John Barrymore on stage, screen and radio
John Barrymore (born John Sidney Blyth; 1882–1942) was an American actor of stage, screen and radio who appeared in more than 40 plays, 60 films and 100 radio shows. He was the youngest child of the actors Maurice Barrymore and Georgie Drew Barrymore, and his two siblings were Lionel and Ethel; together they were known as America's "Royal Family" of actors, and John was "perhaps the most influential and idolized actor of his day", according to his biographer Martin F. Norden.
After Barrymore tried to start a career in art, becoming an illustrator at the New York Evening Journal, his father tempted him to appear on stage in 1901 in A Man of the World; the theater proved more interesting than the newspaper industry, and he quickly changed professions. In 1904 he appeared in his first stage show on Broadway, where he appeared in light comedies and musicals until 1914 when he began to turn to more serious roles, starting with The Yellow Ticket and Kick In. That year he also began to work in full-length films, and appeared in nine between 1914 and 1918, all of them slapstick or farce comedies. During the 1920s film roles became more serious, and he appeared in the lead role in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), which he followed with The Lotus Eater (1921), Sherlock Holmes (1922), Beau Brummel (1924) and The Sea Beast (1926). In between his film roles, he also took the lead in two major stage productions of Shakespeare. In 1920 he played Richard, Duke of Gloucester in Richard III; although a success, the play closed after only 31 performances when Barrymore "collapsed from the physical and psychological challenges of the role". In November 1922 he played the title character in Hamlet on Broadway for 101 performances, before touring the US until January 1924; Norden described the critics' reaction as "universally praising the production as the best Hamlet they had ever seen". After the US tour, Barrymore took the production to London, where it ran for a further 68 performances; The Manchester Guardian later described the first performance as "the most memorable first night for years".
Such was the success of Hamlet, that Warner Bros. signed Barrymore to a film contract. When his time with Warner Bros. finished, he signed a contract with United Artists to make three features: The Beloved Rogue (1927), Tempest (1928) and Eternal Love (1929). When that contract ended he returned to Warner Bros. for five further films, and was then picked up by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where he appeared in Grand Hotel, A Bill of Divorcement and Rasputin and the Empress (all 1932). At the end of the MGM contract he became "a journeyman movie actor", in the words of Norden. In September 1940 Barrymore was invited to leave his imprint in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre; instead of the traditional handprint, Barrymore left his facial profile, reflecting his nickname "The Great Profile". He was inducted to the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960.
Although Barrymore appeared in a number of successful films in the 1930s, including Counsellor at Law (1933) and Twentieth Century (1934), his increasing alcoholism led to memory loss and the inability to remember his lines. His problems with alcohol affected his confidence and he admitted to Helen Hayes, his co-star of Night Flight, that he had "completely lost [his] nerve" and that he "could never appear before an audience instead". In 1935 he was hospitalized after being unable to remember neither his seven lines for the film Hat, Coat, and Glove, nor his character's name. After his discharge from the hospital he enjoyed a brief career revival, although much of his film work "bore little distinction", according to Norden; the film historians Donald McCaffrey and Christopher Jacobs opine that Barrymore's "contribution to the art of cinematic acting began to fade" after the mid-1930s. Barrymore also enjoyed a fruitful career on radio, which included broadcasting six of Shakespeare's plays in a Streamlined Shakespeare series. Much of his radio work was in the 74 episodes of The Sealtest Show with Rudy Vallée; it was during a rehearsal for the show in May 1942 that Barrymore collapsed and was admitted to hospital, where he died on May 29.
|Production||Date||Theatre (New York, unless stated)||Role||Number of performances|
|A Man of the World||January 1901||Touring||George Ellis|
|Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines||1901 – 02 season||Touring||Charles "Charlie" La Martine|
|Madga||October 31, 1903||W. S. Cleveland's Theatre, Chicago||Lt. Max von Wendlowski||10|
|Leah the Forsaken||November 8, 1903||W. S. Cleveland's Theatre, Chicago||Jacob||18|
|Glad of It||December 28, 1903||Savoy Theatre||Corley||32|
|The Dictator||April 4, 1904||Criterion Theatre, then touring in US and Britain (September 1904 to July 1905)||Charlie Hyne||105|
|Yvette||May 13, 1904||Knickerbocker Theatre||Signor Valreali||1|
|Sunday||September – December 1905||Touring||Jacky|
|Pantaloon||December 25, 1905 – March 1906||Criterion Theatre for 81, then touring from May 1906||Clown||81|
|Alice Sit-by-the-Fire||December 25, 1905 – March 1906||Criterion Theatre for 81, then touring (March to April 1906 and September 1906 to February 1907)||Stephen Rollo||81|
|Miss Civilization||January 26, 1906||Broadway Theatre||Brick Meakin, alias "Reddy the Kid"||1|
|On the Quiet||March – October 1906||Touring, US and Australia||Duke of Carbondale|
|The Dictator||April – August 1906||Touring, US and Australia||Charley Hyne|
|A Doll's House||January 31, 1907||Colonial Theatre, Boston||Dr. Rank||1|
|His Excellency the Governor||April 4, 1907||Empire Theatre||Capt. Charles Carew||36|
|The Boys of Company B||May 23 – July 1907||Lyceum Theatre, then touring (July to September 1907)||Tony Allen||96|
|Toddles||March 16, 1908||Garrick Theatre||Lord Meadows||16|
|A Stubborn Cinderella||June 1908 – May 1909||Touring (June 1908 – January 1909), then Broadway Theatre, Boston (January – April 1909), then touring (April – May 1909)||Mac||88|
|The Candy Shop||May – June 12, 1909||Knickerbocker Theatre||Jack Sweet||56|
|The Fortune Hunter||September 4, 1909 – May 1911||Gaiety Theatre, the touring (September 1910 to May 1911)||Nat Duncan||345|
|Uncle Sam||August 28, 1911||Touring (August to October 1911), then Liberty Theatre||Robert Hudson||48|
|Princess Zim-Zim||December 1911 – January 1912||Touring||Peter Milholland|
|A Slice of Life||January 29 – March 1912||Empire Theatre||Mr. Hyphen-Brown||48|
|Half a Husband||March 11, 1912||Touring (less than 2 weeks)||Tony Bleecker|
|On the Quiet||July 1, 1912||Belasco Theatre, Los Angeles||Robert Ridgway||14|
|The Honor of the Family||July 15, 1912||Belasco Theatre, Los Angeles||Colonel Philippe Bridau||6 (est)|
|The Man from Home||July 22, 1912||Belasco Theatre, Los Angeles||Daniel Voorhees Pike||14 (est)|
|The Affairs of Anatol||October 14, 1912||Little Theatre||Anatol||72|
|A Thief for a Night||March 13, 1913||McVicker's Theatre, Chicago||Robert Edgar Willoughby "Bobby" Pitt||46|
|Believe Me Xantippe||August 19, 1913||Thirty-Ninth St. Theatre||George MacFarland||79|
|The Yellow Ticket||January 20, 1914||Eltinge Theatre||Julian Rolfe||183|
|Kick In||October 19, 1914||Longacre Theatre||Chick Hewes||188|
|Actors' Fund Benefit||January 28, 1916||Forth-Fourth Street||1|
|Justice||April 3, 1916 – January 1917||Candler Theatre (April to September 1916), then touring (to January 1917)||William Falder||104|
|Junior Patriots of America Benefit||March 25, 1917||Hippodrome||Sailor||2|
|Peter Ibbetson||April 18, 1917 – May 1918||Republic Theatre (April to November 1917), then touring (to May 1918)||Peter Ibbetson||71|
|The National Red Cross Pageant||October 5, 1917||Rosemary Open Air Theatre||Tyrant||4|
|Redemption||October 3, 1918||Plymouth Theatre||Fedor "Fedya" Vasilyevich Protasov||204|
|The Jest||April 9, 1919||Plymouth Theatre||Giannetto Malespini||256|
|Richard III||March 6, 1920||Plymouth Theatre||Richard, Duke of Gloucester||31|
|Clair de Lune||April 18, 1921||Empire Theatre||Gwymplane||64|
|Annual Equity Show||May 1, 1921||Metropolitan Opera House||Romeo||2|
|Hamlet||November 16, 1922 – January 26, 1924||Sam H. Harris Theatre (November 1922 – February 1923), Manhattan Opera House (November and December 1923 – 3 weeks), then touring (December 1923 – January 26, 1924)||Hamlet||101|
|Hamlet||February 19, 1925||Theatre Royal Haymarket, London||Hamlet||68|
|My Dear Children||March 1939||Touring (March 1939 to January 1940), then the Belasco Theatre||Allan Manville|
|The Green Goddess||June 9, 1939||Palace Theatre, Chicago||20 (est)|
|Dream of a Motion Picture Director||1912||Boss||Lost film; 1 reel. Credited as "Jack Barrymore", this is probably John Barrymore, although Norden notes that "we may never know for certain if ... [these films] are in fact Barrymore movies".|
|The Widow Casey's Return||1912||Sullivan||Lost film; 1 reel. Credited as "Jack Barrymore", this is probably John Barrymore, although Norden notes that "we may never know for certain if ... [these films] are in fact Barrymore movies".|
|A Prize Package||1912||Si Hawkins||Lost film; 1 reel. Credited as "Jack Barrymore", this is probably John Barrymore, although Norden notes that "we may never know for certain if ... [these films] are in fact Barrymore movies".|
|One on Romance||1913||Helen's Father||Lost film; on a split reel[a] Credited as "Jack Barrymore", this is probably John Barrymore, although Norden notes that "we may never know for certain if ... [these films] are in fact Barrymore movies".|
|An American Citizen||1914||Beresford Kruger||Lost film|
|The Man from Mexico||1914||Fitzhugh||Lost film|
|Are You a Mason?||1915||Frank Perry||Lost film|
|The Dictator||1915||Brooke Travers||Lost film|
|The Incorrigible Dukane||1915||James Dukane|
|Nearly a King||1916||Jack Merriwell, Prince of Bulwana||Lost film|
|The Lost Bridegroom||1916||Bertie Joyce||Lost film|
|The Red Widow||1916||Cicero Hannibal Butts||Lost film|
|Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman||1917||A. J. Raffles|
|National Red Cross Pageant||1917||The Tyrant (Russian episode)||Lost film|
|On the Quiet||1918||Robert Ridgeway||Lost film|
|Here Comes the Bride||1919||Frederick Tile||Lost film|
|The Test of Honor||1919||Martin Wingrave||Lost film|
|Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde||1920||Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde|
|The Lotus Eater||1921||Jacques Leroi||Lost film|
|Sherlock Holmes||1922||Sherlock Holmes|
|Beau Brummel||1924||Gordon Bryon "Beau" Brummell|
|The Sea Beast||1926||Captain Ahab Ceeley|
|Don Juan||1926||Don Jose de Marana/Don Juan de Marana|
|When a Man Loves||1927||Chevalier Fabien des Grieux|
|The Beloved Rogue||1927||François Villon|
|Tempest||1928||Sgt. Ivan Markov|
|Eternal Love||1929||Marcus Paltran|
|The Show of Shows||1929||Richard, Duke of Gloucester||in Henry VI, Part 3|
|General Crack||1930||Duke of Kurland/Prince Christian|
|The Man from Blankley's||1930||Lord Strathpeffer||Lost film|
|Moby Dick||1930||Captain Ahab Ceely|
|The Mad Genius||1931||Ivan Tsarakov|
|Arsène Lupin||1932||Arsène Lupin|
|Grand Hotel||1932||The Baron||Grand Hotel was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2007.|
|State's Attorney||1932||Tom Cardigan|
|A Bill of Divorcement||1932||Hilary Fairfield|
|Rasputin and the Empress||1932||Prince Paul Chegodieff|
|Topaze||1933||Prof. Auguste A. Topaze|
|Reunion in Vienna||1933||Archduke Rudolf von Habsburg|
|Dinner at Eight||1933||Larry Renault|
|Counsellor at Law||1933||George Simon|
|Long Lost Father||1934||Carl Bellairs|
|Twentieth Century||1934||Oscar Jaffe||Twentieth Century was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2011.|
|Romeo and Juliet||1936||Mercutio|
|Bulldog Drummond Comes Back||1937||Colonel Neilson|
|Night Club Scandal||1937||Dr. Ernest Tindal|
|Bulldog Drummond's Revenge||1937||Colonel Neilson|
|True Confession||1937||Charles "Charley" Jasper|
|Bulldog Drummond's Peril||1938||Colonel Neilson|
|Romance in the Dark||1938||Zoltan Jason|
|Marie Antoinette||1938||King Louis XV|
|Spawn of the North||1938||Windy Turlon|
|Hold That Co-ed||1938||Governor Gabby Harrigan|
|The Great Man Votes||1939||Gregory Vance|
|Midnight||1939||Georges Flammarion||Midnight was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2013.|
|The Great Profile||1940||Evans Garrick|
|The Invisible Woman||1940||Professor Gibbs|
|World Premiere||1941||Duncan DeGrasse|
|Hamlet||March 8, 1925||2LO, UK||Hamlet|
|[Unknown]||January 15, 1926||WBPI, New York|
|Dodge Brothers Hour||March 29, 1928||NBC Blue Network|
|The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour||May 23, 1935||NBC Red Network|
|Shell Chateau||December 14, 1935||NBC Red Network|
|Hollywood Hotel: "A Christmas Carol"||December 25, 1936||CBS||Scrooge|
|Streamlined Shakespeare: Hamlet||June 21, 1937||NBC Blue Network||Hamlet|
|Interview[b]||June 25, 1937||NBC Blue Network|
|Streamlined Shakespeare: Richard III||June 28, 1937||NBC Blue Network||Richard, Duke of Gloucester|
|Streamlined Shakespeare: Macbeth||July 5, 1937||NBC Blue Network||Macbeth|
|Streamlined Shakespeare: The Tempest||July 12, 1937||NBC Blue Network||Prospero/Caliban|
|Streamlined Shakespeare: Twelfth Night||July 19, 1937||NBC Blue Network||Sir Toby Belch/Malvolio|
|Streamlined Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew||July 26, 1937||NBC Blue Network||Petruchio|
|The Animal Kingdom||September 6, 1937||NBC Blue Network||Tom Collier|
|Accent on Youth||September 13, 1937||NBC Blue Network|
|The Baker's Broadcast||October 10, 1937||NBC Blue Network|
|This is New York||February 19, 1938||CBS|
|The Camel Caravan||June 6, 1938||CBS|
|The Texaco Star Theatre||October 12, 1938 – January 11, 1939||CBS||9 episodes|
|The Kate Smith Calumet Baking Powder Show||January 26, 1939||CBS|
|The Chase and Sanborn Show||September 22, 1940||NBC Red Network|
|The Sealtest Show||October 17, 1940 – May 14, 1942||NBC Red Network||74 episodes|
|The Screen Guild Theater: "The Great Man Votes"||November 3, 1940||CBS||Gregory Vance|
|Salute to Ethel Barrymore: Forty Years a Star||February 4, 1941||NBC Blue Network|
|Time to Smile||February 26, 1941||NBC Red Network|
|Hollywood||June 2, 1941||CBS|
|United Service Organizations Benefit||June 29, 1941||CBS|
Notes and references
- Norden 2000, p. 178.
- Norden, Martin F. "John Barrymore". American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved April 30, 2014. (subscription required)
- Byers 1998, pp. 28–30.
- McCaffrey & Jacobs 1999, p. 31.
- Byers 1998, p. 30.
- McCaffrey & Jacobs 1999, pp. 31–32.
- Norden 2000, p. 14.
- Norden 1995, p. 75.
- "Obituary: John Barrymore". The Manchester Guardian (Manchester). June 1, 1942. p. 6.
- "Great Profile Set in Cement". Time 9 (14): 63. September 30, 1940.
- "John Barrymore". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
- Peters 1990, p. 359.
- Peters 1990, pp. 354–55.
- McCaffrey & Jacobs 1999, p. 32.
- Norden 1995, pp. 141 & 147–56.
- Morrison 1997, p. 295.
- Norden 1995, pp. 31–78.
- "Barrymore, John, 1882–1942". North American Theatre Online. Alexander Street Press. Retrieved April 28, 2014. (subscription required)
- "John Barrymore". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Retrieved April 28, 2014.
- Norden 1995, pp. 80–140.
- "John Barrymore". Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved April 25, 2014.
- "Filmography: Barrymore, John". Film & TV Database. British Film Institute. Retrieved April 25, 2014.
- Morrison 1997, pp. 51–52.
- Norden 1995, pp. 80–83.
- Miller 1995, p. 225.
- Peters 1990, p. 149.
- Kobler 1977, p. 116.
- Peters 1990, p. 154.
- Tibbetts & Welsh 2010, p. 26.
- "National Red Cross Pageant". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
- Tibbetts & Welsh 2010, p. 27.
- Peters 1990, p. 323.
- "National Film Registry Titles 1989–2013". Library of Congress. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
- Norden 1995, pp. 142–56.
- Norden 1995, p. 143.
- Byers, Paula K., ed. (1998). "The Barrymores". Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit, MI: Gale Research. ISBN 978-0-7876-2541-2.
- McCaffrey, Donald W.; Jacobs, Christopher P. (1999). Guide to the Silent Years of American Cinema. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-30345-6.
- Kobler, John (1977). Damned in Paradise: The Life of John Barrymore. New York, NY: Atheneum. ISBN 978-0-689-10814-3.
- Miller, Blair (1995). American Silent Film Comedies: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Persons, Studios and Terminology. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. ISBN 978-0-89950-929-7.
- Morrison, Michael A. (1997). John Barrymore: Shakespearean Actor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-62028-4.
- Norden, Martin F. (1995). John Barrymore: A Bio-Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-29268-2.
- Norden, Martin F. (2000). "Barrymore, John (1882–1942)". In Pendergast, Sara; Pendergast, Tom. St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, Volume 1. Detroit, MI: St. James Press. ISBN 978-1-55862-401-6.
- Peters, Margot (1990). The House of Barrymore. New York, NY: Touchstone. ISBN 978-0-671-74799-2.
- Tibbetts, John C.; Welsh, James M. (2010). American Classic Screen Features. Plymouth: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-7679-8.
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