June 1926 photograph
September 17, 1903|
|Died||March 1, 1979
|Spouse(s)||Dr. John Vruwink
Dolores Costello (September 17, 1903 – March 1, 1979) was an American film actress who achieved her greatest success during the era of silent movies. She was nicknamed "The Goddess of the Silent Screen". She was stepmother of John Barrymore's daughter Diana, by his second wife Blanche Oelrichs, the mother of John Drew Barrymore and Dolores (Dee Dee) Barrymore, and the grandmother of John Barrymore III, Blyth Dolores Barrymore, Brahma Blyth (Jessica) Barrymore, and Drew Barrymore.
Dolores Costello was born in Pittsburgh, the daughter of actors Maurice and Mae Costello, of Irish and German descent, respectively. She and her younger sister, Helene, made their first film appearances in the years 1909–1915 as child actresses for the Vitagraph Film Company. They played supporting roles in several films starring their father, who was a popular matinee idol at the time. Dolores Costello's earliest listed credit on the IMDb is in the role of a fairy in a 1909 adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
The two sisters appeared on Broadway together as chorines and their success resulted in contracts with Warner Brothers Studios. In 1926, following small parts in feature films, she starred opposite John Barrymore in The Sea Beast, a loose adaptation of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. Warner Bros. soon began starring her in her own vehicles. Meanwhile, she and Barrymore became romantically involved and married in 1928.
Within a few years of achieving stardom, the delicately beautiful blonde-haired actress had become a successful and highly regarded film personality in her own right, and as a young adult her career developed to the degree that in 1926, she was named a WAMPAS Baby Star, and had acquired the nickname "The Goddess of the Silver Screen".
Warners alternated Costello between films with contemporary settings and elaborate costume dramas. In 1927, she was re-teamed with John Barrymore in When a Man Loves, an adaptation of Manon Lescaut. In 1928, she co-starred with George O'Brien in Noah's Ark, a part-talkie epic directed by Michael Curtiz.
Costello spoke with a lisp (something that her granddaughter, Drew Barrymore, seemingly inherited), and found it difficult to make the transition to talking pictures, but after two years of voice coaching she was comfortable speaking before a microphone. One of her early sound film appearances was with her sister Helene in Warner Bros.'s all-star extravaganza, The Show of Shows (1929). Her acting career became less a priority for her following the birth of her first child, Dolores Ethel Mae "DeeDee" Barrymore (born April 8, 1930) and she retired from the screen in 1931 to devote time to her family. She would have another child (John Drew Barrymore), but the marriage proved too difficult due to her husband's increasing alcoholism, and they divorced in 1935.
She resumed her career a year later and achieved some successes, most notably in Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). She retired permanently from acting following her appearance in This is the Army (1943), again under the direction of Michael Curtiz.
In 1939, she married Dr. John Vruwink, an obstetrician, but they divorced in 1950. Costello spent the remaining years of her life in semi-seclusion, managing an avocado farm. Her film career was largely ruined by the destructive effects of early film makeup, which ravaged her complexion too severely to camouflage. Her final film was This Is the Army (1943). In the 1970s her house was inundated in a flash flood which destroyed a lot of her property and memorabilia from her movie career and life with John Barrymore.
Shortly before her death, she agreed to be interviewed for the documentary series Hollywood discussing her film career. She died from emphysema in Fallbrook, California, in 1979, and was interred in Calvary Cemetery, East Los Angeles. Her interview scenes were broadcast posthumously in 1980.
Dolores Costello has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to Motion Pictures, at 1645 Vine Street.
Dolores Costello appeared as a child actress in many films made between 1909 and 1915 . Among them are:
- 1909: A Midsummer Night's Dream
- 1910: The Telephone
- 1911: Consuming Love, or St. Valentine's Day in Greenaway Land A Geranium; The Child Crusoes; His Sister's Children; A Reformed Santa Claus; Some Good in All
- 1912: Captain Jenks' Dilemma; The Meeting of the Ways; For the Honor of the Family; She Never Knew; Lulu's Doctor; The Troublesome Step-Daughters; The Money Kings; A Juvenile Love Affair; Wanted ... a Grandmother; Vultures and Doves; Her Grandchild; Captain Barnacle's Legacy; Bobby's Father; The Irony of Fate; The Toymaker; Ida's Christmas
- 1913: A Birthday Gift; The Hindoo Charm; In the Shadow; Fellow Voyagers
- 1914: Some Steamer Scooping; Etta of the Footlights; Too Much Burglar
- 1915: The Evil Men Do
Filmography (as adult performer)
|1923||The Glimpses of the Moon||Bit Part||lost|
|Lawful Larceny||Nora the maid||lost; six minutes survives|
|1925||Greater Than a Crown||Isabel Frances / Princess of Lividia||?|
|Bobbed Hair||Bit part||extant|
|The Sea Beast||Esther Harper||extant(George Eastman House)|
|Bride of the Storm||Faith Fitzhugh||lost film|
|The Little Irish Girl||Dot Walker||lost film|
|The Third Degree||Annie Daly||extant (Library of Congress)|
|1927||When a Man Loves||Manon Lescaut||extant (Turner/Warner Bros.)|
|A Million Bid||Dorothy Gordon||incomplete(Library of Congress- Italian title cards)|
|Old San Francisco||Dolores Vasquez||extant(Turner/Warner Bros.)|
|The Heart of Maryland||Maryland Calvert||extant(incomplete;Library of Congress)|
|The College Widow||Jane Witherspoon||lost film|
|1928||Tenderloin||Rose Shannon||lost film|
|Glorious Betsy||Betsy Patterson||extant(silent only, Vitaphone talking, music and sound effects missing)|
|Noah's Ark||Mary/Miriam||extant(Turner and/or UCLA Film & Television Archives)|
|1929||The Redeeming Sin||Joan Billaire||lost film|
|Glad Rag Doll||Annabel Lee||lost film (trailer survives)|
|Madonna of Avenue A||Maria Morton||lost film|
|Hearts in Exile||Vera Zuanova||lost film|
|The Show of Shows||Meet My Sister number||extant(Turner/Warner Bros.)|
|1930||Second Choice||Vallery Grove||lost film|
|1931||Expensive Women||Constance 'Connie' Newton||extant(Library of Congress)|
|1936||Little Lord Fauntleroy||'Dearest' Erroll|
|Yours for the Asking||Lucille Sutton|
|1938||The Beloved Brat||Helen Cosgrove|
|Breaking the Ice||Martha Martin|
|1939||King of the Turf||Eve Barnes|
|Whispering Enemies||Laura Crandall|
|Outside These Walls||Margaret Bronson|
|1942||The Magnificent Ambersons||Isabel|
|1943||This Is the Army||Mrs. Davidson|
- Motion Picture Performers. A bibliography of magazine and periodical articles, 1900–1969; compiled by Mel Schuster. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1971.
- Find-a-Grave profile for Dolores Costello
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dolores Costello.|
- Dolores Costello photo gallery
- Dolores Costello at the Internet Movie Database
- Dolores Costello at the Internet Broadway Database
- Dolores Costello at Find a Grave
- Photographs of Dolores Costello
- Dolores and Anita Louise with the legendary Daniel Frohman in 1936 at Actors Fund Benefit (Corbis Images)