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John Barrymore

John Barrymore

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Also Known As: John Sidney Blyth Died: May 29, 1942
Born: February 15, 1882 Cause of Death: myocarditis, complicated by chronic nephritis, cirrhosis of the liver and gastric ulcers
Birth Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Profession: actor, author, scenic and poster design, artist, illustrator

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Affectionately referred to as "The Great Profile," the classically handsome actor John Barrymore was more suited for leading man roles than his older sibling, Lionel, and more inclined to work in film than his revered stage actress sister, Ethel. The youngest member of the renowned Barrymore acting dynasty, the exceptionally adaptable performer transitioned from acclaimed work on Broadway to the emerging medium of silent pictures in films like "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1920). He made the move to sound appear just as effortless in such heralded works as "Moby Dick" (1930), "The Mad Genius" (1931) and "Grand Hotel" (1932), the latter of which boasted an all-star cast, including brother Lionel and Greta Garbo. Films of the time, like "A Bill of Divorcement" (1932), "Dinner at Eight" (1933) and "Twentieth Century" (1934) consistently placed Barrymore at the top of the box office heap. The actor's unrestrained affection for women and alcohol, however, eventually eroded both his ability to maintain his finances and perform to expectation. A late-career turn as the star of "The Great Man Votes" (1939) gave audiences one last glimpse of his innate talent before giving way to self-parodies like "The Great...

Affectionately referred to as "The Great Profile," the classically handsome actor John Barrymore was more suited for leading man roles than his older sibling, Lionel, and more inclined to work in film than his revered stage actress sister, Ethel. The youngest member of the renowned Barrymore acting dynasty, the exceptionally adaptable performer transitioned from acclaimed work on Broadway to the emerging medium of silent pictures in films like "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1920). He made the move to sound appear just as effortless in such heralded works as "Moby Dick" (1930), "The Mad Genius" (1931) and "Grand Hotel" (1932), the latter of which boasted an all-star cast, including brother Lionel and Greta Garbo. Films of the time, like "A Bill of Divorcement" (1932), "Dinner at Eight" (1933) and "Twentieth Century" (1934) consistently placed Barrymore at the top of the box office heap. The actor's unrestrained affection for women and alcohol, however, eventually eroded both his ability to maintain his finances and perform to expectation. A late-career turn as the star of "The Great Man Votes" (1939) gave audiences one last glimpse of his innate talent before giving way to self-parodies like "The Great Profile" (1940). Nonetheless, Barrymore's contributions to theater and film would be undeniable, continuing to reverberate in the performances of such actors as Sir Laurence Olivier and his own granddaughter, Drew Barrymore, and his storied life referenced in such films as "My Favorite Year" (1982).

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Playmates (1941) Himself
2.
 World Premiere (1941) Duncan DeGrasse
3.
 The Great Profile (1940) Evans Garrick
4.
 The Invisible Woman (1940) Professor Gibbs
5.
 The Great Man Votes (1939) [Gregory] Vance
6.
 Midnight (1939) Georges Flammarion
7.
 Hold That Co-Ed (1938) Governor [Gabby Harrigan]
8.
 Bulldog Drummond's Peril (1938) Colonel Nielson
9.
 Spawn of the North (1938) Windy [Turlon]
10.
 Romance in the Dark (1938) Zoltan Jason
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1903:
Stage debut, "Magda"
1903:
New York debut, "Glad of It"
1909:
Achieved matinee idol status in "The Fortune Hunter"
1913:
Screen acting debut, "An American Citizen"
1920:
Enjoyed great stage successes in New York, London, and on tour, especially with "Richard III" and "Hamlet"
1926:
Starred in first film with recorded and synchronized musical score, "Don Juan"
1929:
Recited from "Richard III" in first sound film appearance, "Show of Shows"
1933:
Made Technicolor tests of Hamlet's soliloquies for a film which was never made
1934:
Seriously ill; journeyed to India upon recovery
1936:
Realized long ambition to portray a Shakespearian character on film; played Mercutio in "Romeo and Juliet"
1942:
Recited Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy in last film "Playmates"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

"I like to be introduced as America's foremost actor. It precludes the necessity for further effort." --remark attributed to Barrymore by The New York Times May 30, 1942. and by Halliwell's Filmgoer's Companion, 8th ed.

When a woman discovered Barrymore relieving himself in a ladies' room, she sniffed, "Mr. Barrymore, this is for ladies!" Turning around without zipping his pants up first, Barrymore responded, "So, my dear, is this!" --story recounted in Halliwell's Filmgoer's Companion, 8th ed.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Katherine Harris. Married on September 1, 1910 at age 18 against wishes of her father but with mother's blessing; divorced on December 4, 1917; died at 1927.
wife:
Michael Strange. Writer. Born in 1890 formerly Mrs. Leonard Thomas; once cited by French artist Helleu as the most beautiful woman in the USA; mother of Diana; married on August 5, 1920; divorced; died in 1950.
wife:
Dolores Costello. Actor. Born in 1906; leading lady in several Barrymore vehicles; married in 1928; went into semi-retirement after birth of daughter and son; divorced in 1934; died in 1979.
wife:
Elaine Barrie. Actor. Born in 1915; married on November 6, 1936; divorced after several months, but later had decree set aside.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

great-grandmother:
Eliza Lane. Actor, singer.
mother:
Georgiana Drew. Actor.
father:
Maurice Barrymore. Actor. Born on September 21, 1847.
uncle:
John Drew. Actor.
brother:
Lionel Barrymore. Actor. Born on April 28, 1878; died on November 15, 1954; acted together in film on several occasions.
sister:
Ethel Barrymore. Actor. Born on August 15, 1879; died on June 18, 1959; acted together with John and with brother Lionel in "Rasputin and the Empress" (1932).
daughter:
Diana Blanche Barrymore. Actor. Born on March 3, 1920; died in 1960; mother, Michael Strange; author of autobiography, "Too Much, Too Soon" (1957).
daughter:
Dolores Ethel Mae Barrymore. Born on 1930; mother, Dolores Costello.
son:
John Blyth Barrymore. Actor. Born in 1932, mother, Dolores Costello.
grandson:
John Blyth Barrymore. Former actor. Born in 1954.
granddaughter:
Drew Barrymore. Actor. Born on February 22, 1975.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Confessions of an Actor" Bobbs-Merrill
"John Barrymore: The Legend and the Man" Julian Messner
"Good Night, Sweet Prince" Viking
"The Film Acting of John Barrymore" Arno Press
"Damned in Paradise: The Life of John Barrymore" Atheneum
"The Barrymores: The Royal Family in Hollywood" Crown
"Too Much, Too Soon" Henry Holt & Co
"All My Sins Remembered" Appleton-Century-Crofts
"The House of Barrymore" Alfred A. Knopf
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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