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moviejoe79

Your Favorite Barrymore

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The post about Joan/Olivia - who's your favorite gave me the idea - who's your favorite Barrymore? Would you pick John, Lionel, or Ethel? (I'd like to leave Drew out of this one). All three had incredible careers, and were in some of the greatest movies of all time.

 

Personally I'd pick John. Not only was he a top-notch actor, but he had an incredible presence in the movies - there was just something about his personality - you can't help watching him when he's on the screen. Even in "Midnight" which he made toward the end of his career, and where he basically just hams it up - he's still John Barrymore, and still great to watch. I respect him as an actor not only because he was good, but because he was a cool guy with a great personality as well. Lionel was a good actor too, but he was more of a character actor. In fact - to me he's the greatest "star" who predominatly WAS a character actor. And Ethel was a good actress, just not as good as her brothers - she always seemed uptight to me. But maybe if I (or any of us) had seen her on the stage in her younger days, we'd have a different opinion. But within their movie careers - who's your favorite?

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Gee, Moviejoe, the Barrymores are a fascinating family, and you might like to read over a previous discussion that we had about them under general discussion entitled "Battle of the Barrymores" on the boards at this link:

http://forums.turnerclassicmovies.com/jive/tcm/thread.jsp?forum=161&thread=1146&message=25562&q=62617272796d6f7265

 

BTW,I can't agree with you about Ethel. She is my favorite Barrymore. While her concentration on theatre appearances, and her truncated film career didn't give her as much variety as her siblings she wove a quiet spell in each of her latter day appearances--especially in Portrait of Jennie, The Story of Three Loves, None But the Lonely Heart and Pinky, among others. Maybe she wasn't as romantic or versatile as her brothers on screen, but I think she was a good actress. She had a grace, a mystery, a touching sadness, and an inner life that was unique.

 

I love the dazzling John in Counsellor-at-Law, Dinner at Eight and even The Great Man Votes, (Garson Kanin, the director of the latter film recalled hiding blackboards with Barrymore's lines around the set since he was incapable of memorization by this time. It was worth it--it's John's last good performance, with ragged flashes of the old brio and much good humor)--but he could be heartbreakingly bad too--see The Great Profile or Playmates sometime. Lionel's talent may have been less romantic but could be just as good in its own way, as in A Free Soul, On Borrowed Time and the singular You Can't Take It With You. I think poor Lionel most wished that he could have been a painter or composer--instead he was MGM's workhorse. I think his work may have suffered too--his ubiquitous presence in MGM movies may have coarsened his talent, though it still sparked in such later work as Key Largo. There's an awful story in Margot Peters' biography, "House of Barrymore" that Lionel, after a long period of constant work, once asked for some time off in the early '40s, only to be told by L.B. Mayer that retirement could easily be arranged--Barrymore never asked for time off again.

 

I think the Barrymores may fascinate me in part because of their great gifts and great flaws. They were all too human.

 

 

 

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Gosh, Moviejoe, it's really hard for me to decide which of the three Barrymore's I like the best. Each of them almost seemed born to play certain kinds of roles and characters, and each of them was different from the other. There is no question of John's talent, and his good looks made certain that his career would flourish. Women still swoon.

 

I also consider Lionel to be the best co-star or supporting actor of the three, but again, there is no question of his talent and range, which often proved him worthy of the male lead in which he gave several wonderful performances.

 

Ethel was primarily a lady of the Theatre, but I find her to be the most spell-binding in those films where the degree of her acting ability comes as kind of a surprise, especially in her later films. She was perfect for roles that called for a "sophisticated" or "matronly" woman, only because she knew how to create and develop those roles, and not just that she was basically an "uptight" actress. I found her to be well cast, and delightful in her role in "That Midnight Kiss", for example. And, of course, she was fantastic in a good drama, too.

 

I'm sorry, but I have to mention Drew, even though we were asked not to, because I've started to really notice as Drew matures, just how much she resembles Ethel in just the right lighting, or camera angle. It makes me realize just how pretty Ethel must have been at the same age Drew is now. We tend to remember Ethel only in her later years, so I love being able to "imagine" her in her youth through seeing her resemblence in Drew.

 

Which one is my favorite? Well, I like all of them together as the best theatrical family this country will ever know, but I suppose that I will have to go with Ethel, whom I find more exciting and interesting to watch, for some reason.

 

ML

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If I recall we had this question on the boards once before (it may still be around).

In deciding it was a toss up between Ethel and Lionel

both always a pleasure to watch and enjoy.

After some thought I opted for Ethel Barrymore. I love the way that this actress uses her eyes and facial expressions and with the ease that she acts in a scene, so natural it's like she is actually living the part.

Her voice also holds your attention as it did so often in some of my favorites including "None But the Lonely Heart" (Oscar winner), "The Spiral Staircase", "The Farmer's Daughter", "Moss Rose", "Portrait of Jennie", "The Great Sinner", "Pinky" (Oscar nominee),

"The Secret of Convict Lake", "Kind Lady" etc.

When there is a movie scheduled on TCM co-starring Ethel Barrymore I make it a point to watch it.

I just wish that she was given the time to make more.

 

Mongo

 

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Hi Classicsfan! You said something about your favorite 'Barrymore' being 'Drew'? As in... Drew Barrymore??? I'm ashamed to say I am not familiar with 'Lionel' or 'Ethel' Barrymore-- how are they related to her?

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Tough question! I think I'd have to go with Lionel (with Ethel comin' in a close second). For me it only took "Grand Hotel" & "You Can't Take It with You" for me just to love the guy. He was so endearing in both of those movies. When I was young I always thought of him as nasty ol' Mr. Potter from "It's a Wonderful Life". Years later when I saw him in roles such as I mentioned above I couldn't believe it was the same man! Some more of my favorites of his are "On Borrowed Time", "Key Largo", "Captains Courageous" & "Since You Went Away". Now, on to Ethel! She has always been one of my favorite actresses. That smile of hers, those eyes, the way she carries herself. Some of my favorite movies of hers are: "None But the Lonely Heart", "Portrait of Jennie", "The Spiral Staircase" & "Young at Heart" just to name a few. I do like John also -- he was great in "Dinner at Eight" & "Grand Hotel"; I just prefer Lionel & Ethel.

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I feel the same way about Lionel. I first saw him in Its a Wonderful Life and just hated him because he played such an crouchy old pickle, but then i saw him in You Can't Take It With You, and loved him because he was such a lovable old man! He's my favorite because he had the power to make you want to smack him, and want to give him a big hug, too!

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Hi, DizzyLizzy. In response to your question to me about my favorite being Drew Barrymore, she isn't my "favorite", Ethel is...and the only reason I mentioned Drew at all was because of being able to see the resemblence between her and Ethel lately when I look at Drew.

 

Drew Barrymore is the daughter of John Barrymore's son, also named John, so she is John Barrymore's Grand-daughter, and Ethel is her Grand-Aunt.

 

The entire Barrymore family seemed to be involved in acting, and were excellent actors, although Ethel really would have preferred to develop a different career. Please look for any movie you see on TCM with any of the earlier Barrymore's in it...you can be assurred of seeing a good movie, with top-notch acting.

 

Go to TCM's Home Page and sign up for them to e-mail you their monthly schedules, or just download the one you can see on any page here by clicking on "Schedule" up at the top of the page. That will be the easiest and quickest way to see if a Barrymore movie will be shown during the month. Unfortunately, you've just missed seeing some of the best of John and Lionel's...but, they will come around again some day.

 

ML

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My favorite Barrymore are: John & Lionel. JOhn is a superb actoremotionally as well as physically those eyes say so much in a scene even before any dialogue spoken !... Lionel is a wonderful character actor one of

my favorites is "On Borrowed Time" i cry everytime i see it on tcm lionel was magnificent in my opinon. Ethel's

forte was the theatre her acting in so many matron roles in film was not giving true scope toher many talents as

an actress the studios should have allowed her to have different character roles from time to time she certainly could have done an excellent job! I wonder why?

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John boy was my all-time favorite Barrymore! I've watched him in a few silents and couldn't stand him. Then he hypnotized me in "Grand Hotel" and "Dinner at Eight." His type of male beauty is long gone which is a shame. Lionel was okay but to me he hammed it up too much when he shouldn't. Ethel was terrif in "The Spiral Staircase." I'd love to see her silents she made back in the l900s. The one Barrymore whose been long gone from the stage is the father of the three movie Barrymore's. Maurice Barrymore was a total Adonis! In the biography,"Good Times, Bad Times," the photographs of Maurice are stunning. He looks so modern with his muscular build, moustache and thick, dark curls. No wonder his kids were so beautiful. Ethel Barrymore wrote in her memoirs about her father's tragic mental deterioration. Ethel had to commit him to a mental hospital. She said that whenever she had to cry in a scene on stage or before a camera, she had to only think about her father and the tears flowed easily.

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Lionel would be my choice. Only because Captains Courageous, It's a Wonderful Life, and You Can't Take It With You. These three are on my favorites list. I don't believe in have a John or Ethel film on this list. So, based on this, Drew would be second or first. Ever After, E.T., The Wedding Singer, and Never Been Kissed, are favorites for me and my wife of recent films.

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Lionel is my favorite. I will watch anything he is in. Ethel is my next favorite. These two, with their incredibly distinctive voices, always seem to offer some point of wisdom in all they do. Steadfast characters.

 

Maperette

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I love Drew because she is very unique. She is not a classic beauty, and yet she is an extreme beauty. Her acting is not conventional, either, and yet she's the kind of girl you never get tired of watching... at least I don't. My favorite Drew role is "The Wedding Singer." "Ever After" was good, too. And I think her granddad would be proud of her being so talented, and now such an independent Hollywood woman. I believe she owns her own production company or something. But to have come through so much and to still be going strong. She's hands-down the most successful Barrymore, in my book. ;-) But I am also a huge admirer of John.

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I caught two glimpses of John Barrymore this week--one grotesque and one touching.

 

The Fox Movie Channel, which often seems to be programmed by a chimp with a dartboard, chose to dust off "The Great Profile"(1940), a movie that's probably the nadir of Barrymore's career on film. Filmed two years prior to his death, this curiosity seeks to emulate the real life spectacle of John Barrymore's last appearance on the stage, in 1939 in "My Dear Children". In real life during the play the actor was encouraged to indulge his histrionic and alcoholic weaknesses onstage by the producers and audiences seeking the sensation of seeing a man destroy himself in public,(I guess there weren't any good cockfights for these theatergoers to enjoy in Manhattan that year). On film, departing, (or so it seemed), regularly from the script, alternately quoting from Shakespearean soliliquies, berating his fellow players and the audience, appearing in long underwear and an acrobat's costume, Barrymore's notorious behavior is recreated in "The Great Profile". If you want to make your own judgment of this sorry flick, it's being shown again on FMC at 8 AM on Sat., April 24th.

 

The other view of Barrymore came from an unlikely source--the Antiques Roadshow on PBS. In evaluating the antiques of Chicago residents, one woman presented a copy of "King Lear" that had belonged to the actor in the last years of his life. The copy, with his flamboyant signature inside the cover, includes his handwritten comments on the characters, drawings of possible character makeup, notations on lines to be emphasized and and cut from a hoped-for production. The woman who owned the book had a large collection of Barrymore memorabilia, and said that she had acquired this volume from Barrymore's last wife, Elaine Barrie, shortly before her death in 2003. According to this lady, Barrymore's fondest wish was to have played Lear at least once before his death.

 

Viewing this, I found it poignant that Barrymore, while clearly struggling publicly in the endstage of alcoholism in his last years, could still occupy his mind privately with thoughts of something better, something closer to his best self.

 

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