LIONEL BARRYMORE Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Lionel Herbert Blythe                                                           
Born: 28 April 1878 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania                                       
Died: 15 November 1954 Beverly Hills, California                                     
Lionel Barrymore (April 28, 1878 – November 15, 1954) was an American Academy       
Award-winning actor of stage, radio and film.                                         
Barrymore was born Lionel Herbert Blythe in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son       
of actors Georgiana Drew and Maurice Barrymore (né Blythe). He was the elder         
brother of Ethel and John Barrymore, the uncle of John Drew Barrymore, and the       
grand-uncle (or great-uncle) of Drew Barrymore. Barrymore was raised Roman           
He was married to actresses Doris Rankin and Irene Fenwick, a one-time lover of       
his brother John. Doris Rankin bore Lionel two daughters, Ethel Barrymore II (born   
1909) and Mary Barrymore (born 1910). Unfortunately, neither baby girl survived       
infancy, though Mary lived a few months. Lionel never truly recovered from the       
deaths of his girls, and their loss undoubtedly strained his marriage to Doris       
Rankin which ended in 1923. Years later, Barrymore developed a fatherly               
affection for Jean Harlow, who was born around the same time as his two               
daughters and would have been around their age. When Jean died in 1937, Lionel       
and Clark Gable mourned her as though she had been family.                           
Barrymore began his stage career in the early 1900s. In 1907, after spending         
many years in Paris, he came back to Broadway, where he established his               
reputation as dramatic actor. He and Doris often acted together when in the           
theater. He proved his talent in many other plays such as Peter Ibbetson (with       
brother John) (1917), The Copperhead (1918) (with wife Doris) and The Jest (1919)     
(again with John).                                                                   
In 1924, he left Broadway for Hollywood. In 1931, he won an Academy Award for         
his role of an alcoholic lawyer in A Free Soul (1931), after having been             
nominated in 1930 for Best Director for Madame X. Although he could play many         
types of characters, such as the evil Rasputin in the 1932 Rasputin and the           
Empress (in which he co-starred with siblings John and Ethel Barrymore), he was,     
during the 1930s and 1940s, stereotyped as grouchy, but usually sweet, elderly       
men in such films as The Mysterious Island (1929), Grand Hotel (1932, with John),     
Dinner at Eight (1933, the film also featured brother John, but they had no           
scenes together), Captains Courageous (1937), You Can't Take It with You (1938),     
Duel in the Sun (1946), and Key Largo (1948).                                         
He played the irascible Doctor Gillespie in a series of Doctor Kildare movies in     
the 1930s and 1940s, repeating the role in the radio series throughout the 1940s.     
He also played the title role in another 1940s radio series, Mayor of the Town.       
Barrymore had broken his hip in an accident, hence he played Gillespie in a           
wheelchair; later, his worsening arthritis kept him in the chair. The injury         
also precluded his playing Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1938 MGM film version of A         
Christmas Carol, a role which Barrymore had played annually on the radio since       
1934, and would continue to 1951.                                                     
Perhaps his best known role, due to perennial Christmas time replays on               
television, was Mr. Potter, the miserly and mean-spirited banker in It's a           
Wonderful Life (1946). The role suggested that of the "unreformed" stage of           
Barrymore's "Scrooge" characterization.                                               
Barrymore died on November 15, 1954 from a heart attack in Van Nuys, California,     
and was entombed in the Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles, California.             
He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1724 Vine Street.