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John Barrymore Edit Profile

actor

John Barrymore was an American film and stage actor.

Background

Barrymore, John was born on February 15, 1882 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. The young brother of Ethel and Lionel, John was the son of English actor Maurice Barrymore and American actress Georgina Drew.

Career

He made his film debut in 1913 in An American Citizen and worked f or Famous Players-Lasky for the next few years, largely in comedies. It was after the First World War that he began to make his mark in featured roles: Raffles the Amateur Cracksman (17); Here Comes the Bride (18); Test oj Honor (19); Dr Jeki/ll and Mr. Hyde (20, John S. Robertson); The Lotus Eater (21, Marshall Neilan); and Sherlock Holmes (22, Albert Parker), he made Beau Brummel (24, Hary Beaumont) for Warners and stayed with them for The Sea Beast (26, Michael Webb) and Don Juan (26, Alan Crosland). The first was a version of Moby Dick that contrived to add Dolores Costello to the crew, while the second was the first feature to have a musical soundtrack.

It is more interesting for the way Barymore tried in vain to have a former mistress, May Astor, replaced by the new one, Costello. He was with her again in When a Man Loves (27, Crosland) and he then played François Villon in The Beloved Rogue (27, Crosland), followed by The Tempest (28, Sam Taylor) and Eternal Love (29, Ernst Lubitsch). Sound was no obstacle to Barrymore: he kept alcohol for that. He made General Crack (29, Crosland), The Man From Blankley’s (30, Alfred E. Green), Moby Dick (30. Lloyd Bacon)—this time with Joan Bennett—and two versions of the Svengali theme— Svengali (31, Archie Mayo) and The Mad Genius (31, Michael Curtiz)—before joining MCM.

His looks were going and drink was doing all it is supposed to do, but Barymore remained a leading star in Arsene Lupin (32, Jack Conway); hardly impressed by Garbo in Grand Hotel (32, Edmund Colliding); in State’s Attorney (32, George Archainbaud); as Katharine Hepburn’s father in A Bill of Divorcement (32. George Cukor); with his brother and sister in the notorious Rasputin and the Empress (32, Richard Boleslavskv); opposite Diana Wynyard in Reunion in Vienna (33, Sidney Franklin); in two all-star productions. Dinner at Eight (33, Cukor) and Night Flight (33, Clarence Brown); as the schoolteacher in topaze (33, Harry d'Arrast); and Counsellor-at-Law (33, William Wyler).

Twentieth Century marked a break in his career. After abandoning a project to film Hamlet, he played a plump Mercutio in Cukor’s Romeo and Juliet (36) and then slipped into supporting parts and B pictures: Maytime (37, Robert Z. Leonard); True Confession (37, Wesley Ruggles); three Bulldog Drummonds; Spawn of the North (38, Henry Hathaway); and Louis XV in the Norma Shearer Marie Antoinette (38, W. S. Van Dyke).

His last years saw a succession of fascinating movies in which a dying Barrymore sardonically reveals his own fraudulence: Hold that Co-Ed (38, George Marshall); The Great Man Votes (39, Carson Kanin); a very funny observer of intrigue in Midnight (39, Mitchell Leisen); The Great Profile (40, Walter Lang); The Invisible Woman (41, Edward Sutherland); World Premiere (41, Ted Tetzlaff); and Playmates (41, David Butler).

Personality

There have been many attempts to take John Barrymore seriously; in the scenarios he was a genius actor dreadfully sapped by Hollywood’s malicious willingness to pay for all his booze and by his efforts to justifv the tag of the screen’s great lover. His Hamlet, Richard III, and Mercutio are talked of in hushed v oices as creations near to the sublime. The latter-day decline into B pictures and grotesque parodies ol himself is offered as a tragedy.

Barrymores Hamlet is now lost among opinions. Barymore survives less as a Kean than as the Kean concocted by Sartre, Pierre Brasseur, Vittorio Gassman, and Alan Badel—note, the Barymore of, say, 1926, “the great profile, astonishingly resembles Badel. That is to say, he is an actor who cannot believe in acting in the way that his romantic audience did. None of his own weapons—handsomeness, rhetoric, or flamboyance—actually convinces him. Acting becomes a trap and “John Barymore” an onerous part that he alternately mocks and falls short of. The truth therefore is black comedy, and at that level alone is Barymore important or serious. Luckily one mastequece illustrates the helpless pursuit of himself: Twentieth Century (34, Howard Hawks), which has Barymore as Oscar Jaffe, ham extraordinaire, an actor-manager engaged in a merciless upstaging affair with Carole Lombard: the limelit union of two rabid frauds. Like Badel in Kean, so Bary¬more in Twentieth Century simultaneously glorifies and ridicules acting. He is a ham, but a skeptic, incredulous of romance yet hopelessly enthralled by it as the only alternative to chaos.

Connections

He was married 4 times: Katherine Corri Harris, 1910; Mistress.; Dolores Costello, November 24, 1928 (divorced). ; Elaine Barrie Jacobs, November 9, 1936 (divorced November 1940). Children: Dolores Ethel Mae, John Blythe, Junior.

spouses:
Katherine Corri Harris

Mistress

Dolores Costello

Elaine Barrie Jacobs

children:
Dolores Ethel Mae Barrymore

John Blythe Barrymore

Jr Barrymore

Brother:
Lionel Barrymore
Lionel Barrymore - Brother of John Barrymore