MAURICE BARRYMORE Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Herbert Arthur Chamberlayne Blythe                                                 
Born: 21 September 1849 Amritsar, Punjab, India                                         
Died: 26 March 1905 Amityville, New York, U.S.                                           
Herbert Arthur Chamberlayne Blythe (September 21, 1849 – March 26, 1905) is the       
patriarch of the Barrymore acting family and great-grandfather of actress Drew           
Born Herbert Arthur Chamberlayne Blythe in Amritsar, Punjab or more precisely           
Fort Agra, India, he was the son of William Edward Blythe, a surveyor for the           
British East India Company and his wife Matilda Chamberlayne. Herbert had an             
older brother named Will and a sister named Evelin. Matilda, after a difficult           
pregnancy died shortly after giving birth to Herbert on September 21, 1849. In           
his formative years Herbert was raised by his Aunt Amelia Blythe, his mother's           
sister. Amelia, a Chamberlayne by birth, had married a brother of Herbert's             
father and was a Blythe by marriage. Herbert was sent back to England for               
education at Harrow School, England and studied Law at Oxford University where           
he was Captain of his class football (soccer US) team in 1868. On March 21, 1872         
he won the middleweight boxing championship of England. His father expected him         
to become a barrister, but Herbert fell in with a group of actors, which                 
scandalized the elder Blyth. That same year 1872 Herbert sat for his first posed         
theatrical photographic portrait by noted photographer Oliver Sarony. In order           
to spare his father the "shame" of having a son in such a "dissolute" vocation,         
he took the stage name Maurice Barrymore, inspired by a conversation he had with         
fellow actor Charles Vandenhoff about William Barrymore, an early 19th-Century           
English thespian after seeing a poster depicting Barrymore in the Haymarket             
Theatre. He wanted his first name to be pronounced in the French manner (môr-ĒS)       
instead of the English (MÔR-is). His friends avoided that altogether by simply         
calling him "Barry".                                                                     
On December 29, 1874 he boarded the SS America for Boston, and joined Augustin           
Daly's troupe making his debut in Under the Gaslight.                                   
He made his Broadway debut in December 1875 in Pique; in the cast was a young           
actress, Georgiana Drew. They married on December 31, 1876, and had three               
children: Lionel (b.1878), Ethel (b.1879), and John (b.1882). Georgiana died             
July 2, 1893 from consumption, and Barrymore re-married exactly one year after           
her death to Mamie Floyd much to Ethel's consternation. During his career,               
Maurice Barrymore played opposite many stars of the time including Helena               
Modjeska, Mrs. Fiske, Olga Nethersole, Lillian Russell, and Lily Langtry.               
On March 19, 1879, in Marshall, Texas, he and fellow actor Ben Porter were shot         
by an intoxicated Texas and Pacific Railway engineer named Jim Currie (who               
shared a cell with the accused killer of Diamond Bessie). Porter was killed;             
doctors spent the night operating on Barrymore to save his life. He made a full         
recovery, and returned to Marshall for the legal maneuverings that followed.             
Currie's brother was mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana and apparently used his             
influence to secure a not guilty verdict (after a 10 minute deliberation). An           
enraged Barrymore vowed never to return to Texas.                                       
According to a 2004 A&E Biography piece, after the Ben Porter tragedy, Maurice           
asked Georgiana to tour with him and Helena Modjeska in a play he had written.           
Georgiana and the children had converted to Roman Catholicism under Helena's             
influence. Learning that he and Helena had resumed their romance, Georgiana, who         
had been given ownership of the play by Maurice, forced his hand by closing it.         
Helena's husband, its producer, sued her. The real reason for Georgiana's               
actions never got into the press. However, Maurice's many dalliances did make           
the tabloids.                                                                           
He eventually became infected with syphilis. The March 25, 1905 New York Times           
reported: "He was playing a vaudeville engagement(in 1901) at a Harlem theatre           
when he suddenly dropped his lines and began to rave. The following day he               
became violent and was taken to Bellevue insane ward by his son John." He died           
in his sleep, and was buried by his daughter Ethel at Glenwood Cemetery in