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John Barrymore

John Barrymore

1882–1942; american actor of stage, screen and radio


Real last name: Blytpe.

February 15, 1882, Philadelphia - May 29, 1942, Los Angeles.

An American theater legend, a famous stage performer of Shakespearean roles, the youngest of the Barrymore family of actors, he went down in history, following the English actor Kean, also as the embodiment of the formula "genius and wantonness. Born into a theatrical family, John studied the fine arts in Paris and dreamed of becoming an artist or, at worst, a journalist. But the family tradition took over, and twenty-odd years old, in 1903, he came into the "temple of Melpomene. The noble, courageous beauty (he even received flattering nickname "The Great Profile"), stateliness, grace, coupled with the undoubted talent has allowed the young man to quickly advanced. A year later, Barrymore had already made his Broadway debut in the play "Glad About It. With a keen sense of humor, he in the 10′s widely performed in comedies "romantic suspense": "Hunter of the Fortune," "Half-Man", "Princess Zim-Zim", "Believe Me, Xanthippa, and soon became a leader in this unusual role.

In the cinema began acting in 1913, first - in the adaptation of their theatrical productions ( "American citizen", 1913, "The Dictator," 1918, "Vhikharya", 1918), and then in a comic two-part: "You Mason? (1915), "Almost King" (1916), "The Lost Groom" (1917). An idea of them can be given by the last film, where Barrymore is hit on the head by some tramp and he, deprived of memory, joins the gangsters who rob his fiancée's apartment. Another blow to the same spot brings the hero back to his original state at the most critical moment. Not surprisingly, in such "movie escapades" John saw only a means of obtaining additional earnings, which he has always been in dire need: alcohol and women demanded money.

The main thing was for him to work in the theater: in the 10′s he played there in "Resurrection," Leo Tolstoy, "Justice," J. Tolsworthy, was the famous Richard III and unforgettable Hamlet. He also participated in the play of his second wife, Michelle Strange, "Moonlight. The 20′s cinema was marked by the resounding success of John in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1920), the image of the great detective in "Sherlock Holmes" (1922) and Captain Ahab of "Moby Dick", which was dubbed "sea monster" (1926). Melville storyline was supplemented in it by a love story, against which Barrymore initially vehemently objected, but then this screen romance grew into a life one, and Dolores Costello became the actor's third wife. Sincerity and strength of feeling displayed here made the actor famous as a "great lover". However, the following two pictures: "Don Juan" (1926) and "When a man loves" (1927, adaptation of "Manon Lescaut") were met with the press and the audience is quite cold. Perhaps the actor was too deep for the required interpretation of these classic works in the "spirit of Douglas Fairbanks, what was natural in that, with Barrymore looked artificial.

Well-established, rich overtones, "theatrical" voice allowed the actor to safely pass the barrier of sound films. But in the 30 years he had already used mostly accumulated baggage. Thus, in "Spectacle of the Spectacle" (1929) he recited his famous monologue from "Richard III". "The winter of our anxiety ..."; in the comedy "Man of Blankley" (1930) played an English lord, again appeared as Captain Ahab in "Moby Dick" (1930), was the famous hypnotist in "Svengali" (1931). In "Rasputin and the Empress" (1932) Barrymore shot all three: his brother Lionel played Rasputin, his sister Ethel - the queen, and John - Felix Yusupov. It all ended with a rowdy scandal. The family of the prince began a libel suit and won it. The studio had to pay 25 thousand dollars, plus huge legal fees ...

In "Lunch at Eight" (1933) Barrymore played a role close to him: the aging of the famous actor, a drunkard, losing himself. In life, this passion for goryotvilnym drinks acted on it more and more destructively. Weakened his memory and had to spread the prompter cards everywhere. John began to often be late to the set, and sometimes did not show up at all. But because his fame was still great, these faults until he got away with it.

In the mid 30′s, when Hollywood was in vogue for a prestigious, primarily Shakespearean, pictures, D. Selznick even tried him on Hamlet. But the result was regrettable: traces of dissipation have already been imprinted on the face of the great tragedian. However, Barrymore was given one of the secondary roles in "Romeo and Juliet" (1936) - this kind of screen production demanded a well-known name in the theatrical world. Filming him in "Lady of the Camellias" in the same year did not take place at all: the actor was in hospital for alcoholics.

After his return from there for major roles, he could not qualify - only minor, and then in the movie class "B". Filmed in the detective series "Bulldog Drummond, played a small role of Louis XV in "Marie Antoinette" (1938), the old professor in "Hold that student" (1938). Not better things were in the theater. He appeared on stage in the dreadful play My Dear Children with his fourth wife, Ellen Barry. During tours in Chicago and New York audiences came mainly to see the shame of the once great master: he forgot the text, swore off, fell on stage. Barrymore and himself understood the depth of their own degradation, for in 1940, sparodiroval himself in the movie "The Great Profile", and then did it again in "Playing Partners" (1942). Soon the actor died: the funeral had to collect money, for there was not a cent in the house.

For half a century after the death of Barrymore, all this "prosaic life" has receded into the background. And in the history of American art, John Barrymore remained a true pinnacle, albeit "shattered by life. It is no wonder that the first biographer of the actor Gene Fowler called the book about him farewell words of Horatio, addressed to the recently deceased Hamlet: "Sleep, sweet prince ..."


May 29, 1942
Barrymore dies in his sleep at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital.
May 19, 1942
Barrymore collapses during a rehearsal of the Rudy Vallee radio show. He is rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, bronchial pneumonia, hemmorhaging ulcers, and hardening of the arteries
He and Elaine divorce.
November 9, 1936
Marries his fourth wife, 19 year old actress Elaine Barrie.
He and Dolores divorce.
Dolores gives birth to John Blythe Barrymore, Jr. (who later changes his name to John Drew Barrymore). John is the father of Drew Barrymore.
Dolores gives birth to Dolores Ethel Mae Barrymore (DeDe Barrymore).
Stars in Rasputin and the Empress with brother Lionel Barrymore and sister Ethel Barrymore.
Stars in A Bill of Divorcement with Katharine Hepburn, who makes her screen debut in the film.
Stars in the film Grand Hotel with Greta Garbo and brother Lionel Barrymore.


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