Birthday: June 4, 1932
Died At Age: 72
Sun Sign: Gemini
Also Known As: John Blyth Barrymore
Born in: Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Famous as: Actor
Spouse/Ex-: Cara Williams (1953-1959), Gabriella Palazzoli (1960-1970), Jaid Barrymore (1971-1984), Nina Wayne (1985–1994)
father: John Barrymore
mother: Dolores Costello
children: 1954 (to Cara) ; Blyth Dolores Barrymore, 1966 - July 29, 1975 (to Jaid), 2014) (to Nina); Drew Barrymore, born 1960 (to Gabriella); Brahma, born February 22, born May 15, John Blyth Barrymore
Died on: November 29, 2004
place of death: Los Angeles, California, U.S.
U.S. State: California
City: Los Angeles
John Drew Barrymore was an American film actor and member of the famous Barrymore family of actors. Born in the highly privileged Barrymore family that had a very strong footing in Hollywood, John was almost destined to become an actor and rightly so he showed talent and determination in the early phases of his career. Starting his career at the age of 17 with the film ‘The Sundowners’, he was carrying on his shoulders the expectations of being another great actor like his father and uncles. He earned name with ‘High School Confidential’, ‘Never Love a Stranger’ and ‘Night of the Quarter Moon’ and later in the 60s he worked in some Italian films as well. However, by late 60s, the news stories about his erratic drunken behaviour started surfacing and his film and TV appearances became rare. He hit the rock bottom in the mid 70s, when he stopped working, and from there his life worsened every year. In 2003, his daughter Drew Barrymore took care of him in his last days, before he died of cancer in 2004.
Childhood & Early Life
John Drew Barrymore was born on 4th June 1932, to a heavyweight American film star John Barrymore and his wife, Dolores Costello, in a very glitzy environment in Los Angeles. His parents divorced while John was still an infant and his mother won his custody. Although the Barrymore family had been into acting profession for decades before he was born, Dolores knew the dark sides of the film business and she didn’t want her son to go the same way as his father, who happened to be an alcoholic. As a result, when John showed interest in making a career in acting, his mother discouraged him and asked him to choose another career.
His mother sent him to St. John’s Military academy to keep him as far from pursuing acting as she possibly could. He turned into a rebellious kid and always wanted to do something interesting with his life, and was extremely serious about a career in films. He admired his father and his uncles and by the time he was in high school, he became well aware of his family legacy and he just knew that films would come easy to him.
When he was in college, he tried his hand in theater, but being an eccentric young man riding on high self-confidence, he didn’t start theater with small roles, which usually every theater actor does in their early phases, and chose to do the leading roles right away without any experience. It resulted in ‘cold feet’ and he ended up bailing out on most of his plays in the very last moments. His Aunt Ethel Barrymore felt humiliated with this behavior and encouraged him, which made him to finally make his debut on stage, which he later remembered to be the toughest thing he had to do until then.
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As he hailed from the Barrymore family, it wouldn’t have been too hard for him to bag roles and rightly enough, he signed his very first film at the age of 17, with the name John Barrymore Jr. and made his debut with ‘The Sundowners’. He was later seen in the next couple of years in films such as ‘High Lonesome’, ‘Quebec’ and ‘The Big Night’. His performance was called average, but his unconventionally handsome face and rugged sense of style got him enough films to be in the limelight.
Just like his father, he too had become an alcoholic and featured in the news less for his acting and more for his drunkard antics. He was later seen in the films such as ‘The Keeler Affair’ and ‘Never Love a Stranger’ and slowly established himself as an actor of repute through the 50s. But he got bored of it after a certain time, and moved to Europe to do some films there. he found success in the Italian film industry and started appearing in many films as the main lead, but at the same time there were a few films where he appeared in supporting roles such as ‘The Trojan Horse’ and ‘Pilate Pius’ in the early 60s.
He also tried his hand at Television and found it to be a much more interesting and ended up playing guest roles in TV series’ such as ‘Gunsmoke’. In the middle of all this, his personal life was in total disarray as he was deep into alcoholism and drug abuse. People still trusted him and having the Barrymore name attached to their productions was sort of a big deal for them, so they kept hiring him for different roles.
His other TV stints include the TV western ‘Rawhide’, where he played a memorable character of a half-white and half-native American man and portrayed a seemingly cheerful character of a man who brings death wherever he goes in the show ‘Wagon Train’. However, his antics didn’t even spare the people who gave him chances while the others were turning their backs on him. ‘Star Trek’ was kind of one of the biggest Television series during 1966, and Barrymore was hired to play the role of Lazarus, and he failed to show up on the day of the shoot, eventually getting replaced by Robert Brown.
As a result of this he was slapped with a SAG suspension for 6 months. He further deteriorated his life with alcoholism and drug usage, which not only cost his his career, peace of mind and married life. Barrymore wasn’t seen much even after the ban was lifted. He hardly featured in any movies and TV series, and eventually in 1976, he stopped working altogether.
Personal Life & Death
John's mother’s fears came true when he started walking on the same path as his father. He became an alcoholic and throughout his mental and physical health worsened and he almost disappeared from the scene. He married four times during his lifetime; his first marriage was with Cara Williams early in his life, which ended in 1959. His other three ‘failed’ marriages were with Gabriella Palazzoli, Jaid Barrymore and Nina Wayne.
He had four children from his marriages - John Blyth Barrymore, Blyth Barrymore, Brahma Jessica Barrymore and Drew Barrymore. Drew Barrymore is a famous Hollywood actress and she was the one who cared for her father during his last days. Despite the fact that she hated him for many years, she moved her residence near him and looked after his eating habits and paid his medical bills when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2003.
Drew was with him when he died on 29th November 2004, and upon asked by media about how she felt, she said that he was a cool guy, and one should put a smile on their faces whenever they think of him. Drew also suffered from alcoholism sometime back in the 90s but upon seeing her father’s fate, she got herself sorted out.