John Drew, Jr.
John Drew was born in Philadelphia on November 13, 1853. Mr. Drew began his stage career at the age of 20. His career had been personally managed by his mother. His first play was "Cool As a Cucumber" and acted as Plumper.
During the next couple of years Drew caught the attention of Augustin Daly. In 1875 Drew debute in New York City in the play "The Big Bonanza" at Daly's Fifth Avenue Theatre. The New York Times wrote : "That began a long succession of plays which, for the most part, called upon him to exercise the manners and characteristics of a gentleman. So often did he portray that sort of role and so completely did he become the prototype of the gentleman in the theatre that this stage figure became known as a 'John Drew part.'" Drew then took on roles within Edwin Booth's Shakespearean company. In 1877-78 he was a member of Fanny Davenport's company and in 1878 he toured with Maurice Barrymore in Diplomacy. Keep in mind that it was in 1878 that Drew's brother-in-law Maurice Barrymore was shot in the shoulder when he defended the honor of a lady. John Drew ran to Maurice Barrymore's aide after he was shot by one Mr. Curry. John Drew returned to New York to act with Daly's company and his greatest achievement was in the play "Divorce," "Love on Crutches," "The Greatest Unknown" and "Love's Labor Lost." In 1892 John drew caught the attention of Charles Frohman which was the peak of his career.
Drew's first play with Frohman was "The Masked Ball" at Palmer's Theatre. Drew's leading lady was Maude Adams they would act side-by-side for the next five years. Drew stayed with Frohman for twenty-three years, till the year 1915. During this time Drew appeared in 1896 "Rosemary," which was revived in 1915. John Drew, Ethel Barrymore and Maude Adams were the opening act of the original Waldorf-Astoria hotel in 1897. Maude is remembered as having been the very first Peter Pan.
Other plays with John Drew, Jr. included "A Marriage of Convenience," "One Summer's Day," "The Tyrannay of Tears," "Richard Carvel," "The Second in Command," "The Mummy and the Humming Bird," "The Duke of Killiecrangle," "His House in Order," "My Wife," and "Jack Straw" to name a few. His final play with Frohman was "The Circle." In 1927 John Drew was acting again when he became ill. While in the hospital Drew issued this statement: "I want my friends throughout the world to know how grateful I am for the kindly interest they have shown in my welfare since I was taken ill--It warms my heart to see how old friends remember..." Drew told the doctors "This is but another act and I am playing my part...Now doctor, I would like some strawberries and cream today. His nephew John Barrymore sobbed as he left the hospital: "The world has lost its greatest actor and I have lost my dearest relative and best friend." Let us not forget that this was the year after John Barrymore made film history by acting in the first motion picture with sound as "Don Juan."
"Best of the actors and finest of gentleman has taken his final encore,"so said The New York Times at the time of his death July 9, 1927. Dr. Lawrence H. Hoffman said of John Drew : "In my thirty years of practice I have never attended such a remarkable patient..." The mayor of San Francisco joined in and said: "John Drew lived a gentleman and died a gentleman. Quiet, unassuming, brave, surrounded by loving relatives and friends, he closed his eyes and passed on, leaving an immortal memory in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of theatre-goers. San Francisco mourns John Drew, and to his sorrowing family our people offer sincerest condolences." The New York Times, July 10, 1927.
The photograph to the right is one of John Drew's last photographs before he died in 1927. John was acting in Trelawny of the Wells. "Except for occasional benevolent weeks devoted to the Players' Club benefits, his theatrical appearances of the past few years have been limited to the audience's side of the footlights. It is a favoured and immediately ennobed first-night which has the honour of the company of John Drew, chief of the Drew-Barrymore Clan. Portrait below is of Louise Drew, also an actress and daughter of John Drew, Jr. This photo was taken in 1902 and she was appearing in "The Second in Command."
His way of coming slowly down the aisle to his seat calls for a hushed moment: then is so much frosty courtliness and sly humour in his face as he comes. These are rare occasions, usually confined to the delights of nepotism when either the burnished Ethel, the burly Lionel or the exquisite John are partaking of metropolitan premiere's. He has passed his three-score years and ten, has served the American stage for fifty-four years, and his memories of the New York theatre went back to the days when he played in Augustin Daly's Fifth Avenue company or with Booth, Fanny Davenport and a pert little youngster called Maude Adams.
"I remember seeing in St. Louis once, at a German theatre,
a performance of the drama of "William Tell." I was
told by the manager of the theatre that the stage effects in
the play were extremely fine, and that I was to wait until the
scene where Tell's splendid marksmanship was made apparent to
see something that would astonish me. I did wait as patiently
as I could until that scene, and I was certainly astonished.
The scene arrived where Tell is to shoot the apple from his son's
devoted head. As I gathered from the subsequent occurance, the
apple and Tell's cross-bow were connected by an invisible wire,
along which the arrow was to speed to its target. At the proper
cue the arrow did speed half-way toward the apple and there stuck,
to all appearance, in mid-air! In vain did the doughty Tell shake
his bow to "joggle" the arrow to its mark. The son
of Tell looked very frightened an didn't know what was happening.
The apple firmly fixed on his youthful cranium was bobbing about,
the audience was laughing, and the laugh burst into a roar when
one of Gessler's guards, looking painfully like a gentleman who
might officiate on one of the Anheuser-Busch wagons during the
day, took in the situation, and coming forward from his position
at the side of young Tell, calmly gave the recalcitrant arrow
a smart rap with his spear, when it sped on its way and buried
itself in the apple on the boy's head...
"Of course the actor must have his relaxation and recreation,
or he becomes the dull boy subjected to all work and no play.
In diversions and amusement different natures and temperaments
take their pleasures in different ways...
"Another curious phase of the study of a part: after long and elaborately minute rehearsals, physically tiring and mentally wearying, during some moments of his private practice and going over his role (trying different emphases and feeling for certain nuances that may better and improve it) the awful feeling comes to him suddenly--- without warning or premonition, a bolt from the blue--that, after all his study and endeavor, his posings and utterances of many phrases in different keys and varied fashions, he is not right. And it comes upon him with greater force, if he happens at that moment to be before his mirror in his "den;" then his hitherto complacent or confident counterfeit presentment in the glass seems to say to him, "Not a bit like it." It is an awful moment, and a frightful "facer," only to be righted or forgotten for the time by flinging down the part, and, if it be in day-time, going out for a long and rapid walk, or, for choice, a gallop on a fresh and frolic some horse, which sets the blood a tingling and makes one forget all else for the moment. Or, if the awful conviction comes when he is studying at night, he must leave the "den" and go into another room, light a cigar, and read something else. After the walk or gallop or other diversion from work, the feeling of depression passes away, and again the study is renewed, to be followed by other keen transports of exaltation and despair, until the study is completed, and the first night of the play has arrived, when the feeling is: "c'est fait, I've done my best, I must stand or fall by this." And if he falls on this particular occasion, after all his long study and thoughtful preparation; if a "hardened public" will have no more of him; if moments in the play, where he has hoped to move them to mirth or tears, as the situation served him, pass unnoticed, giving him that sinking of the heart and stomach that all actors must have known at times; if "callous critics" have "praised him with faint damns," uttered to each other during the entre-actes, and dismissed him in the morning papers with the pleasant assurance to their readers that "Mr. So-and-So was wholly inadequate in his role;" or, if in a critique in a minor paper, of which perhaps the baseball editor has been sent to review the performance, the reader is informed that "Mr. X______ didn't seem to know himself"--what should the subject of this public indifference, and, perhaps just and elegant criticism, do? What he does do is to avoid the sight of men for a short period of moral and anguished sack-cloth and ashes, and then emerge, tried by the fire, stronger than before, to have another try at "getting there," if honest effort is to do it.