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Lionel Barrymore

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Also Known As: Lionel Blyth, Mr. Lionel Barrymore Died: November 15, 1954
Born: April 28, 1878 Cause of Death: heart ailment
Birth Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Profession: actor, director, composer, artist, author, producer, screenwriter, vaudevillian

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

The eldest brother in an acting dynasty that included sister Ethel and brother John, Lionel Barrymore became one of his era's most popular thespians, despite vociferous claims that his profession was dictated by financial need rather than a desire to perform. Literally pushed onto the stage as a toddler, the young Barrymore began appearing in silent films like "The New York Hat" (1912), most frequently for director D.W. Griffith. Work on Broadway in such performances as "The Copperhead" also provided income until the actor gradually turned his full attention to Hollywood. "A Free Soul" (1931) earned Barrymore an Oscar for Best Actor, while appearances in hits like "Grand Hotel" (1932), "Dinner at Eight" (1933) and "You Can't Take It With You" (1938) made him a bona fide movie star. Wheelchair-bound due to arthritis, he originated Dr. Gillespie, a character he would reprise for more than a dozen sequels, in the medical drama "Young Dr. Kildare" (1938). Barrymore's most indelible character was arguably that of Henry Potter, the villainous town elder in Frank Capra's holiday classic "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946), a portrayal balanced out by his turn as the irrepressible James Temple in the Bogie and...

The eldest brother in an acting dynasty that included sister Ethel and brother John, Lionel Barrymore became one of his era's most popular thespians, despite vociferous claims that his profession was dictated by financial need rather than a desire to perform. Literally pushed onto the stage as a toddler, the young Barrymore began appearing in silent films like "The New York Hat" (1912), most frequently for director D.W. Griffith. Work on Broadway in such performances as "The Copperhead" also provided income until the actor gradually turned his full attention to Hollywood. "A Free Soul" (1931) earned Barrymore an Oscar for Best Actor, while appearances in hits like "Grand Hotel" (1932), "Dinner at Eight" (1933) and "You Can't Take It With You" (1938) made him a bona fide movie star. Wheelchair-bound due to arthritis, he originated Dr. Gillespie, a character he would reprise for more than a dozen sequels, in the medical drama "Young Dr. Kildare" (1938). Barrymore's most indelible character was arguably that of Henry Potter, the villainous town elder in Frank Capra's holiday classic "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946), a portrayal balanced out by his turn as the irrepressible James Temple in the Bogie and Bacall thriller "Key Largo" (1948). A man of many talents and interests, Barrymore was also an accomplished artist, composer and author whose celebrated six-decades-long career, while born of necessity, provided audiences with dozens of memorable performances.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Guilty Hands (1931) Director
2.
  Ten Cents a Dance (1931) Director
3.
  The Rogue Song (1930) Director
4.
  The Unholy Night (1929) Director
5.
  His Glorious Night (1929) Director
6.
  Madame X (1929) Director
7.
  Life's Whirlpool (1917) Director
8.
  His Secret (1913)

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Main Street to Broadway (1953) Himself
3.
 Lone Star (1952) Andrew Jackson
4.
 Bannerline (1951) Hugo Trimble
5.
 Right Cross (1950) Sean O'Malley
6.
 Malaya (1949) John Manchester
7.
 Down to the Sea in Ships (1949) Captain Bering Joy
8.
9.
 Key Largo (1948) James Temple
10.
 Duel in the Sun (1947) Senator McCanles
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1893:
First stage appearance as Thomas the coachman in "The Rivals" (for one performance) during tour starring his grandmother, Mrs. John Drew
1897:
Stage acting debut in "The Bachelor's Baby"
1900:
Broadway debut in "Sag Harbor"
1909:
Joined Biograph film company
1911:
Acted in over 50 short films (many by D.W. Griffith)
1912:
Wrote two short films, one of which was D.W. Griffith's "The Tender-Hearted Boy"
1914:
Feature film acting debut in "Men and Women"
1917:
Feature writing and directing debut, "Life's Whirlpool"
1928:
Acted in MGM's first talkie, "Alias Jimmy Valentine"
1929:
First feature as producer and composer (also director), "His Glorious Night"
1938:
First appearance as Dr. Gillespie (for the 15-film MGM series) in "Young Dr. Kildare"
1942:
Composed tone poem, "In Memoriam," in dedication to his brother, John, which was performed by the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra
1953:
Last screen appearance in "Main Street to Broadway" (as himself)
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Art Students League of New York: New York , New York -

Notes

Barrymore played Scrooge in an annual radio broadcast of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" which became something of a time-honored tradition.

"If John and Ethel were the royalty of the Barrymore acting family, brother Lionel was the journeyman actor of the clan. During his fifty-year film career, he avoided romantic leads, preferring to disguise his distinguished six-foot, 155-pound frame in unusual character assignments. Equally adept at sympathetic, heroic, villainous, comedic avuncular, startling, or majestic roles, the excellence of his acting was overshadowed often in later years by his bulky wheelchaired presence." --James Robert Parish ("The MGM Stock Company")

Received a Treasury Department citation in 1954 for cooperation in helping promote investment in U.S. Savings Bonds.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Doris Rankin. Actor. Married in 1904; divorced in 1923.
wife:
Irene Fenwick. Actor. Married from 1923 until her death on December 24, 1936.

Family close complete family listing

great-grandmother:
Eliza Lane. Actor, singer.
mother:
Georgiana Drew. Actor.
father:
Maurice Barrymore. Actor. Born September 21, 1847; died March 2, 1905.
uncle:
John Drew. Actor.
sister:
Ethel Barrymore. Actor. Acted with his sister Ethel and brother John in "Rasputin and the Empress" (1932); born on August 15, 1879; died on June 18, 1959.
brother:
John Barrymore. Actor. Born on February 15, 1882; died on May 29, 1942.
daughter:
Mary Barrymore. Died at age two, c. 1906; mother, Doris Rankin.
daughter:
Ethel Barrymore II. Born in August 1906; died on March 23, 1909; mother, Doris Rankin.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Mr. Cantomwine"
"We Barrymores" Appleton-Century-Crofts
"The Barrymores: The Royal Family in Hollywood" Crown
"The House of Barrymore" Alfred A. Knopf
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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