John Drew Barrymore

John Drew Barrymore
John Drew Barrymore 1953.jpg
Barrymore from a Schlitz Playhouse of Stars presentation in 1953
John Blyth Barrymore Jr.

(1932-06-04)June 4, 1932
Died November 29, 2004(2004-11-29) (aged 72)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1949–1976
( m. 1953; div. 1960)

Gabriella Palazzoli
( m. 1960; div. 1970)

Jaid Mako
( m. 1971; div. 1984)

( m. 1985; div. 1994)
Children 4, including John Blyth and Drew Barrymore
Parent(s) John Barrymore
Dolores Costello
Family Barrymore

John Drew Barrymore (born John Blyth Barrymore Jr.; June 4, 1932 – November 29, 2004) was an American film actor and member of the Barrymore family of actors, which included his father, John Barrymore, and his father's siblings, Lionel and Ethel. He was the father of four children, including actor John Blyth Barrymore and actress Drew Barrymore. Diana Barrymore was his half-sister from his father's second marriage.

Early life

Barrymore was born in Los Angeles to John Barrymore (born John Blyth) and Dolores Costello.[1][2] His parents separated when he was 18 months old, and he rarely saw his father afterward. Educated at private schools, he made his film debut at 17, billed as John Barrymore Jr.[1] One of the schools he attended was the Hollywood Professional School.[3][4]


Early films

Barrymore's film career began with a small role in The Sundowners (1950), a Western with Robert Preston.[5] As he was a minor he needed his mother's permission. His fee was $7,500.[6][7] He was promoted to leading man in just his second movie, the Western High Lonesome (1950), written and directed by Alan Le May, who also wrote Barrymore's next film, Quebec (1951).[8] He starred in The Big Night (1951), written and directed by Joseph Losey, and was in Thunderbirds (1952) with John Derek at Republic. In 1953 he was briefly jailed for failing to appear on three old traffic charges.[9]


Barrymore's films were not particularly successful. He moved into television, guest-starring on shows like Schlitz Playhouse and The 20th Century-Fox Hour . He did some TV movies, including The Reluctant Redeemer (1954) and The Adventures of Lt. Contee (1955), and appeared in several episodes of Matinee Theatre. In 1957 he directed an episode of Matinee Theatre, "One for All". "Television gives me the chance to do what movies didn't", he said.[10] In 1955, Barrymore was sued by Lanny Budd Productions for not making a series of movies in Europe. Barrymore counter-sued.[11]

Barrymore returned to features with supporting parts in While the City Sleeps (1956), for director Fritz Lang, and The Shadow on the Window (1957). In 1957, he appeared in a production of Romeo and Juliet at the Pasadena Playhouse with Margaret O'Brien.[12] He guest starred in Playhouse 90 (the original production of The Miracle Worker), Climax!, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse and Wagon Train.

In 1958, he changed his middle name to Drew, although he had previously been credited in past works as Blyth. He had a supporting part in High School Confidential! (1958) at MGM, and the lead in Never Love a Stranger and MGM's interracial drama, Night of the Quarter Moon (1959) with Julie London.[13] In December 1958, he was sentenced to three weekends in prison after a drunken public fight with his wife in a car park.[14] In January 1959, his ex-wife sued for non payment of alimony.[15] In March 1959, he was arrested for suspected hit-and-run drunk driving.[16] In October 1959, he quit the touring company of Look Homeward, Angel after a week and a half of rehearsals.[17]


Barrymore journeyed to Italy to star in The Cossacks (1960) with Edmund Purdom. The actor stayed in Italy for the next few years, with lead or main cast roles including appearances in The Night They Killed Rasputin (1960, playing Felix Yusupov), The Pharaohs' Woman (1961), The Centurion (1961), The Trojan Horse (1961, playing Ulysses), Pontius Pilate (1961, playing both Judas and Jesus), Invasion 1700 (1962) and Rome Against Rome (1964).

During his five years in Europe, Barrymore appeared in the UK film The Christine Keeler Story (1963, filmed in Denmark) as Stephen Ward.

Return to LA

Barrymore with Anne Helm in a Gunsmoke appearance, 1964

Barrymore returned to Los Angeles. He announced he made 16 films abroad but "I'm not going to do anything bad any more. I feel I'm straightened out and down the block. Somewhere around the block I lost half my ego, so I don't work for applause."[18] He also said he had started to write scripts. He guest starred on episodes of various television series, including Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Run for Your Life,[19] Jericho, and Dundee and the Culhane, and appeared in the 1967 television film Winchester '73.

Barrymore's antisocial and erratic behavior continued to obstruct his professional progress. In the 1960s, he was occasionally incarcerated for drug use, public drunkenness, and spousal abuse.[1][20] In 1964 he went to prison for possession of marijuana.[13]

In 1966, Barrymore was signed to play a guest role as Lazarus in the Star Trek episode "The Alternative Factor". However, he failed to show up (replaced at the last minute by Robert Brown), resulting in a SAG suspension of six months.[21]

Later years

After the SAG suspension was served to Barrymore in 1967, he sporadically worked on-screen, sometimes with a few years between appearances.

In 1967, he was imprisoned for possession of drugs following a car crash.[22] In 1969, he was again arrested for possession of drugs after another car accident.[23]

As Barrymore became more and more reclusive, he withdrew from acting, with his final two appearances being a 1974 episode of Kung Fu and an uncredited role in the 1976 film Baby Blue Marine. Barrymore suffered from the same addiction problems that had destroyed his father. Although he continued to appear occasionally onscreen, he became more and more reclusive, eventually disappearing into the wilderness to live a mystical existence that has also been described as derelict. He was estranged from his family, including his children, and his lifestyle continued to worsen as his physical and mental health deteriorated.[24][25]

In 2003, his daughter Drew moved him near her home, despite their estrangement. She paid his medical bills until his death from cancer the following year at age 72. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to television.

Personal life

All of Barrymore's marriages ended in divorce. His first marriage was to actress Cara Williams in 1952; they had one child, John Blyth Barrymore (b. 1954), before their divorce in 1959. A year later, in 1960, Barrymore married Gabriella Palazzoli. Their daughter, Blyth Dolores Barrymore, was born that same year. Their marriage lasted 10 years before ending in divorce in 1970.[26]

  • Cara Williams (1953–1959) (divorced) (1 child)
  • Gabriella Palazzoli (1960–1970) (divorced) (1 child)
    • Blyth Dolores Barrymore, born 1960
  • Ildiko Jaid Mako (1971–1984) (divorced) (1 child)
  • Nina Wayne (1985–1994) (divorced)[citation needed] (1 child)
    • Brahma (Jessica) Blyth Barrymore (1966–2014)[27]



  1. ^ a b c Oliver, Myrna (December 1, 2004). "John Drew Barrymore, 72; Troubled Heir to the Throne of the Royal Family of Acting". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  2. ^ According to the State of California. California Birth Index, 1905–1995. Center for Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento, California. Searchable at (account required)
  3. ^ Thomas R. Whissen (1998). Guide to American cinema, 1930-1965. Greenwood Press. p. 128.
  4. ^ Matthew Ward (2010). My Second Chapter The Matthew Ward Story. Crown Publishing Group. p. 63-67.
  5. ^ "John Barrymore Jr. in Films". The New York Times. August 11, 1949. p. 26.
  6. ^ "John Barrymore Jr. Gets O.K. On Contract". Chicago Daily Tribune. June 3, 1949. p. 14.
  7. ^ "Barrymore Son Signs Film Contract to Begin at $150: Silent Star Mother Accompanies Youth to Court for Approval of New Career Terms". Los Angeles Times. June 3, 1949. p. 2.
  8. ^ "John Drew Barrymore". The Independent. London.
  9. ^ "JOHN BARRYMORE JR. JAILED FOR IGNORING TRAFFIC TAGS". Los Angeles Times. April 28, 1953. p. 15.
  10. ^ "BARRYMORE JR. FINDS TV AIDS REAL ACTORS M P.". Chicago Daily Tribune. June 30, 1957. p. sw18.
  11. ^ "Producer Counter-Sued by John Barrymore Jr". Los Angeles Times. July 8, 1955. p. 19.
  12. ^ Schallert, Edwin (May 5, 1957). "John Barrymore Jr., Margaret O'Brien Face Test in 'Romeo'". Los Angeles Times. p. E1.
  13. ^ a b Oliver, Myrna (December 1, 2004). "Obituaries; John Drew Barrymore, 72; Troubled Heir to the Throne of the Royal Family of Acting". Los Angeles Times. p. B.10.
  14. ^ "John Barrymore Jr. Is JailedThe". The New York Times. January 1, 1958. p. 30.
  15. ^ "Barrymore's Alimony Lags, Ex-Wife Charges". Los Angeles Times. January 10, 1959. p. B8.
  16. ^ "John Barrymore Jr. Held in Hit-Run Case". Los Angeles Times. March 8, 1959. p. 32.
  17. ^ "BARRYMORE QUITS PLAY: Had Been Rehearsing in Tour of 'Look Homeward, Angel'". The New York Times. October 14, 1959. p. 51.
  18. ^ Hedda Hoppers (August 18, 1964). "John Barrymore Jr. Turning Out Scripts". The Washington Post, Times Herald. p. A25.
  19. ^ "John Barrymore Jr. Joins TV Episode". Los Angeles Times. January 18, 1966. p. c15.
  20. ^ "John Drew Barrymore, 72, of Acting Clan". The New York Times. December 1, 2004.
  21. ^ Solow, Herbert F. & Robert H. Justman Inside Star Trek ISBN 0-671-89628-8 pp. 201-202
  22. ^ "John Drew Barrymore Seized". The New York Times. April 21, 1967. p. 17.
  23. ^ "John Barrymore Jr. Seized on Drug Charge". Chicago Tribune. August 6, 1969. p. a4.
  24. ^ John Drew Barrymore Actor son of John Barrymore who exceeded even his father's off-screen excesses, The Independent obituary, December 1, 2004
  25. ^ John Drew Barrymore dies, Sydney Morning Herald, November 30, 2004
  26. ^ "John Drew Barrymore". The Independent. London. December 1, 2004. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  27. ^ Alt.Film.Guide – Jessica Barrymore Found Dead: Daughter of John Drew Barrymore, Drew Barrymore Half-Sister

External links