Birth Name John Blyth Barrymore
Birth Feb 15, 1882 - Philadelphia, PA
Death May 19, 1942 - Hollywood, CA
Stage designer Robert Edmond Jones, said to John: "Jack,
you can do everything you want any way you want to do it. There
is nobody in that position in the theater today." Lionel
Barrymore said of his brother: "Setting down words to explain
Jack Barrymore...is like seeking the myster of Hamlet himself
in the monosyllables of basic English." (). John Kobler's
Damned in Paradise, intro.
Like his brother Lionel and his sister Ethel, American actor
John Barrymore had early intentions to break away from the family
theatrical tradition and become an artist. But acting was his
first choice thanks to his family, natural ability, talent and
good looks, Barrymore was a matinee idol within a few seasons
after his 1903 stage debut. His best-known Broadway role for
many years was a wireless operator in "The Dictator."
The Photograph below is John as Saint
Francis Assisi in 1917.
HERE FOR John Barrymore Store as Saint Assisi.
His one chance for greatness occurred in 1922, when he played
Hamlet; even British audiences hailed Barrymore's performance
as one of the best, if not the best, interpretation of the melancholy
Dane. Eventually, Barrymore abandoned the theatre altogether
for the movies, where he was often cast more for his looks than
his talent. Perhaps in revenge against Hollywood "flesh
peddlers," Barrymore loved to play roles that required physical
distortion, grotesque makeup, or all-out "mad" scenes;
to him, his Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde (1920). Yet in Don Juan
(1926), John used his good looks to charm his audience while
making history with Vitaphone Pictures.
Two excellent films with John Barrymore and Norma Shearer
acted in were Romeo & Julliet and Marie Antoinette. C. Aubrey
Smith was also in Romero & Julliet in 1936. Several years
later Smith and Barrymore's ex-wife Dolores Costello made a great
film Little Lord Fauntleroy.
Counsellor at Law, was another great film in 1933. John Barrymore
came across as a lawyer in distress and just when you think all
is lost his grime future turns bright. I enjoyed this film. Also
in 1933 John acted in Long Lost Father. At the time of this filming
Drew's dad was only two years of age. This film seems almost
like the life of John Barrymore, II, and his daughter were reincarnated
from this film.
The History and Story of Don Juan the World's Romantic
Lover as told on the Screen
In 1926 Warner's Brothers Pictures and Vitaphone Corporation
with an arrangement with Western Electric and Bell Telephone
Laboratories presented John Barrymore in the film as Don Juan.
This was the birth of the sound within the motion picture industry.
It happened on August 6, 1926 at the Warners' Theater on Broadway
at 52nd Street, New York. Ever since the invention of movies,
there were attempts to create talking pictures by synchronizing
film with cylinder or disc recordings. Thomas A. Edison himself
coupled cylinders and film first in the mid-1890s and later in
1913, but times using the trade name Kinetophone. Not only was
synchronization a frequent problem because sound and picture
were originating from different machines, but the sound itself
often lacked clarity and enough volume to fill a large theater.
It was not until Dr. Lee De Forest invented the three-filament,
gas-filled Audion tube in 1906. Western Electric purchased the
rights from De Forest and greatly improved the sound of telephone
calls from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic. With the improvement
of the tube Alexander Bell placed the first transcontinental
phone call to Thomas A. Watson in San Francisco on January 29,
1915. As a result Westeren Electric Company, Bell Telephone Laboratories
and Warner Brother's eventually formed a partnership which enlisted
Vitaphone Pictures to synchronized films.
Vitaphone began the revolution by replacing the Silent movies
from the public forum. When John Barrymore played the lead of
Don Juan his leading lady was Mary Astor (no relation to the
Astor family) as Adriana Della Varnese. An interesting note was
that Helene Costello (John Barrymore's sister-in-law) played
"Rena" Adriana's maid. Myrna Loy and Hedda Hopper were
also a part of this cast. On April 26, 1926, Western Electric
licensed Warner Brothers to produce synchronized pictures under
its patents. After four hundred names had been discarded, "Vita"
was borrowed from Vitagraph, and "phone" from the electrical
system between disc and speaker, and the process was christened
"Vitaphone." An interesting family connection is footnoted
see (*) Vitaphone not only introduced music into educational
institutions, as amusement parks, commercial and religious fields.
The Vitaphone invention made it possible for every performance
in a motion picture theater to have a full orchestral accompaniment
to the picture regardless of the sixe of the house.
I recommend that if one is given the opportunity to watch
Topaz, definitely one of
John's great movies. Professor Topaz is a very enjoyable character
and this film contains a great lessons for children money is
not everything. That good always wins over evil!
20th Century is another
Ben Hecht film and Barrymore works with Carole Lombard, and Howard
Hawks. Barrymore has an enormous amount of energy for me in this
* Author's Footnote: My granduncle Ernest
Martin who married Florence Adamson was on the engineering staff
at Vitaphone. I remember meeting Florence Adamson' granddaughter
and she told me stories how Ernest was the engineer for the first
movie with sound in it and worked on several Rudolph Valentino
films. In the mid-1920s Ernest Martin's brother-in-laws James
and Percy Adamson began inventing "Lastex" the first
stretchable clothing. A trade mark sold to the U.S. Rubbert Company
in 1932, Ethel Barrymore's father-in-law had once been President
of the U.S. Rubber Company. In 1934, eight years later Martin's
nephew Harold Adamson would write the song "It Isn't So
Much That I Wouldn't "for the film Long Lost
Father the leading actor was John
Barrymore. The year before in 1933 Lionel and John Barrymore
worked together in the film Dinner at Eight.
Barrymore used the phrase "Time on My Hands,"
in Dinner At Eight three
years earlier in 1930 Harold Adamson wrote his first song fresh
out of Harvard: "Time on My Hands" with Vincent Youmans.
In 1936 Harold wrote a song for the film The Voice of Bugle
Ann with Lionel Barrymore as the leading man. While John
was an expert in Shakespere and reading Macbeth, Adamson is a
descendent of King Duncan, who was murdered by MacBeth. Charming!
Yes, Macbeth was a real person.
JOHN BARRYMORE'S TAKE ON DON JUAN:
"The Year 1926 marked the thirtieth anniversary of
the birth of Cinema, the infant Progidy fathered by all the arts.
In one scant generation the much maligned, "movies"
have become one of the arts, taking rank, by right of birth,
inheritance and accomplishment, with the seven fine arts of tradition.
Chinese walls of language, prejudice and time-worn tradition
have been surmounted and leveled by the international appeal
of motion pictures. They tell their own story and make their
story intelligible to all, eliminating the necessity of a trained
mind, a concordance or a glossary.
"Nothing yet discovered by the arts and sciences has
the potency for international amity and goodwill among all peoples
of all degrees as has the motion picture, with its unique capacity
for educating and instructing while it is entertaining. I am
proud to be one of those who are striving to maintain the high
and growing standards of artistic motion pictures. I predict
that it will be the most effective of all the arts in the spread
of culture and enjoyment among all the peoples of the world."
For Barrymore to have played "Don Juan"
is the consummation of a lifelong desire. Always he has wanted
to interpret the character of the great lover as he understands
him. That the role was one upon which his heart had been set
is evidenced by the vivid manner in which his genius gave substance
to what for lovers of romance has long been but a shadow. The
photoplay stands as a lasting monument to the film industry and
constitutes a permanent tribute to stars, director, author and
cast--in short, to all who in any way contributed their art toward
making of "Don Juan."
The film that followed Don Juan was Barrymore's role in Sea
Beast also carried that romantic touch, for while kissing
the love of his life Dolores Costello she fainted at that moment.
So powerful was Barrymore kissed that they then became man and
To show how small a world it is. Another great film by John
Barrymore was Midnight with Don Ameche. Claudette Colbert and
John Barrymore are a team when Colbert pretends to be a Barroness.
This film was released in 1939. A little less than 50 years later
while a U.S. postal window clerk in Los Angeles I watited on
Don Ameche who was still a refined genleman. I waited on him
in 1987 and spoke to him at my window for some time. It is remarkable
how one person can touch so many people throughout their life.
Portrait by John Barrymore
John Barrymore's UnRehearsed Love
Jack's first love affair was with Evelyn Nesbit, who was also
dating architect Stanford White. Eveln's parents married her
off to a millionaire Harry K. Thaw, who ended up killing Stanford
White in Madison Square Gardens a building he had designed. The
two trials of Thaw were considered The Trial of the Century,
then came O.J. Simpson. 2). Ella Wheeler Wilcox; 3). Maude Adams;
4). Ida Conquest; 5). Alla Nazimova; 6). Gladys Cooper; 7). Bonnie
Maginn; 9). Vivian Blackburn; 10). Lorra Faust; 11). Elsie Janis;
12). Irene Fenwich; 13). Sally Fisher; 14). Florence Reed; 15).
Telluiah Bankhead; 16). Mary Astor; 17). Camille Horn; 18). Carole
Lombard and then there were his marriages.
Maurice Barrymore, was never bothered by the reports of the
reckless escapades of his three famous offspring. On one occasion,
a friend suggested that he keep an eye on John, who had his eye
on a shapely showgirl. "Don't let him become involved,"
urged the friend. "You know how quickly these young fellows
imagine they are in love." " Don't worry about that,"
laughed the elder Barrymore. "A Barrymore falls in love
only once in his life. With himself!" Story from Harold Metcalf.
Another great silent movie is When A
Man Loves, John also acts with Dolores
Costello in this film. As a silent film this one really grips
the viewer. It is almost as good as Don
Juan, Barrymore falls in love with Dolores and
runs into many complications along the way. Taking part in the
times of Louis XV of France. Photo to left is Dolores and John
Barrymore in fim When A Man Loves and this is where they fell
HERE FOR EVELYN NESBIT Story.
In 1910 Jack married a debutante by the name of Katherine
Harris which lasted seven years. After this John married Blanche
Thomas who was known by her pen name Michael Strange and they
had one daughter Diana. This marriage lasted until 1928 when
Blanche witnessed Barrymore's leading lady Dolores Costello in
the film Sea Beast. When Michael Strange saw the love
scenes she fumed "That's not acting. He's in love with the
girl." After divorcing Dolores Costello, he married in 1936
Elaine Barrie, who was right out of Hunter College.
CLICK HERE FOR
Dolores and John's home in Beverly Hills on Summit Drive.
There was ONLY one true love in John Barrymore's life and
that was Dolores Costello. When Barrymore first met Dolores he
wrote: "I just laid eyes upon the most preposterously lovely
creature in all the world. She walked into the studio like a
charming child, slender and shy and goldenhaired. Never saw such
radiance, My God! I knew that she was the one I had been waiting
for, all my life, just for her." John Barrymore.
The Mad Gensis, 1931 could have been call The Mad Russian.
It is an example of a character much like his artwork. Donald
Cook and Marian Marsh gave great performances. Because of a disability,
Barrymore's Russian character could never become a dancer. So
he adopts a young man who was abused by his father and the plot
goes on from there.
A Bill of Divorcement, 1932, we have John taking on the roll
of a rehabilitated nut case. His greatest performance when he
fools his own daughter, played in her very first film Katherine
Hepburn that he was going to kill his wife (Billie Burke). John
convinces everyone that he was going to kill Burke who would
become the good witch in the film Wizard of Ox seven years later.
John and Hepburn would never act in another film together. While
the following years Burke and John worked in the film Dinner
If you get a chance see the 1939 film A Great Man Votes. John
is a plesant alcoholic and a loving father. Great film. He has
a great personality in this film. **** See it on Turner now and
then. Put in a request they will show it.
John's last words were to his brother Lionel : "You heard
CLICK HERE FOR John
Barrymore Photo Gallery-1902-1906.
CLICK HERE FOR John
Barrymore Photo Gallery-1926-1930.
CLICK HERE FOR John
Barrymore Photo Gallery-1925-1930.
CLICK HERE FOR John Barrymore
CLICK HERE FOR John
Barrymore's speech entitled "A Juvenile Lead" and Photo
FILMS OF JOHN BARRYMORE
Portrait by John Barrymore
- 1941 World Premiere as: Duncan DeGrasse
- 1941 Playmates as: Himself
- 1940 The Invisible Woman as: Prof. Gibbs
- 1940 The Great Profile as: Evans Garrick
- 1939 Midnight as: George Flammarion
- 1939 Land of Liberty [doc] Actor
- 1938 Romance in the Dark as: Zolton Jason
- 1938 Marie Antoinette as: King Louis XV
- 1938 Hold That Co-Ed as: Governor
- 1938 Bulldog Drummond's Peril as: Col. Nielson
- 1938 Spawn of the North as: Windy Turlon
- 1938 The Great Man Votes as: Vance ****** Great Film Love
- 1937 Bulldog Drummond's Revenge as: Col. Nielson
- 1937 Bulldog Drummond Comes Back as: Col. Nelson
- 1937 Bulldog Drummond Double Feature as
- 1937 Night Club Scandal as: Dr. Ernest S. Tindal
- 1937 Maytime as: Nicolai Nazaroff
- 1937 True Confession as: Charley
- 1936 Romeo and Juliet as: Mercutio
- 1934 Twentieth Century as: Oscar Jaffe
- 1934 Long Lost Father as: Carl Bellaire
- 1933 Counsellor-At-Law as: George Simon
- 1933 Reunion in Vienna as: Rudolf
- 1933 Night Flight as: Riviere
- 1933 Dinner at Eight as: Larry Renault
- 1933 Topaze as: Auguste Topaze
- 1932 Arsene Lupin as: Duke of Charmerace
- 1932 Rasputin and the Empress aka Rasputin: The Mad Monk
as: Prince Paul Chegodieff
- 1932 Grand Hotel as: Baron Felix von Geigern
- 1932 A Bill of Divorcement aka Never to Love as: Hillary
- 1931 The Mad Genius as: Ivan Tzarakov
- 1931 State's Attorney aka Cardigan's Last Case  as:
- 1931 Svengali as: Svengali
- 1930 The Man from Blankley's as: Lord Strathpeffer
- 1930 Moby Dick as: Capt. Ahab
- 192? Horrible Double Feature [doc] Actor
- 1929 Eternal Love aka Der Koenig der Bernina as: Marcus Paltram
- 1929 Show of Shows as: Guest
- 1929 General Crack as: Gen. Crack
- 1928 Tempest as: Sgt. Ivan Markov
- 1927 When a Man Loves as: Chevalier des Grieux
- 1927 The Beloved Rogue as: Francois Villon
- 1926 The Sea Beast as: Ahab Ceeley
- 1926 Don Juan as Don Juan de Marana
- 1924 Beau Brummell as: George Bryan Brummet
- 1922 Sherlock Holmes Art Director / as: Sherlock Holmes
- 1921 Lotus Eater aka The Lotus Eaters as: Jacques Leroi
- 1920 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as /Mr. Hyde
- 1918 On the Quiet as: Robert Ridgeway
- 1917 Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman as: A.J. Raffles
- 1916 The Lost Bridegroom Actor
- 1916 The Red Widow as: Cicero Hannibal Butts
- 1916 Nearly a King as: Jack Merriwell, Prince of Bulwana
- 1915 The Dictator as: Brooke Travers
- 1915 Are You a Mason? aka The Joiner as: Frank Perry
- 1915 The Incorrigible Dukane as: James A. Dukane, Jr.
- 1914 Man from Mexico as Fitzhugh