John Van Druten was born in London in 1901 to Dutch parents. He read Law at UCL and went on to practice as a solicitor before rising to prominence as a playwright in 1926. His first major success, Young Woodley (1925), was initially banned in London by the Lord Chamberlain's office for its controversial portrayal of a schoolboy falling in love with his headmaster's wife. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, Young Woodley went on to have successful runs on Broadway and in the West End.

Van Druten became among the most prolific playwrights of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Thirteen of his plays had been produced before he wrote Flowers of the Forest in 1934. He emigrated to America shortly thereafter, becoming a naturalised citizen in 1944. It was during this period that he wrote one of his most successful plays, The Voice of the Turtle (1943), which ran for three seasons in New York and was subsequently filmed with Ronald Reagan.

Van Druten is best known today for I am a Camera (1951), a play based on Christopher Isherwood's novel Goodbye to Berlin (1939). Both were used as the basis of Joe Masteroff's book for the Kander and Ebb musical, Cabaret (1966).

Aside from his playwriting, Van Druten wrote two novels and two autobiographies as well as directing several of his own plays before his death at Indio, California, in 1957.