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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Place of Death
Los Angeles, California, United States
Cause of Death
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The Great Profile
Actor/Actress, Soundtrack, Writer
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Profile Bio Text
Barrymore was born into an illustrious theatrical family. His parents were Maurice Barrymore and Georgiana Drew. His maternal grandmother was Louisa Lane Drew (aka Mrs Drew), a prominent and well-respected 19th century actress and theater manager, who instilled in John, his sister Ethel and brother Lionel the ways of acting and theatre life. His uncles were John Drew Jr. and Sidney Drew.
John fondly remembered the summer of 1896 in his youth spent on his father`s rambling farm on Long Island. He and Lionel lived a Robinson Crusoe-like existence, attended by a black cook named Edward . He was expelled from Georgetown Preparatory School in 1898 after being caught patronizing a bordello. He was a hard-drinking adventurer with a jaunty personality.
While still a teenager, he courted showgirl Evelyn Nesbit in 1901 and 1902. When Nesbit became pregnant -- she aged 17 and he 19 -- Barrymore proposed marriage. But her "sponsor" Stanford White intervened, and arranged for the still-teenaged Evelyn to undergo an operation for "appendicitis". White was later murdered by Nesbit`s vengeful husband, Pittsburgh millionaire Harry K. Thaw.
He was staying at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco when the 1906 earthquake struck. He had starred in a production of The Dictator and was booked to tour Australia with it. Since he loathed this prospect, he hid, spending the next few days drinking at the home of a friend on Van Ness Avenue. During his drinking jag, he worked out a plan to exploit the earthquake for his own ends. He decided to present himself as an on-the-scene "reporter", making up vitually everything he claimed to have witnessed. Twenty years later, Barrymore finally confessed to his deception, but by then, he was so famous that the world merely smiled indulgently at his admission." His account was written as a "letter to my sister Ethel". He was sure the letter would be "worth at least a hundred dollars." In terms of publicity it earned Barrymore a thousand times that amount.
Barrymore delivered some of the most critically acclaimed performances in theatre and cinema history and was regarded by many as the screen`s greatest performer during a movie career spanning 25 years as a leading man in more than 60 films.
He specialized in trivial comedies until creating a sensation in John Galsworthy`s Justice (1916). He followed this triumph up with Broadway successes in Peter Ibbetson (1917), a role his father Maurice had wanted to play, and The Jest (1919), co-starring his brother Lionel, reaching what seemed to be the zenith of his career as Richard III in 1920. Barrymore had a conspicuous failure in his wife Michael Strange`s strange play Clair de Lune (1921), but followed it with the greatest success of his career with Hamlet in 1920 which he played on Broadway for 101 performances and then took to London in 1925.
His silent-film roles included A.J. Raffles in Raffles the Amateur Cracksman (1917), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), Sherlock Holmes (1922), Beau Brummel (1924), The Sea Beast (1926, as Captain Ahab), and Don Juan (1926). When talking pictures arrived, Barrymore`s stage-trained voice added a new dimension to his work. He made his talkie debut with a dramatic reading from Henry VI in Warner Brothers` musical revue The Show of Shows, and reprised his Captain Ahab role in Moby-Dick (1930). His other leads included The Man from Blankley`s (1930), Svengali (1931), The Mad Genius (1931), Grand Hotel (1932) (in which he displays an affectionate chemistry with his brother Lionel), Dinner at Eight (1933), Topaze (1933) and Twentieth Century (1934). He worked opposite many of the screen`s foremost leading ladies, including Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, and Carole Lombard. In 1933, Barrymore appeared as a Jewish attorney in the title role of Counsellor-at-Law based on Elmer Rice`s 1931 play. As critic Pauline Kael later wrote, he "seems an unlikely choice for the ghetto-born lawyer...but this is one of the few screen roles that reveal his measure as an actor. His `presence` is apparent in every scene; so are his restraint, his humor, and his zest."
In the late 1930s, alcoholism and possibly Alzheimer`s Disease encroached on his ability to remember his lines, and his diminished abilities were apparent in an surviving screen test that he made for an aborted film of Hamlet in 1934. From then on, he insisted on reading his dialogue from cue cards. He continued to give creditable performances in lesser pictures, for example as Inspector Nielson in some of Paramount Pictures` Bulldog Drummond mysteries, and offered one last bravura dramatic turn in RKO`s 1939 feature The Great Man Votes. After that, his remaining screen roles were broad caricatures of himself, as in The Great Profile (with a demeaning choice of theme music: "Oh, Johnny, How You Can Love") and World Premiere. In the otherwise undistinguished Playmates with band
Couple Profile Source
Full Name at Birth
John Sidney Blyth
Page Display = 2 (Legacy)
Maurice Barrymore (Barrymore family patriarch)
Georgiana Drew (actress)
W.C. Fields, Gene Fowler, Errol Flynn (Errol Flynn idolized John Barrymore), Carole Lombard, Constance Collier, Raoul Walsh, John Decker, John Gilbert
John Drew (grandfather) (Irish Actor. Georgie Drew´s Father), Louisa Drew (grandmother) (Georgie Drew s Mother and Actress)
DAMNED IN PARADISE: THE LIFE OF JOHN BARRYMORE  (John Kobler), The Life and Times Of John Barrymore, Good Night Sweet Prince  (Gene Fowler), John Barrymore, Shakespearean Actor  (Michael A. Morrison), John Barrymore: A bio-bibliography  (Martin F. Norden)
John Barrymore (born John Sidney Blyth; February 14 or 15, 1882 – May 29, 1942) was an American actor on stage, screen and radio. A member of the Drew and Barrymore theatrical dynasties, he initially tried to avoid the stage, and briefly attempted a career as an artist, but appeared on stage together with his father Maurice in 1900, and then his sister Ethel the following year. He began his career in 1903 and first gained attention as a stage actor in light comedy, then high drama, culminating in productions of Justice (1916), Richard III (1920) and Hamlet (1922); his portrayal of Hamlet led to him being called the "greatest living American tragedian".
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Deceased||John Barrymore passed away on 29th May 1942 aged 60.|||