The Fabulous Barrymores

     Like most writers of historical romance, I love researching the past.  I adore getting lost in former days and learning what life was like “back then.”  I am consistently amazed at the unusual tidbits I come across, things I never learned in my high school or college history classes.  It’s these small factoids and glimpses into times-gone-by that make the past come alive for me. 

     Having said that, while in the early plotting stages of my lastest book in my CHARITY HOUSE series, I knew I didn’t want to focus on the typical outlaw or cowboy or even rancher.  I wanted something different.  Thankfully, I fell across an article on the Golden Age of Theater and the ideas quickly burst forth.

     During my research I became fascinated with the premiere acting family of the American Theater: The Barrymores.  You’ve probably heard of Drew Barrymore, an accomplished actor in her own right who has garnered a lot of popularity and success, despite a few setbacks in her youth.    


     Maybe you’ve even heard of Drew’s famous grandfather and his equally talented siblings: Lionel, Ethel and John Barrymore. There is no question that these three Barrymores dominated early American cinema.  But, contrary to what I had thought prior to my research, Lionel, Ethel and John weren’t the first to “tread the boards” in their family.  They literally grew up in the theater.  Their parents, Maurice Barrymore and Georgiana Drew (AKA Georgie Drew Barrymore), were famous stage actors during the Golden Era of American Theater – 1880-1920.

     The patriarch of the family, Maurice Barrymore, was born Herbert Arthur Chamberlayne Blythe in India.  His father was a surveyor for the British East India Company.  Young Herbert was sent back to England for his education.  He attended Harrow School and then went on to study law at Oxford University.  Much to his father’s chagrin, Herbert fell in with a group of actors and never became a barrister.  In order to spare his father the shame of his chosen profession, Herbert changed his name to Maurice Barrymore.


     After some success on the British stage, Maurice left for America in 1874.  He made his Broadway debut in December 1875 in the play Pique.  In the cast was a young actress, Georgiana Drew.  After a short courtship the two married and proceeded to have three children, the above mentioned, Lionel, Ethel and John. 

     Maurice eventually started his own theater company and toured across the country, stopping in cities in Arkansas, Louisiana and even Texas. He was a true pioneer of the stage. 

     So, tell me, who is your favorite actor in modern cinema?  Leave a comment and I’ll put you in a drawing to win my July release, THE OUTLAW’S REDEMPTION.

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29 thoughts on “The Fabulous Barrymores”

  1. Fascinating history, Renee. Like you, I was aware of the later Barrymore family and remember seeing Lionel and Ethel in their later films (Lionel performed in a wheelchair). But I had no idea how far back the family tradition went.

    Favorite actor? Although he’s old now and no longer seems to be working in films, my heart will forever belong to Sean Connery.

  2. What fascinating family history! Thank you for sharing!

    I was thinking of cowboys and the Old West and my mind went to Robert Duvall and Sam Elliot. I have enjoyed both of these actors.

  3. Thanks for sharing. I really enjoy seeing Kevin Costner on the screen, whether in Open Range or Hatfields and McCoys, he gets the job done!

  4. I adore Hugh Jackman.. He can do it all.. and he is still that boy from Downunder… who has that natural likeability to everyone he meets.. sigh.. I wish I could meet him…

    Thanks for sharing the fascinating facts about the Barrymore family.. all such great actors.

  5. Wow, great history regarding the Barrymores. Who knew they dated back so far?
    I love the cover of your book, Btw! Good luck and thanks for a great blog today. I enjoyed it!

    My favorite actor? Has to be Hugh Jackman…sigh.

  6. Hi Renee, I am sorry we didn’t connect in Atlanta. Next time I hope. It was a great but crazy time for me LOL. Thanks for this interesting info. I’e always wondered if it’s easier to “break into” acting if somebody in the fam is already there.

    A favorite? Not saying Kevin Costner for sure, but I did enjoy him in No Way Out, Tin Cup, and of course, Open Range. I will always love the oldies but goodies Robert Redford and sam Elliott.

    Fun post, thanks.

  7. Richard Armitage…British actor…in Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South miniseries. Most romantic ending ever!

  8. To me, there are very few good actors in that business today. There are a lot of people who make movies but those are more personalities than actual actors. I like Daniel Day Lewis, Anthony Hopkins, Russell Crowe. Glenn Close and Meryl Streep.

  9. To me, there are very few good actors in that business today. There are a lot of people who make movies but those are more personalities than actual actors. I like Daniel Day Lewis, Anthony Hopkins, Russell Crowe. Glenn Close and Meryl Streep.

  10. I think Edward Norton is one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood today. I also like Denzel Washington, especially when he is in his white Navy uniform at the end of Crimson Tide and he walks down the steps. wow I also like Meryl Streep and Glenn close.

  11. Loved reading about the Barrymores! I think that my favorite out there right now is Kevin Costner. Though both of us are growing older, I liked him in his younger days.

  12. Thank you for an interesting post. I knew Drew was named after her great grandmother, but didn’t know the history of her family back to that generation.

    I don’t know that I have a favorite actor. We don’t go to many movies. One I enjoy is Dame Maggie Smith. She is very much her own person. Her interview on 60 minutes was quite an eye opener. She is quite different from what I expected. She gives us such great strong characters and is a joy to watch.

  13. Thank you for sharing, Renee. So interesting about the Barrymores. I’ve always loved Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched “Pretty Woman”. Also, there’s Bruce Willis.

  14. I love to watch Sam Elliott in movies. Also Kevin Costner, and Alan Jackson(He has some movies). I would love to win this book to go with my Charity House collection. Thanks for the chance. MAXIE mac262(at)me(dot)com

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