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Ethel Barrymore Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (16) | Personal Quotes (11) | Salary (5)

Overview (5)

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Died in Beverly Hills, California, USA  (heart condition)
Birth NameEthel Mae Blythe
Nickname Sam
Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Ethel Barrymore was the second of three children seemingly destined for the actor's life of their parents Maurice and Georgiana. Maurice Barrymore had emigrated from England in 1875, and after graduating from Cambridge in law had shocked his family by becoming an actor. Georgiana Drew of Philadelphia acted in her parents' stage company. The two met and married as members of Augustin Daly's company in New York. They both acted with some of the great stage personalities of the mid Victorian theater of America and England. The Barrymore children were born and grew up in Philadelphia. Though older brother Lionel Barrymore began acting early with his mother's relatives in the Drew theater company, Ethel, after a traditional girl's schooling, planned on becoming a concert pianist.

The lure of the stage was perhaps congenital, however. She made her debut as a stage actress during the New York City season of 1894. Her youthful stage presence was at once a pleasure, a strikingly pretty and winsome face and large dark eyes that seemed to look out from her very soul. Her natural talent and distinctive voice only reinforced the physical presence of someone destined to command any role set before her. After the opportunity to appear on the London stage with English great Henry Irving in "The Bells" (1897) and later in "Peter the Great" (1898), she returned to New York to star in the Clyde Fitch play "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines" (1901) (produced by her friend and benefactor Charles Frohman), which brought her initial American acclaim. Lead roles, such as Nora in Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House" (1905) and starring in "Alice By the Fire" (also 1905), "Mid-Channel" (1910) and "Trelawney of the Wells" (1911) proved her popularity as a warm and charismatic star of American stage. In the meantime she married stockbroker Russell Griswold Colt in 1909 and gave birth to three children while continuing her acting career.

Although the stage was her first love, she did heed the call of the silver screen, and though not achieving the matinée idol image that younger brother John Barrymore garnered in silent movies after similar chemistry on stage, she won over audiences from her first film appearance in The Nightingale (1914). However, her early film roles, steady through 1919, took a back seat to continued stage triumphs: "Declassee" (1919), her impassioned Juliet in "Romeo and Juliet" (1922), "The Second Mrs. Tanqueray" (1924) and, especially, "The Constant Wife" (1926).

She harnessed her considerable talents in the role of an activist as well, being a bedrock supporter of the Actors Equity Association and, in fact, had been a prominent figure in the actors strike of 1919. By 1930 she was entering middle age and her movie roles reflected this. Except for Rasputin and the Empress (1932) with her brothers, the roles were elderly mothers and grandmothers, dowager ladies and spinster aunts. Perhaps wisely she put off Hollywood for over a decade, with stage work that included her most endearing role in "The Corn is Green" (a tour that lasted from 1940 to 1942). She finally moved to Southern California in 1940.

Yet the consummate actress glowed still in the films that came steadily in the mid-'40s and through much of the 1950s. As the mother of Cary Grant in the pensive None But the Lonely Heart (1944) she started off her late film career brilliantly by receiving the Oscar for Best Actress in a supporting role, though she was not satisfied with that effort. Her engaging wit and humanity stood out in even supporting roles, such as, the politically savvy mother of Joseph Cotten in The Farmer's Daughter (1947) and, once again with Cotton, as sympathetic art dealer Miss Spinney, with those eyes, in the haunting screen adaptation of Robert Nathan's novel Portrait of Jennie (1948). There was also a mingling of some TV work to round out her last movies in the late 1950s. In 1955 she saw her book "Memories, An Autobiography" see publication. For the enduring legacy she had already begun years before, a theater named for her was dedicated in New York in 1928. When she passed away in 1959, she was interred near her brothers at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: William McPeak

Spouse (1)

Russell Colt (14 March 1909 - 6 July 1923) (divorced) (3 children)

Trivia (16)

The three Barrymore siblings--Ethel, Lionel Barrymore and John Barrymore--appeared in only one film together: Rasputin and the Empress (1932). A decade after John's demise, Lionel and Ethel appeared in Main Street to Broadway (1953), which incidentally was Lionel's last film.
Screen, stage, and television actress.
Great-aunt of Drew Barrymore.
Turned down a marriage proposal from Winston Churchill because she thought he didn't have much of a future.
Raised Roman Catholic (along with her brothers) after her mother converted under the influence of legendary Polish actress Helena Modjeweska. Ethel was the only sibling to remain devout, and she never remarried after her divorce (divorce being forbidden to Catholics at the time).
Daughter of Maurice Barrymore and Georgiana Barrymore; granddaughter of Louisa Drew and stage actor John Drew (1827-1862); niece of Sidney Drew; cousin of S. Rankin Drew.
In 1951, she accepted the Oscar for best actress in a leading role on behalf of Judy Holliday, who wasn't present at the awards ceremony.
In her most important films her character was often that of a sick woman, sometimes in bed about to die.
She and Lionel Barrymore were the first Oscar-winning brother and sister in the acting category.
In Italy, she was often dubbed by Giovanna Scotto (The Spiral Staircase (1946) and The Paradine Case (1947)), Tina Lattanzi (Pinky (1949)) and Lola Braccini. She was once dubbed by Wanda Capodaglio in Moonrise (1948).
Returned to work one month after giving birth to her son Samuel Colt in order to begin performing in the Broadway production of "Tante".
She had a long-standing feud with gossip columnist Walter Winchell, especially after he pointed out that she she had made a not "so hot" screen test at Paramount in 1930 and would not be making any pictures for the studio.
Was the 23rd actress to receive an Academy Award; she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for None But the Lonely Heart (1944) at The 17th Academy Awards on March 15, 1945.
"Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties" by Axel Nissen has a short biography of her, focusing on her movie career as a character actress.

Personal Quotes (11)

[last words] Is everybody happy? I want everybody to be happy. I know I'm happy.
You must learn day by day, year by year, to broaden your horizons. The more things you love, the more you are interested in, the more you enjoy, the more you are indignant about--the more you have left when anything happens.
We who play, who entertain for a few years, what can we leave that will last?
[on Hollywood] The people are unreal. The flowers are unreal, they don't smell. The fruit is unreal, it doesn't taste of anything. The whole place is a glaring, gaudy nightmarish set, built up in the desert.
To be a success an actress must have the face of Venus, the brain of Minerva, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of Macaulay, the figure of Juno and the hide of a rhinoceros.
Half the people in Hollywood are dying to be discovered and the other half are afraid they will be.
[on Hollywood] It looks, it feels, as though it had been invented by a Sixth Avenue peepshow man.
You grow up the day you have your first real laugh at yourself.
[on gossip columnist Walter Winchell] It is a sad commentary on American manhood that Walter Winchell is allowed to exist, and the worst of it is, not only is he published here [New York], but his stuff appears all over the country.
[About herself and her siblings] We became actors, not because we wanted to go on the stage but because it was the thing we could do best.
[when rebuffing curtain calls] That's all there is, there isn't any more.

Salary (5)

The Nightingale (1914) $15,000
The Final Judgment (1915) $40,000
The Awakening of Helena Ritchie (1916) $40,000
Life's Whirlpool (1917) $40,000
Rasputin and the Empress (1932) $57,500

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