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Barrymore's Body


Dothery
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Here's a controversy laid to rest. Buster Wiles says in his book "My Days With Errol Flynn" that nobody ever took John Barrymore's body out of the funeral home. The story has been around forever, and both Errol Flynn and Raoul Walsh told it in their books as truthful, but Buster tells what really happened. He and the others were talking about it, but decided not to do it. Besides, Buster says Flynn wouldn't have been scared by 40 corpses in his dining room. He goes on to say that Raoul Walsh actually came to believe they did it, and was telling the story at Flynn's funeral. He didn't contradict him, out of politeness.

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That's interesting, Dothery.

 

Hate to think that boozy pranksters like Walsh and Flynn were capable of not always telling the absolute truth. ;)

 

Having said that, though, wasn't Wiles also a bit of a boozy prankster? So where does that leave us, as far as the truth of this tale is concerned?

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Hi, Tom ... you would think that Buster's word would be suspect, wouldn't you? But the story has been denied before by those who claim to have been at the funeral home all night.

 

 

"According to [Errol Flynn|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Errol_Flynn|Errol Flynn]'s memoirs, film director [Raoul Walsh|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raoul_Walsh|Raoul Walsh] "borrowed" Barrymore's body before burial, and left his corpse propped in a chair for a drunken Flynn to discover when he returned home from The **** and Bull Bar. This was re-created in the movie [W.C. Fields and Me|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W.C._Fields_and_Me|W.C. Fields and Me]. Other accounts of this classic Hollywood tale substitute actor [Peter Lorre|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Lorre|Peter Lorre] in the place of Walsh, but Walsh himself tells the story in Richard Schickel's 1973 documentary The Men Who Made the Movies. However, Barrymore's great friend Gene Fowler denied the story, stating that he and his son held vigil over the body at the funeral home until the funeral and burial.^[[7]|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Barrymore#cite_note-Kobler.2C_John_1977.2C_p._364-6]^

 

 

He was buried in East Los Angeles, at Calvary Cemetery, on June 2. Surviving family members in attendance were his brother Lionel and his daughter Diana. Ex wife Elaine also attended. Among his active pallbearers were Gene Fowler, [John Decker|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Decker|John Decker], [W.C. Fields|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W.C._Fields|W.C. Fields], [Herbert Marshall|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Marshall|Herbert Marshall], [Eddie Mannix|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Mannix|Eddie Mannix], [Louis B. Mayer|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_B._Mayer|Louis B. Mayer], and [David O. Selznick|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_O._Selznick|David O. Selznick].^[[7]|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Barrymore#cite_note-Kobler.2C_John_1977.2C_p._364-6]^ Years later, Barrymore's son John had the body reinterred at Philadelphia's Mount Vernon Cemetery."

 

 

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You know, Dothery, I guess it's always going to be one of those stories that represents Hollywood during its wild days when there seemed to be a lot of crazy, drunken characters there, capable of either performing the deed or fabricating it afterward. But it sure is great to read about this kind of stuff, isn't it? It is, as they say, the stuff of legend.

 

Corbis-SF39083.jpg?size=67&uid=a2047373-

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I know. Part of the fun is never having it resolved. Wiles says they were at George Burns' house when they got the news of Barrymore's death, and that's where they began talking about the possibility of stealing the body, and some were eager to go and do it. But Wiles figured it would be nothing but trouble, since the churches would all come down on Warner Brothers and it could cost them a lot of money and problems, so they abandoned the idea.

 

There are enough real scandals that made Hollywood infamous. You might get a book called "Love, Laughter and Tears" by Adela Rogers St. John, which is one of my favorite sources of what-really-happened information. She knew these people in the old days, and says, for example, that Rudolph Valentino's dreamy looks at his leading ladies were a result of his nearsightedness ... he could barely see across the set. Her story of William Powell and Jean Harlow is heart-rending. She was desperately in love with him, but he wouldn't marry her because he'd already been married to one blond bombshell and didn't want to repeat the experience. He wanted a hausfrau, and eventually he did marry one. The scene of their parting at the Hearst Castle is really a tear-jerker.

 

Garbo and John Gilbert were another story ... the other way around. She wanted to live on a farm and have a gang of children, according to Gilbert, and he wanted the star lifestyle.

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Dorthery,

 

Despite being a journalist, Adele Rogers St. John was known to embellish many a Hollywood tale she liked to tell especially as she got older.

 

She was a terrific story teller but like many others (Wellman, Walsh, Flynn, Hawks, etc), she had a bad habit of reconfiguring a story's facts for maximum enjoyment.

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> {quote:title=Dothery wrote:}{quote}Even dead, who could miss that profile? (Or as he said, "What's left of it," when asked to turn for a picture.)

 

Who? Two people drunk enough to steal a body in the first place, especially if it was in the dark. Of course I have no way of knowing that this happened, but it would explain the contradicting stories.

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