Father of John Drew Barrymore and actress Diana Barrymore.
Grandfather of Drew Barrymore.
Son of Maurice Barrymore and Georgiana Barrymore; grandson of Louisa
Drew and actor John Drew (1827-62); nephew of Sidney Drew; cousin of
S. Rankin Drew; uncle of Samuel Colt, Ethel Colt, and
John Drew Colt.
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), Night Flight (1933), Dinner at Eight (1933), and
Grand Hotel (1932).
His birth certificate lists 14 February as birth date, which conflicts with the family Bible which
says 15 February. His World War I draft record and Social Security records state
Rebaptized as a Roman Catholic after his mother's secret conversion, of the
Barrymore siblings only Ethel Barrymore remained a devout Catholic.
George Bernard Shaw considered his very highly regarded "Hamlet" one of the worst
performances of the role he had ever seen, and in a blistering letter accused him of indulging his own ego at the
expense of William Shakespeare.
Courted showgirl Evelyn Nesbit as her involvement with married architect Stanford
White was waning. When she became pregnant Barrymore proposed marriage, but White
intervened and arranged for the still-teenaged Miss Nesbit to undergo an operation for
"appendicitis." White was later murdered by Nesbit's vengeful husband, Pittsburgh
millionaire Harry Thaw.
Was a good friend of Errol Flynn, who subsequently played Barrymore in
Too Much, Too Soon (1958), a film about Barrymore's daughter Diana Barrymore.
His sharp wit never left him, even when he was dying. A priest came to administer the last rites, accompanied by an
exceedingly homely nurse. When the priest asked him if he had anything to confess, Barrymore
replied, "Yes, Father. I am guilty, at this moment, of having carnal thoughts." "About whom?," replied the shocked
priest. "About HER!," he replied, indicating the nurse.
The only one of the three Barrymore siblings (John, Ethel Barrymore and Lionel
Barrymore) to never win or even be nominated for an Academy Award; he is now considered the finest actor
of the three.
One night, while drunk, he accidentally went into a women's restroom, instead of a men's room, and proceeded to
relieve his bladder in a potted plant. A woman standing nearby reminded him that the room was "for ladies
exclusively." Turning around, his penis still exposed, Barrymore responded, "So, madam, is
this. But every now and again, I'm compelled to run a little water through it." This incident later made its
way, verbatim, into My Favorite Year (1982), where the Barrymore- inspired
character of Alan Swann, played by Peter O'Toole, is involved in a similar
His 1922 "Hamlet" was the longest-running Broadway production of the play with 101 performances until
John Gielgud played the part for 132 performances in 1936.
Had a daughter, Dolores Ethel Blyth Barrymore (b. 8 April 1930) with wife Dolores Costello.
He was the greatest Hamlet and Richard III of his time, and he is still
considered the greatest
American actor to play those roles.
Barrymore left specific instructions that he be cremated and his ashes be buried next to his
parents in the family cemetery in Philadelphia. However, as his brother Lionel
Barrymore and sister Ethel Barrymore were Catholic and cremation had not was not
sanctioned by the Church, the executors (Lionel and Mervyn LeRoy) had
Barrymore's remains entombed at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles. In 1980, John Drew
Barrymore decided to have his dad cremated, and recruited his son John Blyth Barrymore to
help. They removed the casket from its crypt, drove it to the Odd Fellows Cemetery, and made the
preparations. John Jr. insisted on having a look inside before they left. After viewing the body,
he came out white as a sheet, got in the car and said to his son, "Thank God I'm drunk, I'll never remember
After Barrymore's death, his friends - including Errol Flynn and Raoul
Walsh - gathered at a bar to commiserate on John's passing. Walsh,
claiming he was too upset, pretended to go home. Instead, he and two friends went to the funeral home and bribed
the caretaker to lend them Barrymore's body. Transporting it to Flynn's house, it
was propped up in Errol's favorite living room chair. Flynn arrived and described
his reaction in his autobiography: "As I opened the door I pressed the button. The lights went on and - I
stared into the face of Barrymore... They hadn't embalmed him yet. I let out a delirious scream... I went back in,
still shaking. I retired to my room upstairs shaken and sober. My heart pounded. I couldn't sleep the rest of the
In 1920 lived at 134 W. 4th Street in Manhattan.
Was originally supposed to play Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner
(1942), but because of the effects of his alcoholism he couldn't remember his lines and was fired.
Played by Jack Cassidy in W.C. Fields and Me (1976). Barrymore
was Cassidy's idol.
Was the youngest of the elder generation of the Barrymore film clan that included himself,
brother Lionel, and sister Ethel. He was also the first to pass away, at age 60,
Often wore makeup and costuming that obscured his world famous looks on stage in the early years of his career.
In one of his rare meetings with eldest daughter, Diana Barrymore, while she was a teen, John
Barrymore pulled a stunt that was simply horrid. Barrymore took
Diana and an old school friend to dinner and a movie, while on the outing,
Barrymore became inebriated and made a pass at Diana's friend, also a teen.
Made his stage debut at age eighteen in a family production directed by his father. His Broadway stardom came with
the play, The Fortune Hunter in 1909. He began his career in film in 1914 with The
Toward the end of his career and indebted to his numerous ex-wives and the IRS, John Barrymore made a number of
appearances on Rudy Vallee's radio program. Sadly, Barrymore was often the butt of jokes about his legendary
drinking, womanizing, and failing memory. It was during a rehearsal of the Vallee program that Barrymore collapsed
for the last time. He was hospitalized and diagnosed with pneumonia and chronic cirrhosis of the liver. Barrymore
lingered in and out of consciousness and died ten days later.
Was the owner of a pet monkey named Clementine. Clementine was a gift to
Barrymore from British actress, Gladys Cooper. Barrymore adored
Clementine and the monkey actually appeared in three films with Barrymore,
"The Sea Beast" (1926), "Don Juan" (1926), and "When A Man
Was very enamored of sailing and owned a yacht named "The Mariner". He used to sale alone or with
his well known compatriots Errol Flynn and Raoul Walsh. Many journeys out to sea,
by Barrymore and friends were to escape the ire of female conquests that were less than pleased
with their subsequent treatment by the rascally Barrymore and friends.
Called "the greatest actor of his generation" by many, he was not above a failure on Broadway. The
most notable failure by "The Great Profile" was in "Clair de Lune". Oddly enough,
the play was written by Barrymore's second wife, the poet Michael Strange.
Did not initially wish to follow the family tradition of a career in the theater. Educated at King's College,
Wimbledon, England, and The New York Students Art League in New York
City, Barrymore worked for a time as a freelance artist and as a sketch artist for the
"New York Evening Journal".
Was married four times (Katherine Corri Harris, Blanche Oelrichs, Delores Costello,
and Elaine Barrie). All four ended in divorce.
Was nicknamed Jack and "The Great Profile".
Was 5' 9" (1.75 m)
Gene Fowler, in his biography of Barrymore, estimates that ". . . in 40 years
he consumed 640 barrels of hard liquor."
Once said that the role of Oscar (in Twentieth Century (1934)) was "a role
that comes once in a lifetime" and even deemed this his favorite of all the movies he appeared in.
When asked by John Barrymore why he should play the role of Oscar, Howard
Hawks replied, "It's the story of the biggest ham on earth and you're the biggest ham I know."Barrymore accepted at once.
After filming ended, John Barrymore gave Carole Lombard an autographed photo
inscribed, "To the finest actress I have worked with, bar none." -- about the film Twentieth Century (1934).
He was, after John Gielgud, the most acclaimed Hamlet of the 20th century (his realization of
the role in London influenced Laurence Olivier's own later interpretation of
Hamlet, in 1937 on stage and in 1948 on film. Ironically, Ethel Barrymore
denounced Olivier's film Hamlet, which brought him an Academy
Award as Best Actor). From 1922, when he staged his first Hamlet, until
1975, when Sam Waterston essayed the role, Barrymore and Walter
Hampden were the only American actors to play Hamlet on
Broadway. Barrymore put on a second production in 1923, while
Hampden played the role three times on the Great White Way, in 1918, in 1925
(with Ethel Barrymore as his Ophelia), and in 1929. Stephen
Lang, who played the great Dane on the Great White Way in 1992, is the
only other American in more than three-quarters of a century to star in "Hamlet"
on Broadway. In that time Hamlet was played mostly by British
performers, particularly Maurice Evans, an English immigrant who became an
American citizen and who was the only other actor other than Hampden since World
War I to play Hamlet three times on the Broadway stage. The other
British subjects to play the role on Broadway in that period other than
Gielgud were Leslie Howard, Sir Donald Wolfit, future Canadian Stratford Festival
founder John Neville, Neville's Old Vic co-star and rival Richard
Burton, Nicol Williamson (the definitive portrayal of the late 1960s) and Ralph Fiennes,
who won a Tony in the role. French actor Jean-Louis Barrault followed in his countrywoman
Sarah Bernhardt's footsteps and played Hamlet on Broadway (he in
1952, she in 1900). Aside from Barrymore's acclaimed performance, the greatest
Hamlet assayed by an American actor was that of Edwin Booth, who
played the role three times on Broadway in the 19th century.