Diana Barrymore

Diana Blanche Barrymore Blythe (March 3, 1921 – January 25, 1960), known professionally as Diana Barrymore, was an American film and stage actress.

Diana Barrymore
Barrymore in 1942
Diana Blanche Barrymore Blythe

(1921-03-03)March 3, 1921
DiedJanuary 25, 1960(1960-01-25) (aged 38)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Cause of deathAlcohol and drug overdose
Resting placeWoodlawn Cemetery, Bronx
Alma materAmerican Academy of Dramatic Arts
OccupationStage and film actress
Years active1939–1959
Bramwell Fletcher
(m. 1942; div. 1946)

John Robert Howard II
(m. 1947; div. 1948)

Robert Wilcox
(m. 1950; died 1955)
Parent(s)John Barrymore
Blanche Oelrichs

Early life

Born Diana Blanche Barrymore Blythe in New York City, New York, Diana Barrymore was the daughter of renowned actor John Barrymore and his second wife, poet Blanche Oelrichs. She was stepdaughter of Dolores Costello, half-sister of actors John Drew Barrymore, and Dolores Barrymore, also aunt to actress Drew Barrymore. She had two older half brothers, Leonard Jr. and Robin, from her mother's first marriage to Leonard Moorhead Thomas.

Her parents' tumultuous marriage lasted only a few years and they divorced when she was four. Educated in Paris, France and at schools in New York City, she had little contact with her estranged father, a situation exacerbated by her mother's bitterness towards him. Her parenting was left to boarding schools and nannies.


While in her teens, Barrymore decided to study acting and enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Because of the prominence of the Barrymore name in the world of theatre, her move onto the stage began with much publicity including a 1939 cover of Life. At age 19, Barrymore made her Broadway debut and the following year made her first appearance in motion pictures with a small role in a Warner Bros. production. In 1942, she signed a contract with Universal Studios who capitalized on her Barrymore name with a major promotion campaign billing her as "1942's Most Sensational New Screen Personality." However, alcohol and drug problems soon emerged and negative publicity from major media sources dampened her prospects. After less than three years in Hollywood, and six significant film roles at Universal, Barrymore's personal problems ended her film career.[1]

Her father died in 1942 from cirrhosis of the liver after years of alcoholism. Barrymore's life became a series of alcohol- and drug-related disasters marked by bouts of severe depression that resulted in several suicide attempts and extended sanitarium stays. She squandered her movie earnings and her inheritance from her father's estate, and when her mother died in 1950, Diana was left with virtually nothing from a once-vast family fortune. In 1949, she was offered her own television talk show, The Diana Barrymore Show. The show was all set to broadcast but Barrymore didn't show up and the program was immediately canceled. Had she gone through with the show, it would have been the first talk show in television history, predating Joe Franklin by two years. In the early 1950s she and third husband toured Australia and upon returning to the United States, she expressed her dislike for the continent.[2]

After three bad marriages to addicted and sometimes abusive men, in 1955 Barrymore had herself hospitalized for nearly a full year of treatment. In 1957, she published her autobiography, Too Much, Too Soon, with help and encouragement from ghostwriter Gerold Frank, which included her portrait painted by Spurgeon Tucker. In July 1957, she further promoted the book by appearing on Mike Wallace's TV show The Mike Wallace Interview.[3] The following year Warner Bros. made a film with the same title starring Dorothy Malone as Barrymore and Errol Flynn as her father.

Personal life and death

Barrymore was married three times. Her first was to actor Bramwell Fletcher, who was 17 years her senior and had appeared with her father in his 1931 classic Svengali. Then she married John Howard, a tennis player. Her last marriage was to actor Robert Wilcox. The marriage to Wilcox ended when he died of a heart attack while traveling by train in June 1955, at the age of 45.[4]

Barrymore died on January 25, 1960, and is interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York, next to her mother.[5] Her death has been attributed to a drug overdose, though her autopsy failed to find a cause of death and found no indication of overdose.[6]


Year Title Role Notes
1941 Manpower Bit part
1942 Eagle Squadron Anne Partridge
1942 Between Us Girls Caroline Bishop
1942 Nightmare Leslie Stafford
1943 Frontier Badmen Claire
1943 Fired Wife Eve
1944 Ladies Courageous Nadine Shannon
1944 The Adventures of Mark Twain Undetermined role Uncredited
1950 D.O.A. Unconfirmed bit part Uncredited
1951 The Mob Bit part Uncredited


  • The Diana Barrymore Show (1949) (*cancelled as she didn't show up)
  • The Ed Sullivan Show (? 1950)
  • The Mike Wallace Interview (1957)
  • New York Noir: Entertainment Press Conference (1957)
  • The Ben Hecht Show (1958)
  • Irv Kupcinet Show (1959)



  1. The Barrymore Brat by Nord Riley, October 3 1942, Collier's Weekly
  2. THE AGE "Diana Barrymore Dislikes Australia"; March 15, 1952
  3. "Diana Barrymore". The Mike Wallace Interview. Archived from the original on 7 April 2017. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  4. "Heart Attack On Train Fatal To Robert Wilcox". Sarasota Hearld-Tribune. June 12, 1955. Retrieved September 11, 2013.
    • M.J. Meaker, Sudden Endings, 13 Profiles in Depth of Famous Suicides(Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1964), p. 168-188: "You'll See, Mr. Atkinson: Diane Barrymore"
  5. "Autopsy Fails to Show Cause of Diana Barrymore's Death". Lodi News-Sentinel. January 27, 1960.
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