The Barrymore Family Reunion – 1932
Here is the early 20th century’s royal family of acting, the Barrymore’s, Lionel, Ethel and John.
Each a star in their own right, first on the stage and later in films. Yet the trio only appeared in one movie together, Rasputin and the Empress (1932).
The Clan Barrymore
When John, Ethel and Lionel Barrymore came together to play in M-G-M’s “Rasputin”, it made possible the first reunion of the entire family. Above photo shows the Barrymore reunion in Hollywood. Left to right- front row: Mrs. Lionel Barrymore (Irene Fenwick), holding John Blythe, son of John Barrymore; Lionel Barrymore, Ethel Barrymore, Mrs. John Barrymore (Dolores Costello) with Ethel Dolores Barrymore, her daughter; and Ethel Barrymore Colt, daughter of Ethel Barrymore. In rear are left to right: John Barrymore Colt (left) and his brother, Samuel Colt, with John Barrymore standing between the two. credit: Acme 9/20/32
This photograph was taken at John Barrymore’s home in early September 1932.
Interestingly before this film, the three actors had never even appeared together in the same play.
Rasputin and the Empress as the film was re-titled, marked Ethel Barrymore’s (1879-1959) first talking film. Her stage popularity was such that she wouldn’t appear in another film until 1944 (None But The Lonely Heart). After 1944 Ethel would appear regularly in motion pictures, making 20 more movies until her retirement in 1957.
After MGM signed Ethel Barrymore to appear in Rasputin, brother Lionel Barrymore (1878-1954) was asked to comment and said, “Great! And tell me what poor benighted and unlucky individual is to direct this opus in which all three of us are to act together?” Continue reading
The beautiful Dolores Costello (1903-1979) was nicknamed “The Goddess of The Silent Screen.”
Dolores’s father, Maurice Costello was a Broadway stage and early silent screen star, and her mother was stage actress Mae Costello. With that parentage, and her natural beauty, Dolores had access to enter motion pictures in New York at the age of six in 1909. After 1915 she took a break from films for the next eight years. She did some modeling and appeared on the stage. Famous illustrator James Montgomery Flagg who had used Dolores as a model described her beauty as the most perfect for his illustrations. Dolores returned to the screen briefly for some bit parts in 1923.
Dolores had a fairy tale rise to stardom after being “discovered” in Chicago in April 1925 by Jack Warner of Warner Bros., who was sitting in the audience watching Dolores in the chorus of George White’s Scandals. A screen test followed, and she was signed to a motion picture contract.
In just under eight months after her arrival in Hollywood, Dolores appeared in a few supporting roles and then landed a big starring role opposite the legendary John Barrymore in The Sea Beast in 1926.
John Barrymore reportedly said of Dolores, “I have just seen the most beautiful woman in the world. I shall not rest or eat until I have seen her again.”
Barrymore and Costello appeared in a couple of films together and were married in 1928. The couple had two children, John Jr. and Dolores. Their marriage was tumultuous and they divorced in 1935.
Even though she had a lisp, Costello made a successful transition to sound films. Her most notable starring role was as Isabel, the widowed mother in Orson Welles 1942 drama, The Magnificent Ambersons. Her final film appearance was in 1943. Dolores spent the remainder of her life running an avocado ranch in Fallbrook, CA near San Diego.