Lionel Barrymore Poster


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Overview (4)

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Died in Van Nuys, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameLionel Herbert Blythe
Height 5' 11" (1.8 m)

Mini Bio (2)

Famed actor, composer, artist, author and director. His talents extended to the authoring of the novel "Mr. Cartonwine: A Moral Tale" as well as his autobiography. In 1944, he joined ASCAP, and composed "Russian Dances", "Partita", "Ballet Viennois", "The Woodman and the Elves", "Behind the Horizon", "Fugue Fantasia", "In Memorium", "Hallowe'en", "Preludium & Fugue", "Elegie for Oboe, Orch.", "Farewell Symphony (1-act opera)", "Elegie (piano pieces)", "Rondo for Piano" and "Scherzo Grotesque".

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Hup234!

The legendary Lionel Barrymore, one of the great cinema character actors, was the oldest of the three Barrymmore siblings. Along with Ethel Barrymore and John Barrymore, he shares a prominent place in American acting in the first half of the 20th Century. In addition to winning a Best Actor Academy Award (for A Free Soul (1931)), Lionel also was an Oscar-nominated director (for Madame X (1929)) and a prolific composer of songs as well as an accomplished graphic artist. He now is best known for his portrayal of the evil banker Mr. Potter in It's a Wonderful Life (1946), though he once was renowned for playing Ebeneezer Scrooge each year on the radio broadcast of Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" as well as appearing as the irascible Doctor Gillespie in the Doctor Kildare movie series.

He was born Lionel Herbert Blythe on April 28, 1878 in Philadelphia, the son of actors Maurice Barrymore and Georgiana Drew Barrymore. ("Barrymore" was a stage name). Though raised a Catholic, he attended Philadelphia's Episcopal Academy. He joined the family business and first trod the boards in the mid-1890s, acting with his maternal grandmother, Louisa Lane Drew. He also appeared with his maternal uncle John Drew, Jr. in Broadway plays after the turn of the century. He first acted with his kid brother John in the 1905 play "Pantaloon".

Lionel never developed the heightened reputation as a stage actor enjoyed by his siblings John (who still reigns as the definitive American Hamlet) and sister Ethel. As a screen actor, he was ranked among the best. (Ethel, like Lionel, would win an Oscar. John, despite his reputation as the greatest actor of his generation, was never even nominated, handicapped in those days by being a freelance actor with no ties to a studio, which practiced block voting for Oscars.)

He wed the actress Doris Rankin, whose sister Gladys was married to Lionel's uncle Sidney Drew, and they moved to Paris in the latter part of the fist decade of the 20th Century, returning to The States in 1910. On Broadway, Lionel established a solid reputation as a dramatic character actor, appearing often with Doris. In 1919, he appeared with his brother John in "The Jest" (1919), but unlike John, he did not prove his mettle as a Shakespearean actor. His performance as MacBeth in a 1921 production of The Scottish Play was unsuccessful, and he began focusing more on films, which he first began making at Biograph in 1911 under the direction of D.W. Griffith. At the time he made his first films, movies were considered beneath the dignity of a stage actor.

Lionel and Doris suffered tragedy as their children, two daughters, did not survive infancy. Their first child, named Ethel after his sister, was born and died in 1908. Their second child, Mary, died within a few months of her birth in 1916. He apparently never got over the loss of his two girls (he never had any other children), and he divorced Doris in 1923 and married actress Irene Fenwick, a former lover of his brother John. The marriage strained his relationship with his brother, and they were not reconciled until 1926.

In addition to acting at Biograph, Lionel also tried his hand at directing. At Metro Pictures, he helmed many pictures, including directing his sister Ethel in Life's Whirlpool (1917) (1917). That was his last silent picture as director; he would not sit in the director's chair again until the advent of the talkies. His success as a movie actor was assured when he joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1926, two years after the studio's formation, having already developed a strong relationship with Louis B. Mayer at Metro Pictures. He would remain a contract player with MGM until his death 30 years later, though he occasionally was loaned out.

At MGM, he became a star in the talkies and continued as a stalwart character lead and supporting player for parts of four decades, appearing opposite the studio's biggest stars, including John Gilbert, Lon Chaney (for whom he served as a pallbearer at his funeral), Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, Wallace Beery, Marie Dressler, Norma Shearer, Clark Gable, and Spencer Tracy. In non-MGM films, he appeared with Gloria Swanson in Sadie Thompson (1928) and was reunited with D.W. Griffith in the director's Drums of Love (1928). He also was loaned out to director Frank Capra for You Can't Take It with You (1938) and It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and to producer David O. Selznick for the Technicolor Western potboiler Duel in the Sun (1946).

With the arrival of the talkies, Lionel's stage-trained, mellifluous voice proved to be a great asset, though initially the studio assigned him to directing assignments. He directed Gilbert in His Glorious Night (1929) and guided Ruth Chatterton to consideration for an Oscar in Madame X (1929), for which he garnered his own Oscar nod as Best director. He returned to acting full-time in 1931, giving the performance that won him a Best Actor Oscar in A Free Soul (1931) with Shearer and Gable. He was memorable as Rasputin the 1932 film Rasputin and the Empress (1932), in which he co-starred with John and Ethel. He also appeared with John in the classics Grand Hotel (1932) and Dinner at Eight (1933), although in the latter film, they had no scenes together.

Int he 1930s, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was asked if he thought Lionel Barrymore was the greatest actor in America, FDR replied, "I am the greatest actor in America." Both were masters of the radio waves, FDR with his fireside chats, Lionel with his annual broadcast of "A Christmas Carol" in which he played Scrooge.

During the 1930s and 1940s, the aging Barrymore played grouchy old men, for MGM and on loan-out (including John Huston's Key Largo (1948) with Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson at Warner Bros.). He was well-known for playing Doctor Gillespie in the Doctor Kildare movies of the 1930s and 1940s. By the time of Doctor Kildare, Barrymore was disabled, having broken his hip twice, with his deteriorating condition exacerbated by arthritis. After 1938's _Captains Courageous (1938)_, he was never filmed standing again, playing his roles in a wheelchair. (He appeared in Frank Capra's 1938 Best Picture Academy Award winning You Can't Take It with You (1938) on crutches, which caused him a great deal of pain.) His last movie was the musical comedy Main Street to Broadway (1953), in which he appeared with his sister Ethel. (John had passed away from the deleterious effects of alcoholism in 1942.) He died the following year, on November 15, 1954 at the age of 76 after suffering a heart attack.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Spouse (2)

Irene Fenwick (14 July 1923 - 24 December 1936) (her death)
Doris Rankin (19 June 1904 - 21 December 1922) (divorced) (2 children)

Trade Mark (3)

Playing grouchy, but usually lovable, elderly men in films
The role of Mr Potter in It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
On radio, the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in annual broadcasts of "A Christmas Carol". This role led directly to his being cast as Mr. Potter in "It's A Wonderful Life".

Trivia (31)

He was buried a Roman Catholic next to his second wife and his brother, John Barrymore, in Calvary Cemetery, Hollywood.
He played Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" on the radio annually for 20 tears between 1934 and 1953. He missed only twice, In 1936 brother John replaced him because of the Christmas Eve death of his wife and in 1938 by Reginald Owen, whose MGM version was then in theatrical release.
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), Grand Hotel (1932), Night Flight (1933) and Dinner at Eight (1933). A decade after John's demise, Lionel and Ethel appeared in Main Street to Broadway (1953), Lionel's last film.
Screen, stage, radio, vaudeville actor, film producer, and screenwriter.
Acted from wheelchair from 1938 due to the effects of arthritis and hip injury.
Interred at Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles, California, USA, in the Main Mausoleum, Block 352.
Son of Maurice Barrymore and Georgiana Barrymore; grandson of Louisa Drew and stage actor John Drew (1827-1862); nephew of Sidney Drew; cousin of S. Rankin Drew. Fathered two daughters: Ethel (1909-1910) and Mary (1916- 1917).
Reared Roman Catholic by their mother, the three Barrymore siblings all had suffered the stigma of divorce (doubtless connected to the family business) and only Ethel Barrymore was a practicing Catholic in adulthood.
Great uncle of Drew Barrymore.
Portrayed Dr. Gillespie on the syndicated radio show "The Story of Dr. Kildare" (1950-1951), and in the late 30s/40s movie series.
His name appeared in the Looney Toons Cartoon One Froggy Evening (1955) (directed by Chuck Jones) in a newspaper on a park bench before the distraught man was sent to a psychiatric ward because the frog would not sing in front of anyone else.
In the 1960s cartoon series Underdog (1964), Underdog's nemesis, Simon Bar Sinister, has a voice reminiscent of Barrymore.
He and his sister Ethel Barrymore were the first Oscar-winning brother and sister in acting categories.
Invented the boom microphone.
He was one of the very few screen actors in the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s who had a prolific career despite being in a wheelchair. From 1938, his screen roles were written to accommodate his disability.
Started as a stock player at the Biograph Company.
In 1930, he lived at 802 N. Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills.
In Rasputin and the Empress (1932), he played Rasputin, allegedly the lover of Czar Nicholas II's wife Alexandra, played by Barrymore's real life sister Ethel Barrymore. Their brother, John Barrymore played the role of Prince Chegodieff in the same film.
He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame - for motion pictures at 1724 Vine Street and for radio at 1651 Vine Street.
Honorary pallbearer at Lon Chaney's funeral.
Had two daughters by his first wife Doris Rankin, both of whom died young. He later left Rankin for Irene Fenwick, a longtime friend and one-time girlfriend of his brother, John Barrymore.
Had extreme problems with his income taxes, and during the last 15 years of his life routinely turned over all of his paycheck to the Internal Revenue Service except for a small sum to maintain his living expenses. The IRS also took the proceeds from a sale of his artwork after his death.
Ex-brother-in-law of Phyllis Rankin, Mrs. Sidney Drew and Harry Davenport.
Directed 2 actors to Oscar nominations: Ruth Chatterton (Best Actress, Madame X (1929), technically not an official nominee), and Lawrence Tibbett (Best Actor, The Rogue Song (1930)).
Spent most of his screen career under contract to MGM (1926-52).
Barrymore was a member of the historical actor's club of New York, The Lambs, in 1900 and remained a member until his death.
He and Spring Byington played husband and wife in Ah Wilderness! (1935). Three years later, they played father and daughter in You Can't Take It with You (1938).
He appeared in two Best Picture Academy Award winners: Grand Hotel (1932) and You Can't Take It with You (1938). Lee Phelps also appeared in both films.
Studied musical composition with Eugene Zador for ten years.
Was just 22 years older than Jean Arthur, who played his granddaughter in You Can't Take It with You (1938).

Personal Quotes (10)

This is the age of insincerity. The movies had the misfortune to come along in the twentieth century, and because they appeal to the masses there can be no sincerity in them. Hollywood is tied hand and foot to the demands for artificiality of the masses all over the world.
I've got a lot of ham in me.
I can remember when nobody believed an actor and didn't care what he believed. Why, the fact that he was an actor made everything he said open to question, because acting was thought to be a vocation embraced exclusively by scatter-brains, wastrels and scamps. I don't believed that's true today and I don't think that it ever was.
[1943 comment on Margaret O'Brien] If that child had been born in the middle ages, she'd have been burned as a witch.
You can't retire in Hollywood. Nobody gives up a job, even if he's ninety, or sick, or has money like Midas. Everybody works until his last breath, and when one day they die, they die like Napoleon/s grenadiers, who died with the words "Vive l'Empereur!" Just so, the last words of a director or producer are "Make another take!"
L.B. [MGM chief Louis B. Mayer] gets me $400 worth of cocaine a day to ease my pain. I don't know where he gets it. And I don't care. But I bless him every time it puts me to sleep.
[on how he intends to perform his role in 'Arsene Lupin'] Oh, I'll stumble around, growl a little, limp a little bit.
Don't ever forget that acting is the greatest profession ever invented. When you act, you move millions of people, shape their lives, give them a sense of exaltation. No other profession has that power.
[when asked by a writer to compose his own epitaph] Well, I've played everything but a harp.
I didn't want to act. I wanted to paint or draw. The theater was not in my blood, I was related to the theater by marriage only; it was merely a kind of in-law of mine I had to live with.

Salary (2)

Friends (1912) $10 a day
The Tender Hearted Boy (1913) $15

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