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Thread: John Barrymore

  1. #1
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    John Barrymore

    American stage and screen actor whose rise to superstardom and subsequent decline is one of the legendary tragedies of Hollywood. A member of the most famous generation of the most famous theatrical family in America, he was also its most acclaimed star. His father was Maurice Blyth (or Blythe; family spellings vary), a stage success under the name 'Maurice Barrymore'. His mother, Georgie Drew, was the daughter of actor John Drew. Although well known in the theatre, Maurice and Georgie were eclipsed by their three children, John, Lionel Barrymore, and Ethel Barrymore, each of whom became legendary stars. John was handsome and roguish. He made his stage debut at 18 in one of his father's productions, but was much more interested in becoming an artist. Briefly educated at King's College, Wimbledon, and at New York's Art Students League, Barrymore worked as a freelance artist and for a while sketched for the New York Evening Journal. Gradually, though, the draw of his family's profession ensnared him and by 1905 he had given up professional drawing and was touring the country in plays. He survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and in 1909 became a major Broadway star in "The Fortune Hunter." In 1922, Barrymore became his generation's most acclaimed Hamlet, in New York and London. But by this time he had become a frequent player in motion pictures. His screen debut supposedly came in An American Citizen (1914), though records of several lost films indicate he may have made appearances as far back as 1912. He became every bit the star of films that he was on stage, eclipsing his siblings in both arenas. Though his striking matinee-idol looks had garnered him the nickname "The Great Profile", he often buried them under makeup or distortion in order to create memorable characters of degradation or horror. He was a romantic leading man into the early days of sound films, but his heavy drinking (since boyhood) began to take a toll, and he degenerated quickly into a man old before his time. He made a number of memorable appearances in character roles, but these became over time more memorable for the humiliation of a once-great star than for his gifts. His last few films were broad and distasteful caricatures of himself, though in even the worst, such as Playmates (1941), he could rouse himself to a moving soliloquy from Hamlet. He died in 1942, mourned as much for the loss of his life as for the loss of grace, wit, and brilliance which had characterized his career at its height.

    1. The legendary actor John Barrymore, had left specific instructions in his will that his body be cremated and his ashes be laid to rest next to his father and mother in the family cemetery in Philadelphia. However, due to the fact that his brother Lionel Barrymore and sister Ethel Barrymore were Catholic and cremation had not at that time been sanctioned by the Catholic Church, the executors (Lionel and Mervyn LeRoy) pulled some fancy judicial manipulations, and Barrymore's remains were entombed at Calvary Cemetery, in Los Angeles after his death in 1942. In 1980, Barrymore decided -- after hearing a rendition of "The Cremation of Sam McGee" -- that it was high time to have his Dad cremated. He recruited his son, John Blyth Barrymore, to help. The gravediggers removed the "Good Night, Sweet Prince" marble monument from the front of the crypt, and the smell assaulted them. Barrymore had been dead for 38 years, and the body was still decomposing. The casket was solid bronze, and although it had a glass liner, it must have cracked or something, because the fluids from the body had leaked out and had formed a kind of glue between the casket and the floor of the crypt. They muscled the coffin up on the hand truck and wheeled it down a long ramp to a van they had waiting outside. The body fluids were leaking out all the way. They cruised over to the Odd Fellows Cemetery, which had the nearest crematorium, and made the cremation preparations. John Jr. insisted on having a look inside the casket before they left. After viewing the body, he came out white as a sheet and crying. He got in the car and said to his son, "Thank God I'm drunk; I'll never remember it." John Blyth Barrymore got a graphic description later from one of the eye-witnesses. Apparently, all the bouncing around during the move had sort of busted the jaw apart from what was left of the head. They were convinced it was John Barrymore by the very high quality dental work, and because, although most of the flesh on the nose had decomposed, an incredibly long nose cartilage remained.

  2. #2
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    That story is wild... it haunted me the night after i read it!

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    omg thats a lil creepee

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    How 'bout Drew's father?...

    Although he continued to appear occasionally on screen, he became more and more reclusive. Suffering from the same problems which had destroyed his father, John Drew became a derelict. Estranged from his family, including his children, his lifestyle continued to worsen and his physical and mental health suffered. In 2003, Drew moved him near her home despite their estrangement, paying his medical bills until his death from cancer. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to television.

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    One of the enduring - - and apparently true - - stories of the practical jokes pulled in the heyday of Hollywood is that Barrymore's corpse was 'borrowed' from the funeral home (the details vary on whether it was just before or just after the funeral). Erroll Flynn was a close friend and drinking buddy of Barrymore's, and the body was taken to Flynn's house and propped up in a chair in the living room, with a fresh drink next to Barrymore's artfully placed hand. Just as Flynn was pulling into his driveway, returning just his customary evening of overindulging, a cigarette was lit and put between Barrymore's fingers, completing the scene.

    Once they got the reaction they wanted from Flynn, the corpse was returned from whence it came.

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    he was a very handsome man..... and the joke sounded funny as hell.

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    I've heard various versions of this story, and that's what it is- a story. Not true, according to recent comments.

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    Quote Originally Posted by More Cheese Please View Post
    In this photo, he looks like he could be Carlisle Cullen, he's so pale.

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    Great eccentric star. He made a cool Svengali

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    He has a face sculpted for acting ... what a profile!

    (My favorites in the family remain Drew and Ethel. Enjoyed Ethel in Moss Rose)
    I think gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman ... Arnold Schwarzenegger

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    Orson Welles believed he had undiagnosed alzheimer's (much like Welle's 2nd wife Rita Hayworth) later in his life and preferred being thought of as a drunk rather than as losing his marbles.

    I think he was a drunk, but it's possible...
    You can't "nu uh" death. That's bad debating.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by radiojane View Post
    Orson Welles believed he had undiagnosed alzheimer's (much like Welle's 2nd wife Rita Hayworth) later in his life and preferred being thought of as a drunk rather than as losing his marbles.

    I think he was a drunk, but it's possible...
    I like to think he was an alcoholic with alzheimers (great idea for a film)

  14. #14
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    Just watched "Barrymore" starring Christopher Plummer. I thought Plummer did an amazing job considering the detailed dialogue he was able to handle at 80-something. The movie itself was a bit long but the idea behind it was a good one.
    Regards,
    Tamie
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    When you are dead, you don't know you are dead. It is difficult only for the others. It is the same when you are stupid.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SistaSara View Post
    American stage and screen actor whose rise to superstardom and subsequent decline is one of the legendary tragedies of Hollywood. A member of the most famous generation of the most famous theatrical family in America, he was also its most acclaimed star. His father was Maurice Blyth (or Blythe; family spellings vary), a stage success under the name 'Maurice Barrymore'. His mother, Georgie Drew, was the daughter of actor John Drew. Although well known in the theatre, Maurice and Georgie were eclipsed by their three children, John, Lionel Barrymore, and Ethel Barrymore, each of whom became legendary stars. John was handsome and roguish. He made his stage debut at 18 in one of his father's productions, but was much more interested in becoming an artist. Briefly educated at King's College, Wimbledon, and at New York's Art Students League, Barrymore worked as a freelance artist and for a while sketched for the New York Evening Journal. Gradually, though, the draw of his family's profession ensnared him and by 1905 he had given up professional drawing and was touring the country in plays. He survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and in 1909 became a major Broadway star in "The Fortune Hunter." In 1922, Barrymore became his generation's most acclaimed Hamlet, in New York and London. But by this time he had become a frequent player in motion pictures. His screen debut supposedly came in An American Citizen (1914), though records of several lost films indicate he may have made appearances as far back as 1912. He became every bit the star of films that he was on stage, eclipsing his siblings in both arenas. Though his striking matinee-idol looks had garnered him the nickname "The Great Profile", he often buried them under makeup or distortion in order to create memorable characters of degradation or horror. He was a romantic leading man into the early days of sound films, but his heavy drinking (since boyhood) began to take a toll, and he degenerated quickly into a man old before his time. He made a number of memorable appearances in character roles, but these became over time more memorable for the humiliation of a once-great star than for his gifts. His last few films were broad and distasteful caricatures of himself, though in even the worst, such as Playmates (1941), he could rouse himself to a moving soliloquy from Hamlet. He died in 1942, mourned as much for the loss of his life as for the loss of grace, wit, and brilliance which had characterized his career at its height.

    1. The legendary actor John Barrymore, had left specific instructions in his will that his body be cremated and his ashes be laid to rest next to his father and mother in the family cemetery in Philadelphia. However, due to the fact that his brother Lionel Barrymore and sister Ethel Barrymore were Catholic and cremation had not at that time been sanctioned by the Catholic Church, the executors (Lionel and Mervyn LeRoy) pulled some fancy judicial manipulations, and Barrymore's remains were entombed at Calvary Cemetery, in Los Angeles after his death in 1942. In 1980, Barrymore decided -- after hearing a rendition of "The Cremation of Sam McGee" -- that it was high time to have his Dad cremated. He recruited his son, John Blyth Barrymore, to help. The gravediggers removed the "Good Night, Sweet Prince" marble monument from the front of the crypt, and the smell assaulted them. Barrymore had been dead for 38 years, and the body was still decomposing. The casket was solid bronze, and although it had a glass liner, it must have cracked or something, because the fluids from the body had leaked out and had formed a kind of glue between the casket and the floor of the crypt. They muscled the coffin up on the hand truck and wheeled it down a long ramp to a van they had waiting outside. The body fluids were leaking out all the way. They cruised over to the Odd Fellows Cemetery, which had the nearest crematorium, and made the cremation preparations. John Jr. insisted on having a look inside the casket before they left. After viewing the body, he came out white as a sheet and crying. He got in the car and said to his son, "Thank God I'm drunk; I'll never remember it." John Blyth Barrymore got a graphic description later from one of the eye-witnesses. Apparently, all the bouncing around during the move had sort of busted the jaw apart from what was left of the head. They were convinced it was John Barrymore by the very high quality dental work, and because, although most of the flesh on the nose had decomposed, an incredibly long nose cartilage remained.
    True, I so enjoy watching his old movies.
    Carolyn(1958-2009) always in my heart.

  16. #16
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    That has got to be the best bit of death haggery I have ever read!! I read it again and again.
    Regards,
    Tamie
    *****************************************************************
    When you are dead, you don't know you are dead. It is difficult only for the others. It is the same when you are stupid.

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    As amazing as John Barrymore was in later films, I can only guess how wonderful he was on stage and the early lost movies. It never felt like he was acting, just living the part. His part in "Grand Hotel" as an over the hill, alcoholic actor is certainly a gem among stars.

  18. #18
    he was one of my favs

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    Drunk as hell in a 1939 interview:


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    Visited Laurel Hill Cemetery today, it's extremely close to Mount Vernon Cemetery where John's cremains have been interred. Wanted so much to try and find John's marker but the cemetery is not only closed to the public (unless you call in advance and beg to be allowed in ) but is in a sad state of neglect and decay, with weeds and overgrown trees, etc. Imagine Angkor Wat a few decades after the last King died, and that's what Mount Vernon is like.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave62 View Post
    Visited Laurel Hill Cemetery today, it's extremely close to Mount Vernon Cemetery where John's cremains have been interred. Wanted so much to try and find John's marker but the cemetery is not only closed to the public (unless you call in advance and beg to be allowed in ) but is in a sad state of neglect and decay, with weeds and overgrown trees, etc. Imagine Angkor Wat a few decades after the last King died, and that's what Mount Vernon is like.
    Wow, that's terrible.

  22. #22
    If you want to see John Drew Barrymore give a great performance, go to YouTube and search for the Gunsmoke episode called Seven Hours to Dawn. A copy of it is always posted online.

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    I probably mentioned this in Ethel's post but she pissed me off totally by publicly commenting (in a published interview) that John Drew "let the family down" by bowing-out of a play while it was in the first stages of rehearsal. It's not like he ran out on opening night! Nice way to give your nephew some confidence, bitch. Maybe he felt he wasn't right for that role and chose to leave and provide someone else the chance to act instead. I really wanted to try and find John's grave but the gate was locked and even if it were open, that place is an overgrown eyesore.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skiddledy Gumbo View Post
    If you want to see John Drew Barrymore give a great performance, go to YouTube and search for the Gunsmoke episode called Seven Hours to Dawn. A copy of it is always posted online.
    I just added it to my watch later list. Thanks for the rec.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave62 View Post
    I probably mentioned this in Ethel's post but she pissed me off totally by publicly commenting (in a published interview) that John Drew "let the family down" by bowing-out of a play while it was in the first stages of rehearsal. It's not like he ran out on opening night! Nice way to give your nephew some confidence, bitch. Maybe he felt he wasn't right for that role and chose to leave and provide someone else the chance to act instead. I really wanted to try and find John's grave but the gate was locked and even if it were open, that place is an overgrown eyesore.
    Or maybe John Drew was drunk?
    Carolyn(1958-2009) always in my heart.

  26. #26
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    Or maybe John Drew was drunk?

    Mmmmmm........ could be !!!!!
    Ethel strikes me as the "I shit vanilla ice cream" type: oh-so-perfect in her own eyes and condescending towards most others. Christ, even if he was drunk that'd be no surprise in that family. Look at how Diana ended up. Maybe with relatives like Ethel I'd drink too; with relatives like her, who needs enemies?

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