Mystery Play Archive
  4. ^ Othello (Orson Welles stage production)
  5. ^ a b c d Variety Staff (18 December 1995). "John van Eyssen".
  6. ^ a b 'Van Eyssen named MD Columbia (British)', Kinematograph Weekly vol. 625 no. 3223 19 July 1969
  7. ^ Levy, Emanuel (1 January 2003). All about Oscar: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards. Continuum. ISBN 9780826414526.
  8. ^ "John Van Eyssen - Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  9. ^ "Excuse me Miss Sheperd, Elvis is on the line..." Bournemouth Echo.
  10. ^ RCVR