(U. OF KENTUCKY PRESS; 262 PGS.; $40) Even if they were not one of America's most important acting dynasties, this book would be a fascinating family album to browse through, both for the remarkable sweep of history it covers and for the photographic documentation of striking family resemblances in each gorgeous generation of Barrymores. Contemporary fans of Drew Barrymore may have some concept of her illustrious heritage, but this richly illustrated tour through six generations offers insights for even the most knowledgeable. As Leonard Maltin points out in his introduction, there is a "personal, firsthand" feeling to the presentation of the materials that Drew's father,

John Drew. Barrymore, has preserved as a family archive. From the 18th century, acting was the family trade. Through a well-illustrated genealogical story that includes the Lanes, the Drews and the Blyths, Carol Stein Hoffman explains the prominent roles that family members played on 19th-century stages in New York, Philadelphia and Boston.

Lionel, Ethel and John -- the beautiful children of Maurice (known as "Barry") Barrymore and Georgianna Emma Drew -- were the most dazzling stars in this constellation of Barrymore performers. There is an extraordinary photograph of Ethel, age 21, costumed in a stunning gown for her first major role on Broadway in "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines" in 1900. She quickly became known as the first lady of the American stage, and continued to enthrall audiences through the first half of the 20th century, including an Oscar-winning role opposite Cary Grant in "None but the Lonely Heart" in 1944. She also had some eloquent ideas about what it takes: "For an actress to be a success, she must have the face of Venus, the brains of Minerva, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of Macaulay, the figure of Juno and the hide of a rhinoceros."

Her last film, "Johnny Trouble," was released in 1957. [Graphic omitted]Lionel began on the stage and in vaudeville, but soon became a regular in silent films, including many directed by D.W. Griffith, such as "America" (1924). He won an Academy Award in 1931 for "A Free Soul," and continued his film career through 1956, including memorable 1940s performances in "A Guy Named Joe," "It's a Wonderful Life," "Key Largo" and "Down to the Sea in Ships." John Barrymore rejected acting as a young man. ("I left the stage to study at art schools, and I only went back to the theater because there is hope -- at least money -- for the bad actor. The indifferent painter usually starves.") But he went on to be regarded as one of the finest actors of the 20th century, especially for his stage performances in classics such as "Hamlet" and "Richard III."

There are numerous photographs and pieces of memorabilia chronicling John's movie triumphs and his love affair with co-star/wife Dolores Costello. They document films such as "The Sea Beast," "When A Man Loves," "Noah's Ark," "General Crack" and "Svengali." Hoffman has selected intriguing images of the Barrymores and has provided some intimate details about them in her text. Neither scholarly nor fawning, this sweet pictorial memoir offers intimate glimpses of an extraordinary family and the lives they lived -- both public and private.


Publishers Weekly
August 20, 2001

SECTION: Book News; Pg. 26

HEADLINE: Bring on the Barrymores;
The University Press of Kentucky continues its film series and braces
for a brush with stardom

BYLINE: by Bob Summer

The Barrymores:Hollywood's First Family by Carol Stein Hoffman, due in October.Although a tinseltown bio might seem at first out of character for the Press, it is part of a film series now in its 10th year. But with a large trim, 300 duotone photographs and a foreword by Leonard Maltin, it is far and away the series' most ambitious project yet. If all goes according to plan, the collective biography of this glamorous clan could become UPK's bestselling title to date. Sales manager Wyn Morris told PW that the press was poised to boost its scheduled 5,000 first printing up to 7,500--big numbers in UP circles--if actress Drew Barrymore comes through with the afterword she expressed an interest in writing. Hoffman, who was a friend of Drew's father, told PW that the latest of the Barrymore stars is "very supportive" of the book. In fact, her Flower Films Company is currently in production on an A&E documentary titled Barrymore on the Barrymores. The history of the Barrymores encompasses the history of theatrical arts in America. Or, so the author discovered soon after her companion Anthony Lumi introduced her to Drew's father, John Drew, son of the famed actor John Barrymore. Through the course of the friendship Hoffman became fascinated with the sheer volume of "Barrymorebilia" John Drew had in his home: a disordered trove of vintage family photographs, letters and other mementos inherited from his famous family. Basically, Hoffman and Lumi adopted Barrymore's archive and started doing extensive research into the family. What really drew Hoffman into what she calls "the adventure" 20 years ago was the legendary romance of movie idol
John Barrymore with John Drew's mother, the stage and silent screen star Dolores Costello.
"When John married Dolores Costello," the 60ish first-time author explained, "he joined the mighty Barrymore bloodline to that of yet another performing family of stage and screen. The history of these
lines encompasses the history of theater and film and is valuable for that reason, but the appeal of the individuals--the Flying Barrymores, the Royal Family of Hollywood, the Great Profile, the Man with the
Dimples, the Goddess of the Silver Screen--makes the history fascinating."