Irene Fenwick

Irene Fenwick
Lionel Barrymore & Irene Fenwick.jpg
Husband Lionel Barrymore with Fenwick
Irene Frizell

(1887-09-05)September 5, 1887
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died December 24, 1936(1936-12-24) (aged 49)
Occupation Actress
Family Barrymore

Irene Fenwick (born Irene Frizell; September 5, 1887 – December 24, 1936)[1] was an American stage and silent film actress.[2] She was married to Lionel Barrymore[3] from 1923 until her death in 1936. Fenwick has several surviving feature films from her productions for the Kleine-Edison Feature Film Service,[4][5] which also has numerous surviving shorts in the Library of Congress.[6]

Years before marrying Lionel, Irene had dated Lionel's brother, John.[7][8]


Frizell was born in Chicago and began acting in local theater. She had a few chorus roles in London,[9] including one in a musical comedy that won critics praise for her "nearly natural performance".[10] In New York she met Broadway producer Charles Frohman who gave her the stage name Fenwick and the ingénue role in The Brass Bottle (1910).[10] A vivacious redhead, adept at both drama and comedy, she had a forceful stage presence that belied her tiny stature of 4'11". She continued on stage in 1912 opposite Douglas Fairbanks in Hawthorne of the U.S.A. The following year in the play The Family Cupboard, she was touted as a young actress with "the tact and intelligence of a veteran player".[11]

While on Broadway, she started working in silent films with producer George Kleine.[12][13] Fenwick often played wronged women and vamps in films such as The Sentimental Lady (1915), The Woman Next Door (1915),[14] A Coney Island Princess (1916), with her performance as Princess Zim-Zim highlighted as the films "chief force",[15][16] and The Sin Woman (1917). Fenwick felt restricted by these film roles and returned to the stage. In the hit plays The Claw (1921)[17] and Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1923) she co-starred with Lionel Barrymore, whom she married on June 14, 1923,[18]after a brief engagement.[19] It was his second marriage and her third.[20] She retired in 1926 after her husband chose a Hollywood career.[18]


Fenwick died on Christmas Eve in 1936, at age 49[20] from complications of anorexia nervosa (called "overdieting" then). Barrymore was replaced by his brother John in his famous annual radio broadcast as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol for that year.[21] He never remarried.


Fenwick in The Commuters (1915)
Movie poster for The Child of Destiny (1916)


  1. ^ Ellenberger, Allan R. (May 1, 2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-0983-9.
  2. ^ Irene Fenwick;biography, Hans J. Wollstein
  3. ^ "Lionel Barrymore – Actor, Director, Writer, Composer". Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  4. ^ The Moving Picture World. Chalmers Publishing Company. 1915. p. 626.
  5. ^ Slide, Anthony (1994). Early American Cinema. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-2722-6.
  6. ^ congress), kleine (george) collection (library of. "Search results from Film, Video, Available Online, Kleine (George) Collection (Library of Congress)". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  7. ^ Alpert, Hollis (1964). The Barrymores. New York: The Dial Press. OCLC 194133.
  8. ^ Kobler, John (1977). Damned in Paradise: The Life of John Barrymore. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 9780689108143. OCLC 3001896.
  9. ^ Theatre Magazine. Theatre Magazine Company. 1915.
  10. ^ a b The Theatre. Meyer Bros. & Company. 1910.
  11. ^ Thorold, W. J.; Hornblow (Jr.), Arthur; Maxwell, Perriton; Beach, Stewart (1913). Theatre Magazine. Theatre Magazine Company.
  12. ^ The Moving Picture World. World Photographic Publishing Company. 1916.
  13. ^ Motography. 1915.
  14. ^ The Moving Picture World. World Photographic Publishing Company. 1915.
  15. ^ Motography. 1916.
  16. ^ Parascandola, Louis J.; Parascandola, John (December 9, 2014). A Coney Island Reader: Through Dizzy Gates of Illusion. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-53819-0.
  17. ^ American Magazine. Colver Publishing House. 1922.
  18. ^ a b Menefee, David W. (October 20, 2007). The First Male Stars: Men of the Silent Era. BearManor Media.
  19. ^ Time. Time Incorporated. 1923.
  20. ^ a b "Irene Fenwick (married to John Jay O'Brien) ?". Daily News. December 25, 1936. p. 69. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
  21. ^ Inc, Time (December 25, 1944). LIFE. Time Inc.

External links