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John Barrymore Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (4) | Trivia (25) | Personal Quotes (21) | Salary (13)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 15 February 1882Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Date of Death 29 May 1942Los Angeles, California, USA  (pneumonia and cirrhosis of the liver)
Birth NameJohn Sidney Blyth
Nicknames The Great Profile
Jack
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Bio (1)

American stage and screen actor whose rise to superstardom and subsequent decline is one of the legendary tragedies of Hollywood. A member of the most famous generation of the most famous theatrical family in America, he was also its most acclaimed star. His father was Maurice Blyth (or Blythe; family spellings vary), a stage success under the name 'Maurice Barrymore'. His mother, Georgie Drew, was the daughter of actor John Drew. Although well known in the theatre, Maurice and Georgie were eclipsed by their three children, John, Lionel Barrymore, and Ethel Barrymore, each of whom became legendary stars. John was handsome and roguish. He made his stage debut at 18 in one of his father's productions, but was much more interested in becoming an artist. Briefly educated at King's College, Wimbledon, and at New York's Art Students League, Barrymore worked as a freelance artist and for a while sketched for the New York Evening Journal. Gradually, though, the draw of his family's profession ensnared him and by 1905 he had given up professional drawing and was touring the country in plays. He survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and in 1909 became a major Broadway star in "The Fortune Hunter." In 1922, Barrymore became his generation's most acclaimed Hamlet, in New York and London. But by this time he had become a frequent player in motion pictures. His screen debut supposedly came in An American Citizen (1914), though records of several lost films indicate he may have made appearances as far back as 1912. He became every bit the star of films that he was on stage, eclipsing his siblings in both arenas. Though his striking matinee-idol looks had garnered him the nickname "The Great Profile", he often buried them under makeup or distortion in order to create memorable characters of degradation or horror. He was a romantic leading man into the early days of sound films, but his heavy drinking (since boyhood) began to take a toll, and he degenerated quickly into a man old before his time. He made a number of memorable appearances in character roles, but these became over time more memorable for the humiliation of a once-great star than for his gifts. His last few films were broad and distasteful caricatures of himself, though in even the worst, such as Playmates (1941), he could rouse himself to a moving soliloquy from Hamlet. He died in 1942, mourned as much for the loss of his life as for the loss of grace, wit, and brilliance which had characterized his career at its height.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver < jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Spouse (4)

Elaine Barrie (9 November 1936 - 27 November 1940) (divorced)
Dolores Costello (24 November 1928 - 9 October 1934) (divorced) (2 children)
Blanche Oelrichs (5 August 1920 - 19 November 1928) (divorced) (1 child)
Katherine Corri Harris (1 September 1910 - 6 December 1917) (divorced)

Trivia (25)

Father of John Drew Barrymore and actress Diana Barrymore.
Grandfather of Drew Barrymore
Son of Maurice Barrymore and Georgiana Barrymore; grandson of Louisa Drew and actor John Drew (1827-1862); nephew of Sidney Drew; cousin of S. Rankin Drew; uncle of Samuel Colt, Ethel Colt, and John Drew Colt.
The three Barrymore siblings appeared in only one film together: Rasputin and the Empress (1932). Lionel and John appeared without Ethel in Arsène Lupin (1932), Night Flight (1933), Dinner at Eight (1933), and Grand Hotel (1932).
His birth certificate lists 14 February as birth date, which conflicts with the family Bible which says 15 February. His World War I draft record and Social Security records state February 15.
Rebaptized as a Roman Catholic after his mother's secret conversion, of the Barrymore siblings only Ethel Barrymore remained a devout Catholic.
George Bernard Shaw considered his very highly regarded "Hamlet" one of the worst performances of the role he had ever seen, and in a blistering letter accused him of indulging his own ego at the expense of William Shakespeare.
Courted showgirl Evelyn Nesbit as her involvement with married architect Stanford White was waning. When she became pregnant Barrymore proposed marriage, but White intervened and arranged for the still-teenaged Miss Nesbit to undergo an operation for "appendicitis." White was later murdered by Nesbit's vengeful husband, Pittsburgh millionaire Harry Thaw.
Was a good friend of Errol Flynn, who subsequently played Barrymore in Too Much, Too Soon (1958), a film about Barrymore's daughter Diana Barrymore.
His sharp wit never left him, even when he was dying. A priest came to administer the last rites, accompanied by an exceedingly homely nurse. When the priest asked him if he had anything to confess, Barrymore replied, "Yes, Father. I am guilty, at this moment, of having carnal thoughts." "About whom?," replied the shocked priest. "About HER!," he replied, indicating the nurse.
The only one of the three Barrymore siblings (John, Ethel Barrymore and Lionel Barrymore) to never win or even be nominated for an Academy Award; he is now considered the finest actor of the three.
One night, while drunk, he accidentally went into a women's restroom, instead of a men's room, and proceeded to relieve his bladder in a potted plant. A woman standing nearby reminded him that the room was "for ladies exclusively." Turning around, his penis still exposed, Barrymore responded, "So, madam, is this. But every now and again, I'm compelled to run a little water through it." This incident later made its way, verbatim, into My Favorite Year (1982), where the Barrymore- inspired character of Alan Swann, played by Peter O'Toole, is involved in a similar situation.
His 1922 "Hamlet" was the longest-running Broadway production of the play with 101 performances until John Gielgud played the part for 132 performances in 1936.
Had a daughter, Dolores Ethel Blyth Barrymore (b. 8 April 1930) with wife Dolores Costello.
He was the greatest Hamlet and Richard III of his time, and he is still considered the greatest American actor to play those roles.
He was, after John Gielgud, the most acclaimed Hamlet of the 20th century (his realization of the role in London influenced Laurence Olivier's own later interpretation of Hamlet, in 1937 on stage and in 1948 on film. Ironically, Ethel Barrymore denounced Olivier's film Hamlet, which brought him an Academy Award as Best Actor). From 1922, when he staged his first Hamlet, until 1975, when Sam Waterston essayed the role, Barrymore and Walter Hampden were the only American actors to play Hamlet on Broadway. Barrymore put on a second production in 1923, while Hampden played the role three times on the Great White Way, in 1918, in 1925 (with Ethel Barrymore as his Ophelia), and in 1929. Stephen Lang, who played the great Dane on the Great White Way in 1992, is the only other American in more than three-quarters of a century to star in "Hamlet" on Broadway. In that time Hamlet was played mostly by British performers, particularly Maurice Evans, an English immigrant who became an American citizen and who was the only other actor other than Hampden since World War I to play Hamlet three times on the Broadway stage. The other British subjects to play the role on Broadway in that period other than Gielgud were Leslie Howard, Sir Donald Wolfit, future Canadian Stratford Festival founder John Neville, Neville's Old Vic co-star and rival Richard Burton, Nicol Williamson (the definitive portrayal of the late 1960s) and Ralph Fiennes, who won a Tony in the role. French actor Jean-Louis Barrault followed in his countrywoman Sarah Bernhardt's footsteps and played Hamlet on Broadway (he in 1952, she in 1900). Aside from Barrymore's acclaimed performance, the greatest Hamlet assayed by an American actor was that of Edwin Booth, who played the role three times on Broadway in the 19th century.
Barrymore left specific instructions that he be cremated and his ashes be buried next to his parents in the family cemetery in Philadelphia. However, as his brother Lionel Barrymore and sister Ethel Barrymore were Catholic and cremation had not was not sanctioned by the Church, the executors (Lionel and Mervyn LeRoy) had Barrymore's remains entombed at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles. In 1980, John Drew Barrymore decided to have his dad cremated, and recruited his son John Blyth Barrymore to help. They removed the casket from its crypt, drove it to the Odd Fellows Cemetery, and made the preparations. John Jr. insisted on having a look inside before they left. After viewing the body, he came out white as a sheet, got in the car and said to his son, "Thank God I'm drunk, I'll never remember it.".
After Barrymore's death, his friends - including Errol Flynn and Raoul Walsh - gathered at a bar to commiserate on John's passing. Walsh, claiming he was too upset, pretended to go home. Instead, he and two friends went to the funeral home and bribed the caretaker to lend them Barrymore's body. Transporting it to Flynn's house, it was propped up in Errol's favorite living room chair. Flynn arrived and described his reaction in his autobiography: "As I opened the door I pressed the button. The lights went on and - I stared into the face of Barrymore... They hadn't embalmed him yet. I let out a delirious scream... I went back in, still shaking. I retired to my room upstairs shaken and sober. My heart pounded. I couldn't sleep the rest of the night."
In 1920 lived at 134 W. 4th Street in Manhattan.
Blue-eyed, brown-haired.
Was originally supposed to play Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942), but because of the effects of his alcoholism he couldn't remember his lines and was fired.
Played by Jack Cassidy in W.C. Fields and Me (1976). Barrymore was Cassidy's idol.
Supported his brother Lionel Barrymore when Lionel's wife Irene Fenwick (a long-ago girlfriend of John's) died, and filled in for Lionel as Ebenezer Scrooge in an annual radio production of "A Christmas Carol" on the day after Irene's death (December 25, 1936).
For his performance in Beau Brummel (1924) he was given a special self-created award from Rudolph Valentino.
Regarding the costume romance films he starred in during the 20s, Barrymore jokingly referred to them as 'male impersonations of Lilyan Tashman.'.

Personal Quotes (21)

There are lots of methods. Mine involves a lot of talent, a glass and some cracked ice.
If you stay in front of the movie camera long enough, it will show you not only what you had for breakfast but who your ancestors were.
[his feelings about never having been nominated for an Oscar] I think they were afraid I'd show up at the banquet drunk, embarrassing both myself and them. But I wouldn't have, you know.
[last words] Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.
America is the country where you buy a lifetime supply of aspirin for one dollar, and use it up in two weeks.
I like to be introduced as America's foremost actor. It saves the necessity of further effort.
It has been said that every man must properly pay the fiddler. Alas, in my case, it happened that an entire symphony orchestra had to be subsidized.
[After throwing a fish at loudly coughing audience members]: Chew on that, you walruses, while the rest of us get on with the libretto!
[on refusing to learn his lines when working in Hollywood]: My memory is full of beauty: Hamlet's soliloquies, the Queen Mab speech, King Magnus' monologue from The AppleCart, most of the Sonnets. Do you expect me to clutter up all that with this horseshit?
A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.
The good die young, because they see it's no use living if you have got to be good.
You can't drown yourself in drink. I've tried; you float.
My head is buried in the sands of tomorrow, while my tail feathers are singed by the hot sun of today.
[on viewing rushes] Oh, I LOVE to see the stuff! If I can do it at the end of the day. First thing in the morning it looks like a bad dream.
[To director Tay Garnett] If you run, they bite you on the ass, Charlie, and if you stand still, they hose you.
[After watching Marlene Dietrich perform] She handles her body like Stradivarius used to handle his violins. And no matter what kind of finish it happens to be wearing at the time, it's still a masterpiece.
The way to fight a woman is with your hat. Grab it and run.
Paper napkins never return from the laundry. Nor love from a trip to the law courts.
When archaeologists discover the missing arms of the Venus de Milo they will find she was wearing boxing gloves.
Happiness often sneaks through a door you didn't know you left open.
[Barrymore on his friend, playwright Edward Sheldon] I'm not sure that he didn't make me a serious actor.

Salary (13)

The Sea Beast (1926) $75,000
Don Juan (1926) $75,000
When a Man Loves (1927) $75,000
The Beloved Rogue (1927) $100,000
Tempest (1928) $100,000
Eternal Love (1929) $150,000
General Crack (1930) $30,000/week
Moby Dick (1930) $30,000/week
Svengali (1931) $30,000/week
Arsène Lupin (1932) $150,000
Grand Hotel (1932) $150,000
Rasputin and the Empress (1932) $150,000
Playmates (1941) $5,000/week

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