John Barrymore

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John Sidney Blythe (February 15, 1882May 29, 1942), better known as John Barrymore, became famous as a Shakespearean actor, lauded for his Hamlet.

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John Barrymore

His classic nose and distinguished features won him the nickname "The Great Profile." Barrymore was a hard drinking man with a troubled personal life that cut his life short. He appeared in several films including a supporting role in many Bulldog Drummond B-movies — Bulldog was the James Bond of the 1930s — but never reached the heights he achieved on stage. He was the younger brother of actors Lionel and Ethel Barrymore and the grandfather of Drew Barrymore.

A notorious ladies' man, he courted showgirl Evelyn Nesbit as her involvement with married architect Stanford White was waning. When she became pregnant, Barrymore proposed marriage. But White intervened, and arranged for the still-teenaged Evelyn to undergo an operation for "appendicitis." White was later murdered by Nesbit's vengeful husband, Pittsburgh millionaire Harry K. Thaw.

Barrymore married Katherine Corri Harris (1891-1927), an actress who starred in the 1918 film The House of Mirth, on September 1, 1910 and divorced in 1916. He married Blanche Marie Louise Oelrichs (1890-1950), a bisexual New York real estate heiress who wrote under the name Michael Strange, on August 5, 1920 and divorced her in 1928. They had one child, Diana Blanche Barrymore. His third wife was Dolores Costello (1903-1979), an actress and model best known for her role as Dearest in the movie Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936); they married on November 24, 1928 and divorced in 1935. They had two children, Dolores Ethel Mae Barrymore and John Drew Barrymore (father of Drew Barrymore). His fourth wife was Elaine Barrie (ne Elaine Jacobs, 1916-2003), an actress; they married on November 9, 1936 and divorced in 1940.

His dying words were "Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him." According to Errol Flynn's memoirs, film director Raoul Walsh "borrowed" Barrymore's body after the funeral, and left his corpse propped in a chair for a drunken Flynn to discover when he returned home from The Cock and Bull bar. Other accounts of this classic Hollywood tale substitute actor Peter Lorre in the place of Walsh.


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