Ethel Barrymore


Actor
Ethel Barrymore

About

Also Known As
Ethel Mae Blyth
Birth Place
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Born
August 15, 1879
Died
June 18, 1959
Cause of Death
Heart Ailment

Biography

A member of America's multi-generational acting dynasty, Ethel Barrymore established herself as "the first lady of the American stage" prior to following her brothers, Lionel and John, to the land of Hollywood and motion pictures. After paying her dues with smaller roles on the stages of New York and further honing her craft abroad in the U.K., Barrymore became a bona fide Broadway star ...

Photos & Videos

The Spiral Staircase - Movie Poster
Pinky - Movie Poster
Rasputin and the Empress - Lobby Cards

Family & Companions

Russell Griswold Colt
Husband
Married on March 14, 1909; son of Col. Samuel Pomeroy Colt, board chairman of United States Rubber Company; divorced in July 1923.

Bibliography

"The House of Barrymore"
Margot Peters, Alfred A. Knopf (1990)
"The Barrymores: The Royal Family in Hollywood"
Kotsilibas-Davis, Crown (1981)
"Memories"
Ethel Barrymore, Harper & Brothers (1956)

Notes

"More regal than royalty." --critical accolade once bestowed on Barrymore quoted in her The New York Times June 19, 1959 obituary.

"That's all there is; there isn't any more." --famous curtain speech by Barrymore

Biography

A member of America's multi-generational acting dynasty, Ethel Barrymore established herself as "the first lady of the American stage" prior to following her brothers, Lionel and John, to the land of Hollywood and motion pictures. After paying her dues with smaller roles on the stages of New York and further honing her craft abroad in the U.K., Barrymore became a bona fide Broadway star with her 1901 performance in "Captain Jinx of the Horse Marines." So popular was she during her heyday, that her good-humored admonition to persistent theater audiences wanting another curtain call - "That's all there is, there isn't any more," became an oft-quoted catchphrase throughout the 1920s and '30s. Barrymore's five-year dalliance with silent films in the late-teens was pushed aside in favor of theater and family. A chance to work with both Lionel and John lured her back in front of cameras for "Rasputin and the Empress" (1932), although not for long. Her final, permanent return to film came 11 years later, at the behest of Cary Grant, with whom she co-starred in "None But the Lonely Heart" (1944). The role won her an Academy Award and paved the way for more turns, usually as stern but caring maternal figures, in films like "The Spiral Staircase" (1946), "The Paradine Case" (1947) and "Pinky" (1949). Immortalized as the namesake of Broadway's Ethel Barrymore Theatre, Barrymore's legacy lived on with her memorable film roles and the career of great-niece, Drew Barrymore, who carried on the family tradition.

Born Ethel Mae Blythe on Aug. 15, 1879 in Philadelphia, PA, she was the middle child of Georgina Drew and Herbert Blythe - better known as renowned stage actors Georgina and Maurice Barrymore. Boasting a family lineage that also included acclaimed stage performers like her grandmother, Louisa Lane Drew, and uncle, John Drew, Jr., she and her brothers Lionel and John would continued the family tradition as members of the country's most prominent acting dynasty. As a child, Ethel was often cared for by extended family members during her parents' frequent touring engagements, or lived at the Catholic boarding schools she attended during the remainder of the year. She made her inevitable Broadway debut at the age of 16 in an 1895 production of "The Impudent Young Couple," alongside her uncle, John Drew, Jr. and the great American stage actress, Maude Adams.

Ethel Barrymore's breakthrough came in 1897 during a mounting of William Gillette's "Secret Service" in London when she was asked to take over for the play's lead actress on a moment's notice. Despite her unfamiliarity with the role, the teenaged Barrymore performed admirably. The attractive young thespian went on to enjoy continued success during her extended stay in the U.K., in addition to numerous gentlemen admirers - among them a young Winston Churchill, who reportedly asked Barrymore to marry him at one point. Though neither would ever publicly address their brief romantic involvement, they would remain good friends throughout the remainder of their lives. Following her triumphant return to the States, Barrymore quickly established herself as an emerging talent in several Broadway productions, culminating in a bravura performance as Madame Trentoni in "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines" in 1901. More acclaimed starring roles on The Great White Way came in runs of "Cousin Kate," "Sunday" and Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House."

With older brother Lionel having already entered the film business in 1911 and younger brother John joining him two years later, Ethel dipped her toes into the still-young medium of silent movies with "The Nightingale" (1914). Remaining on the East Coast, the Broadway actress made nearly 15 pictures between 1914 and 1919 amidst her theatrical endeavors. Making no secret of her low opinion of the art form, Barrymore eventually discontinued her film career, choosing instead to focus on her stage work and family. Unfortunately, her marriage to wealthy New York socialite Russell Griswold Colt had been tempestuous from its inception in 1909. After rearing three children with the reportedly abusive and philandering Colt, Barrymore divorced him in 1923, demanding no alimony, only child support. She would not remarry. Drawn back to film work by the intriguing prospect of appearing alongside both of her brothers, she made her first "talkie" as Russian Czarina Alexandra in the historical drama "Rasputin and the Empress" (1932), with Lionel in the other title role as the notorious mad monk and John as a fictionalized version of the exiled Prince Yusupov. Dissatisfied by the experience, Ethel returned to the stage almost exclusively over the next decade, starring in dozens of productions, capped by a highly successful stint as the star of the drama "The Corn is Green," which began its lengthy Broadway run in 1940.

After an 11-year absence from film, Barrymore returned to Hollywood at the invitation of none other than cinema star Cary Grant, to play his dying mother in the hardscrabble drama "None But the Lonely Heart" (1944). The supporting performance won the stage actress an Academy Award, an accolade that, when combined with the superior compensation, prompted her permanent relocation to the West Coast and the movie industry. She once again played a crusty, yet good-natured matron in director Robert Siodmak's superior gothic thriller "The Spiral Staircase" (1946), which earned her a second Oscar nomination. Similar roles, in addition to two more Academy Award nominations, followed with such films as "The Farmer's Daughter" (1947), "The Paradine Case" (1947), "Pinky" (1949), "Kind Lady" (1951), and "Deadline U.S.A." (1952). She appeared with brother Lionel (as themselves) on screen for the last time in "Main Street to Broadway" (1953), a comedy-drama featuring additional cameos by a bevy of other Broadway notables, including Tallulah Bankhead, Rex Harrison and Helen Hayes.

Working more frequently in television near the end of her career - a move dictated more by economics than artistic desire - Barrymore served as host, and occasionally performed on the drama anthology "Ethel Barrymore Theater" (syndicated, 1956). She made her final feature film appearance in the romantic-drama "Johnny Trouble" (1957) as a stubborn but caring de facto house mother at a boys' dormitory, waiting for the return of her long lost son. Having suffered from a heart condition for several years, Barrymore died of complications due to cardiovascular disease at her home in Beverly Hills, CA on June 18, 1959 at the age of 79, outliving both of her famous brothers. More than 50 years after her passing, Barrymore's legacy and influence continued as the Ethel Barrymore Theatre remained one of the last continuously operating Shubert theaters named after Broadway's greatest stars. Carrying on the family tradition, Ethel's great-niece, actress-producer-director Drew Barrymore, went on to become one of the more recognizable young faces in Hollywood.

By Bryce Coleman

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Johnny Trouble (1957)
Katherine "Nana" Chandler
Young at Heart (1954)
Aunt Jessie
The Story of Three Loves (1953)
Mrs. Hazel Pennicott
Main Street to Broadway (1953)
Herself
It's a Big Country: An American Anthology (1952)
Mrs. Brian Patrick Riordan
Just for You (1952)
Allida de Bronkhart
Deadline--U.S.A. (1952)
Margaret Garrison
The Secret of Convict Lake (1951)
Granny
Kind Lady (1951)
Mary Herries
Pinky (1949)
Miss Em
The Red Danube (1949)
[Mother Auxilia] The Mother Superior
Portrait of Jennie (1949)
Miss Spinney
That Midnight Kiss (1949)
Abigail Trent Budell
The Great Sinner (1949)
Grandmother
Night Song (1948)
Mrs. Willey
Moonrise (1948)
Grandma
The Paradine Case (1948)
Lady Sophy Horfield
Moss Rose (1947)
Lady Margaret Drego
The Farmer's Daughter (1947)
Mrs. [Agatha] Morley
The Spiral Staircase (1946)
Mrs. Warren
None But the Lonely Heart (1944)
His Mother, Ma Mott
Rasputin and the Empress (1933)
The Czarina [Alexandra]
The Divorcee (1919)
Lady Frederick Berolles
Our Mrs. McChesney (1918)
Emma McChesney
The Greatest Power (1917)
Miriam Monroe
National Red Cross Pageant (1917)
An American Widow (1917)
Elizabeth Carter
Life's Whirlpool (1917)
Esther Carey
The Eternal Mother (1917)
Maris
The Lifted Veil (1917)
Clorinda Gildersleeve
The Call of Her People (1917)
Egypt
The White Raven (1917)
Nan Baldwin
The Kiss of Hate (1916)
Nadia Turgeneff
The Awakening of Helena Richie (1916)
Helena Richie
The Final Judgment (1915)
Jane Carleson, Mrs. Murray Campbell
The Nightingale (1914)
Isola Franti, "The Nightingale"

Cast (Special)

Svengali and the Blonde (1955)
Narrator

Cast (Short)

One Love of Mine (1949)

Life Events

1894

Stage acting debut, "The Rivals"

1901

Achieved stardom on stage with "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines"

1914

Film acting debut in "The Nightingale"

1932

One-shot return to film opposite brothers John and Lionel in "Rasputin and the Empress"

1936

Announced retirement

1937

Returned to stage acting career in "The Ghost of Yankee Doodle"

1940

Enjoyed greatest stage success with "The Corn Is Green"

1944

Returned to films with "None But the Lonely Heart"

1957

Last film, "Johnny Trouble"

Photo Collections

The Spiral Staircase - Movie Poster
Here is the American One-Sheet Movie Poster for The Spiral Staircase (1945), starring Dorothy McGuire. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Pinky - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Pinky (1949), starring Jeanne Craine and Ethel Waters. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Rasputin and the Empress - Lobby Cards
Rasputin and the Empress - Lobby Cards
Portrait of Jennie - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from Portrait of Jennie (1949). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. Also included is a card from the 1950 release of the film, as Tidal Wave.
The Farmer's Daughter - Lobby Cards
Here are a number of Lobby Cards from The Farmer's Daughter (1947), starring Loretta Young, Joseph Cotten, and Ethel Barrymore. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
That Midnight Kiss - Publicity Stills
Here are several Publicity Stills from MGM's That Midnight Kiss (1949), starring Mario Lanza, Kathryn Grayson, and Ethel Barrymore. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Young at Heart - Movie Poster
Here is the Window Card from Warner Bros' Young at Heart (1955), starring Frank Sinatra and Doris Day. Window Cards were 14x22 mini posters designed to be placed in store windows around town during a film's engagement. A blank space at the top of the poster featured theater and playdate infromation.

Videos

Movie Clip

Red Danube, The (1949) - We Have Our Lord Just arrived in Vienna where they’ll be sorting Russian refugees, Brits Nicobar (Walter Pidgeon), McPhinister (Peter Lawford) and Quail (Angela Lansbury) meet their hostess, the Mother Superior (Ethel Barrymore), and top-billed Janet Leigh makes her first appearance, in The Red Danube, 1949.
Deadline-U.S.A. (1952) - Open, You Got Elected! Opening credits and a vignette of corruption featuring Martin Gabel (as gangster "Rienzi") from ex-newsman Richard Brooks' newspaper drama Deadline-U.S.A., 1952, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ethel Barrymore.
Deadline-U.S.A. (1952) - I Have No Objections Editor Ed Hutcheson (Humphrey Bogart) visits the owners (Joyce MacKenzie, Fay Baker, Ethel Barrymore) who have decided to sell their newspaper in Deadline-U.S.A., 1952, directed by ex-newsman Richard Brooks from his original screenplay.
Portrait of Jennie (1949) - We'll Take The Flower Gallery owners Mr. Matthews (Cecil Kellaway) and Miss Spinney (Ethel Barrymore) don't quite reject the works of starving artist Eben Adams (Joseph Cotten), the opening scene in Portrait of Jennie, 1949.
Red Danube, The (1949) - Marshal Stalin Wants Her All the key MGM players, Louis Calhern the Soviet officer hunting ballerina Olga (a.k.a Maria, Janet Leigh), her identity not previously known to Brit Col. Nicobar (Walter Pidgeon), Peter Lawford his smitten aide, Ethel Barrymore the abbess hiding her in a Vienna convent, in The Red Danube, 1949.
It's A Big Country - Matter Of Some Importance Louis Calhern's narration beginning "Episode Two," directed by John Sturges, in which Mrs. Riordan (Ethel Barrymore) meets editor Callaghan (George Murphy), in the MGM anthology It's A Big Country, 1952.
None But The Lonely Heart (1944) - What Are Them Pills For? London pawn shop proprietor "Ma" Mott (Ethel Barrymore in her Academy Award winning role) reveals her illness to friend Ike (Konstantin Shayne), then tangles again with her ne'er-do-well son Ernie (Cary Grant), in None But The Lonely Heart, 1944, from the Richard Llewellyn novel.
Pinky (1949) - Clever Imitations Jeanne Crain (title character), still passing for white, but under orders from her black grandmother, is the reluctant nurse and maid to the overly candid Miss Em (Ethel Barrymore), in Elia Kazan's Pinky, 1949.
Spiral Staircase, The (1946) - Say "I Do" Dr. Parry's (Kent Smith) passionate departure sends mute servant Helen (Dorothy McGuire) into a tortured romantic fantasy, upon which Professor Warren (George Brent) intrudes, in Robert Siodmak's The Spiral Staircase, 1946.
Spiral Staircase, The (1946) - Leave This House! The invalid matriarch of the haunted-or-threatened New England mansion Mrs. Warren (Ethel Barrymore) isn't altogether deluded when she advises her mute servant Helen (Dorothy McGuire) to flee, in Robert Siodmak's The Spiral Staircase, 1946.
Young At Heart (1954) - Suburban Drunks Composer Alex (Gig Young) greets struggling arranger friend Barney (Frank Sinatra), whom he's persuaded to join him at the Connecticut home of his friends, to help him prepare a new show, Aunt Jessie (Ethel Barrymore) his first encounter, in Young At Heart, 1954, also starring Doris Day.
Young At Heart (1954) - The Most Vulgar Diamond Meeting the Tuttles, Fran (Dorothy Malone) home from a momentous date, tells aunt Jessie (Ethel Barrymore) and dad (Robert Keith), Laurie and Amy (Doris Day, Elizabeth Fraser) thrilled but anxious, in the remake of Four Daughters, Young At Heart, 1954, with Frank Sinatra and Gig Young.

Trailer

Kind Lady - (Original Trailer) A con artist (Maurice Evens) and his criminal cohorts hold an old lady (Ethel Barrymore) hostage in her own home in KInd Lady, 1951, directed by John Sturges.
Young At Heart - (Original Trailer) Frank Sinatra and Doris Day are among the very Young At Heart (1955) in this musical version of Four Daughters.
Rasputin and the Empress - (Original Trailer) John, Ethel and Lionel Barrymore star in Rasputin and the Empress (1932), the true story of the mad monk who plotted to rule Russia.
None But The Lonely Heart - (Re-issue Trailer) A young ne'er-do-well (Cary Grant) tries to get his life on track to help his ailing mother (Ethel Barrymore) in None But The Lonely Heart (1944).
Story Of Three Loves, The - (Original Trailer) A all-star cast on an ocean liner finding and remembering love in The Story Of Three Loves (1953).
Great Sinner, The - (Original Trailer) Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner star in director Robert Siodmak's The Great Sinner (1949), adapted from a classic novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
Pinky - (Original Trailer) A light-skinned black woman (Jeanne Crain) returns home after passing for white in nursing school in Eliz Kazan's Pinky (1949).
Red Danube, The - (Original Trailer) A Russian ballerina in Vienna tries to flee KGB agents and defect in The Red Danube (1949), directed by George Sidney and starring Janet Leigh and Walter Pidgeon.
Farmer's Daughter, The -- (Re-issue Trailer) When she goes to work for a congressman, a Minnesota farm girl takes Washington by storm in The Farmer's Daughter (1947) starring Loretta Young.
That Midnight Kiss - (Original Trailer) A singing truck driver (Mario Lanza) battles snobbery to become a star in That Midnight Kiss (1949).

Family

Eliza Lane
Great-Grandmother
Actor, singer.
Georgiana Drew
Mother
Actor.
Maurice Barrymore
Father
Actor. Born on September 21, 1847.
John Drew
Uncle
Actor.
Lionel Barrymore
Brother
Actor. Born on April 28, 1878; died on November 15, 1954.
John Barrymore
Brother
Actor. Born on February 15, 1882; died on May 29, 1942.
Samuel Griswold Colt
Son
Born in 1909; died in 1986.
Ethel Barrymore Colt
Daughter
Actor. Born in 1912; died in 1977; appeared in the 1971 stage musical "Follies".
John Drew Colt
Son
Born in 1913; died in 1975.

Companions

Russell Griswold Colt
Husband
Married on March 14, 1909; son of Col. Samuel Pomeroy Colt, board chairman of United States Rubber Company; divorced in July 1923.

Bibliography

"The House of Barrymore"
Margot Peters, Alfred A. Knopf (1990)
"The Barrymores: The Royal Family in Hollywood"
Kotsilibas-Davis, Crown (1981)
"Memories"
Ethel Barrymore, Harper & Brothers (1956)

Notes

"More regal than royalty." --critical accolade once bestowed on Barrymore quoted in her The New York Times June 19, 1959 obituary.

"That's all there is; there isn't any more." --famous curtain speech by Barrymore

"A great lady and a great actress." --Harry S Truman on the occasion of Barrymore's seventieth birthday; quoted in her The New York Times June 19, 1959 obituary.

A Broadway theater (on 47th Street, west of Broadway) was named in her honor.

Barrymore was noted for her love of baseball, her large library and her morbid wit.