Barrymore: John Barrymore

Lionel and Ethel's younger brother, John Barrymore, 1882–1942, b. Philadelphia, tried his hand at painting and cartooning before turning to the stage. After his debut in 1903, he became a matinee idol to millions of playgoers and movie fans because of his dashing nature and good looks. His portrayal of Hamlet in 1922 electrified the public. After 1912 most of his work was confined to films and radio; his last appearance, in 1939, was on the stage in My Dear Children, a pathetic burlesque of his baroque private life. He was four times married; his tempestuous personality passed on to two of his four children, Diana and John, Jr. (John Drew Barrymore), who also became actors. Diana died at the age of 38, shortly after the publication of her autobiographical Too Much Too Soon (1958).

Lionel and John Barrymore appeared together on the stage in Peter Ibbetson and The Jest. The three Barrymores, Lionel, Ethel, and John, appeared together only once, in the movie Rasputin and the Empress (1932). The Royal Family (1934), a play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman, is based, to some extent, on the Barrymore family.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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