John van Eyssen, the former managing director of Columbia Pictures in England and later an independent producer, died Nov. 13 of cancer in a London hospital. He was 73.
A native of South Africa, van Eyssen served in the South African army during World War II.
After the war, he relocated to London studying at the Central School of Speech and Drama where he was awarded the Speech and Drama Prize.
He later joined the Royal Shakespeare Co., performing many of the classical roles that eventually led him to British radio, film and TV roles.
He appeared in “The Horror of Dracula,” portraying Jonathan Harker and later “Blind Date,” which was directed by Joseph Losey.
In 1961, he switched careers, joining London Management as a literary agent and within a short time became the head of the literary department.
When the company merged with London Artists, (in what would eventually become ICM UK), he personally handled Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Franco Zeffirelli.
In ‘ 65 he joined Columbia Pictures (U. K) and was promoted to managing director two years later. During his tenure, van Eyssen was instrumental in the production of numerous films including “Georgie Girl,” “Born Free,” “To Sir With Love,” “Nicholas and Alexandra” and “A Man for All Seasons.”
Leaving Columbia in 1973, van Eyssen relocated to New York City where he worked as an independent producer. In 1981, he produced “Daniel” for Sidney Lumet.
He returned to London in 1991 and later helped organize the Chelsea Film Festival, an annual event designed to showcase the work of young filmmakers.
He is survived by a son, David, who works as a writer, director and producer of interactive entertainment.