Maurice Barrymore was born in Agra or Amritsar, India while his father was a commissioner in the Indian Civil Service. His birth name was Herbert Blyth. In 1858 he was sent to England to school. Afterwards he enrolled into Lincoln College, Oxford to study law. In 1875 he made his U.S. debute in Boston as a hero in Under the Gaslight. John Drew invited Maurice to Philadelphia when he began courting John's sister Georgiana Drew. Georgiana was acting at her mother's Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia.
Today a cousin Anna Pizzey has done a great job on the genealogical background on the Blyth family outside of the United States. Anna wrote: "While the direct ancestor, John (Blake) Blyth, went off to India his brother Carrington stayed in Essex and farmed on the coast at St Osyth. From what we know, alot of the Blyths ended up in the farming business one way or another.
"The Blyths were gentlemen farmers in the North East area of Essex. They owned a lot of land and, from what we can gather, were quite influential in the area. We've been through various documents at the local records office which have given an insight into their lives, also, many of them left wills detailing property and possessions. It all adds color to the story. Portrait is of Georgina Drew-Barrymore, cig. advertisement is of Maurice and Georgina.
CLICK HERE FOR 1891
Program for: "Mr. Wilkinson's Widows" Georgina (Drew)
Barrymore was leading lady.
Another cousin has devoted herself to Family History of the Tasmanian Blyths by Roslyn Teirney. The Tasmanian Blyths, came from Essex in England and have connections in Victoria and other mainland states, New Zealand, India, Ireland and the USA.
The surname BLYTH means "cheerful and gentle".
The Blyths were amongst the earliest settlers of Van Diemen's Land. William arrived in 1833. A wine merchant and farmer, he married Elizabeth, the only daughter of William and Sarah Crowther. Robert emigrated in 1841 as ship's surgeon. He went first to India then Norfolk Island before settling in Tasmania where he became the Warden of Sorell.
The descendants of William Blyth and Dr Robert Blyth include teachers, nurses, mechanics, servicemen, artists, musicians and businessmen. CLICK HERE FOR Roslind Tierney's Blyth Family History.
It may be that Errol Flynn became friends with John Barrymore for they may have known of the Blyth's from Tasmania the birthplace of other Blyth's and of Errol Flynn.
Maurice studied law, and was admitted to the bar, but turned to the stage. He began his acting career when he toured in England with Charles Vandenhoff's Company in 1872. Maurice played in leading roles with Modjeska, Mrs. Fiske, Olga Nethersole, Lillian Russell, and Lily Langtry and other stock companies.
Following the Drew family tradition Maurice Barrymore excepted Shakespearean leads under Daly's direction. Such as Orlando and Orsino with Fannie Davenport. Georgiana Drew Barrymore gave birth to Lionel Barrymore on April 28, 1878, Ethel Barrymore was born on August 15, 1879; and John Sidney Barrymore arrived into this world on Feb. 15, 1882. Check to right is from Fanny Davenport.CLICK HERE FOR Biography of Edward and Fanny Davenport Family History.
The surname BLYTH means "cheerful and gentle".
(). John Barrymore, Shakespearean Actor, Michael A. Morrison, 1997, pp. 33-34.
On March 21, 1872 he won the middleweight boxing championship of England. Six years later in 1878 John Drew and Maurice Barrymore were on tour in Marshall, Texas at the Station Hotel. Barrymore, Ben Porter and Ellen Cummins went to have lunch. The lady was insulted by one drunk Jim Curry who worked for the railroad and was a deputy sheriff. When he began swearing, Maurice "demanded that he stop. Curry responded "I can do any of you up," Maurice replied "I suppose you could, with your pistol or knife." Curry retorted "...Ill do it with my bunch of fives..." "Then," said Maurice, throwing off his coat, "I'll have a go at you." (). The Barrymores, Carold Stein Hoffman, 2001, p. 28.
Lionel Barrymore gave an account in his biography: "The scene of the fray which almost orphaned me was Marshall, Texas, and this is how it came about that Maurice Barrymore, elegant British actor on the Broadway stage, took part in a Western Brawl:
Photograph on left is Maurice as Orlando "As You Like It."
Maurice and Frederick Warde had brought the road rights to Diplomacy, which had made a fine hit at Wallack's in New York, and brought uncle Jack (Drew) into the company to play the juvenile role, Algie Fairfax. The troupe was stopping at the Station Hotel in Marshall, preparing to leave for [Fort Worth]. The morning after the performance, Maurice, Ben Porter, and Ellen Cummins went across the street to the station cafe, the only one open for breakfast. This cafe was also a bar, and there was a buckaroo in it who was extremely drunk. It turned out that his name was Jim Curry. He began using language which Uncle Jack described with Victorian horror as "extraordinarily vile." Maurice demanded he stop. "I can do anything I want to do," Curry announced. "With a gun to back you up," said Maurice. " I haven't got a gun," said Curry.
Maurice put up his dukes, pretty sure of himself at this point, but Curry did have a gun. He drew fast and shot Maurice in the shoulder. Porter rushed to his aid. Curry then leveled on Porter, who died on the station platform. Uncle Jack heard the shots and the uproar. He ran across from the hotel and entered the bar as Porter fell. Why he wasn't shot by Curry also, or why Curry did not shoot my father again, I do not know. At any rate, the sheriff arrived soon, disarmed Curry, and assisted Maurice back to the hotel, where the bullet was cut out. Curry was tried for the killing of Ben Porter and was acquitted." (). We Barrymores, pp.29-30.
Maurice's oldest son Lionel as a young man was engaged in a couple of fighting matches. John L. Sullivan knocked Lionel down a couple of times. Lionel's father must have coached him well. Just one thing, Lionel's fist fight was not an act!
John Drew also wrote of this event: "On the night of March 22, 1878, a theatrical company playing "Diplomacy," had finished their performance and were awaiting the train to take them to Fort Worth. The train did not arrive at Marshall until 2 a.m., and as is habitual with actors the company craved something to eat after the play. All but two of the men and one of the ladies of the company were satisfied with the poor food the wretched hotel afforded, but these three unfortunately went to an eating saloon at the end of the station platform, where something more substantial was to be had, and, where they were obliged to sit upon high stools to eat it, to their great amusement. They had been there but a few minutes when there entered a semi-inebriated man of huge proportions, who at once began to use the most violent and indecent language. One of the men of the party begged the keep of the restaurant to repress the new-comer. The creature, hearing himself alluded to, redoubled his violence and indecency; at which the gentleman (Maurice Barrymore) who had made the appeal called him to order himself. The brute remarked that he could "knock any man's head off," adding that he had no pistol or knife, and proposed to do for anyone with his "bunch of fives," exhibiting at the same time his ponderous sledge-hammer-like fists. As there was no issue out of it but an encounter, the champion of the lady began taking his coat for the affray, when the brute whipped out a pistol and shot him; the bullet entered the upper part of his arm and we cut it out of his shoulder at the back. At the same time the other man of the party got down from his stool to interpose to prevent bloodshed, when the assassin turned on him and shot him dead. A tragic affair truly, but unique in the annals of acting, happily for the fair fame of a State as well as for the unwary player who ventures into those pleasing regions."
Great Times Good Times, The Odyssey of Maurice Barrymore has the best account of this event. In fact James Kotsilibas-Davis' book is an incamera investigation at the careers of Georgina Drew and Maurice Barrymore, published in 1977.