John D. Barrymore

John D. Barrymore
Los Angeles Times


John D. Barrymore
TV: South side of the 7000 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Born John Blyth Barrymore on June 4, 1932 in Los Angeles, CA
Died Nov. 29, 2004 in Los Angeles, CA

John Drew Barrymore's name and ancestry were far better known than his own credits in the acting profession that made his family famous.

Born in Los Angeles on June 4, 1932, he was the son of legendary actor John Barrymore, nicknamed "the Profile," and his third wife, actress Dolores Costello, and the nephew of Lionel and Ethel Barrymore. Named John Blythe Barrymore Jr., he was only 18 months old when his parents separated and rarely saw his celebrated father.

Following his education in private schools, he made his screen debut at age 18, credited as John Barrymore Jr., in two films, "The Sundowners" and "High Lonesome." He made five more films under that name without living up to the expectations attached to the family.

By the mid-1950s, Barrymore had landed in jail several times on charges of speeding, drunk driving and violent quarrels with his first wife, actress Cara Williams. He was suspended for a year by Actors' Equity.

Hoping to improve his image, in 1958 he changed his name to John Drew Barrymore, substituting one family name, Drew, for the other of Blythe.

He employed the new billing in the films "High School Confidential!" and "Never Love a Stranger," but the new name did not seem to help. So he went to Italy for six years and played leading roles in a dozen low-budget, equally low-quality films.

Wherever he lived, he continued to exhibit a volatile temper. In 1962, after a series of street brawls in Rome, he told Associated Press: "I'm not a nice, clean-cut American kid at all. I'm just a human being. Those things just happen."

Barrymore continued acting sporadically, but the most productive period of his career had ended. None of his work attracted a fraction of the praise accorded his father, aunt, uncle or his young daughter.

Drew Barrymore, who was the product of his third marriage and who battled her own demons as a young performer in Hollywood, said on her father's death: "He was a cool cat. Please smile when you think of him."

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