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Hollywood's Elite - The Barrymore Family - 5

Updated on January 20, 2016

Maurice Barrymore aka Herbert Blythe

Louisa Drew (grandmother to John, Ethel and Lionel)
Louisa Drew (grandmother to John, Ethel and Lionel)

Barrymore an American Dynasty

Maurice Barrymore - 1847 - 1905 - Barrymore was the stage name of Herbert Blythe, born in Agra, India. College educated, received a law degree from Cambridge, but left that life for life on the stage. Arrived in the United States in 1875 and made his first American stage debut in Under the Gaslight . The good looking actor became a leading man in the era to many a famous actress.

Georgiana Drew Barrymore- Maurice's wife - Philadelphia born -1856 - 1893, married in 1876 also an actress whose parents, John and Louisa Lane Drew, owned and participated in an acting company. One of Mrs. Drew's claim to fame is playing five different roles in a single act piece. It is said that the actress was hilarious on stage, and was loved by her audiences. Louisa Lane Drew also appeared on stage with John Wilks Booth, two years before his infamous crime against our nation.

The union between Maurice and Georgiana gave birth to three more artist - Lionel (1878), Ethel (1879) and John (1882).

Little did Maurice and Georgiana know that they had given birth to a performing dynasty that would last to this day.

John, Ethel and Lionel

Lionel Barrymore

Born Lionel Herbert Blythe, 1878-1954, a character actor who began his career performing minor roles in his grandmother and his uncle John Drew's acting company. His work in films; Dinner at Eight (1933), You Can't Take It with You (1938). Lionel later received an Academy Award for A Free Soul. His radio portrayal of Scrooge in Christmas Carol won him a large radio fan base. He was confined to a wheelchair later in life, continued to perform on radio, composed music, loved art and wrote a novel Mr. Cantonwine; a Moral Tale in 1953.

Ethel Barrymore

Lionel's sister, Ethel Barrymore, 1879-1959, began her career as her brother on the stage of her grandmother Louisa. Ms. Barrymore's original pursuit was as a concert pianist, but after instant success with Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines (1901), the stage became her love. Ethel won an Academy Award, for Best Supporting Actress in 1944 for None But the Lonely Heart .

Ms. Barrymore turned down a marriage proposal from Winston Churchill and married Russell Griswold Colt, grandnephew of arms maker Samuel Colt. The marriage produced three children, and was rocky from the start. The couple divorced in 1923. Ethel did not seek alimony, and as a devout Catholic never married again. The Ethel Barrymore Theatre, in New York is her namesake.

John Barrymore

Lionel and Ethel's younger brother, John Barrymore, 1882-1942, began as a cartoonist and artist prior to entering the field of acting. His good looks turned him into an idol by fans. Beside being handsome John was cursed with a gregarious temper, and love of drink which kept him in trouble.  Unfortunately, he past these vices on to his two children Diana and John Jr.

A bit of a wild man, John loved his drink and had several famous "drinking buddies" baseball player Mike Donlin and comedian W.C. Fields to name a few. He was expelled from an elite school after being caught entering a bordello. John was called to testify at a murder trial in which the defense needed him to witness about the immorality of a former female acquaintance. In this testimony he and his former girlfriend lied under oath regarding an alleged abortion.

Once he collapsed on his yacht the "Mariner" while on honeymoon. Barrymore had acquired new health problems due to ingestion of large quantities of illegal alcohol that was nearly poisonous during the prohibition era. Afterward, in 1930, John had to rely on cue cards for his lines because his memory was beginning to fade due his alcohol consumption.

Barrymore possessed a star studded roster of famous leading ladies; Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford and Carole Lombard. Despite himself, John Barrymore was a consummate actor, who gave a stirring performance of Hamlet on stage in 1922, and enjoyed a 25 year career as a leading man in 60 films.

Diana Barrymore

Given name Diana Blanche Barrymore Blythe, born in New York City, New York. The daughter of John Barrymore and his second wife. Made the cover of Life magazine, because she was a Barrymore and at age 19 made her debut on Broadway. In 1942 signed a contract with Universal Studios, who wanted to capitalize on her famous last name. After three years Barrymore's career was at an end in Hollywood due to her personal demons of alcohol and drug abuse. Some in the media had given her the nickname of "The Barrymore Brat".

After two bad marriages to abusive and also addicted men, she married a third, who quite possibly was the love of her life. The jerk nearly beat Diana to death during one of his tirades, only his death at 45 of a heart attack ended the union. The actress checked herself into a hospital for a year of treatment. During her stay she wrote her autobiography, Too Much Too Soon , a year later Warner Brothers turned the book into a movie with Dorothy Malone, in the lead role.

On January 25, 1960 Diana Barrymore died of an overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills.

The Legacy Lives On

 Drew Blythe Barrymore

Actress, film producer and director, has kept the family legacy alive and well.  Drew struggled with her own personal demons in her youth, but has come into her own. 

Barrymore, our Hollywood royalty, who will probably continue to grace our screens and lives with memorable performances.  A true Hollywood dynasty. 


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    • pmccray profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Utah

      All4JESUS; Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. Yes . . I grew up watching the Barrymores and young and old. Drew is continuing the family business and quite sucessfully. Peace to you and yours.

    • ALL4JESUS profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      I had no idea! Great Hub! I had listened to a radio interview and Drew is very intelligent but the family pedigree is something! Wow! What research! Very well done!

    • pmccray profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Utah

      Micky Dee: as always glad you stopped in, yes she comes from a long line of performers. Glad to see that she has come into her own.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      8 years ago

      Very well done again. It's always a pleasure to come here! I love your stuff! I never knew the history of "Drew". I knew the last name of course. Thanks again Dear!

    • pmccray profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Utah

      kendall H.: Thank you so much for showing interest in my piece also thanks for leaving a comment. Peace to you

    • Kendall H. profile image

      Kendall H. 

      8 years ago from Northern CA

      Great hub! I learned a lot about the elder Barrymores. It's always interesting to learn how vaudeville slowly became Broadway and then Broadway becoming Hollywood.

    • pmccray profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Utah

      Rebecca E. - I'm at a loss for words. Thank you so much for the compliment. I do so appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. Peace to you friend Rebecca E.

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 

      8 years ago from Canada

      As always I am stunned by your talent for writing these kinds of lovely hubs, where the people of the past come alive. This is wonderful of course it is bookmakred and rated up!

    • pmccray profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Utah

      William - thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. Yes the Barrymores are some of the greats. I really admire Ethel and her performance in Pinky. A motion picture so ahead of its time because of its theme regarding the racially mixed and passing. Especially considering the racial mores at the time.

      Sandyspider: thanks for the read and comment. I too am a big fan of Drew's, I love her freshiness and star power durability, because she's now advanced past the title of actress.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      I am intrigued by the Barrymores. Nice hub. I'm a fan of Drew's.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 

      8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      The Barrymore's were undoubtedly among the greats of movie history, pmccray. I've seen and enjoyed a number of Lionel Barrymore's movies, including "It's a Wonderful Life." Ethel Barrymore was fantastic in Bing Crosby's 1952 movie "Just for You." I've also seen some of John Barrymore's work (in late night re-runs) and he was good, too.

    • pmccray profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Utah

      RevLady and JannyC - thank you so much for stopping in and leaving your comments. I found this piece facsinating to research and write. The Barrymore's are truly our elite royalty when it comes to classic and modern day Hollywood.

    • JannyC profile image


      8 years ago

      This was cool. I like Drew and commmend her for how she turned her life around.

    • RevLady profile image


      8 years ago from Lantana, Florida

      Another interesting hub. I loved Drew in E.T. and Charlie's Angels.


      Forever His,


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