John Drew Barrymore

John Drew Barrymore (born John Blyth Barrymore Jr.; June 4, 1932 – November 29, 2004) was an American film actor and member of the Barrymore family of actors, which included his father, John Barrymore, and his father's siblings, Lionel and Ethel. He was the father of four children, including actor John Blyth Barrymore and actress Drew Barrymore. Diana Barrymore was his half-sister from his father's second marriage.

John Drew Barrymore
From a Schlitz Playhouse of Stars presentation, 1953
John Blyth Barrymore

(1932-06-04)June 4, 1932
DiedNovember 29, 2004(2004-11-29) (aged 72)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1949–1976
Cara Williams
(m. 1953; div. 1960)

Gabriella Palazzoli
(m. 1960; div. 1970)

Jaid Barrymore
(m. 1971; div. 1984)

Nina Wayne
(m. 1985; div. 1994)
Children4, including John Blyth and Drew Barrymore
Parent(s)John Barrymore
Dolores Costello

Early life

John Blyth Barrymore Jr. was born in Los Angeles, California to John Barrymore (born John Blyth) and Dolores Costello.[1][2] His parents separated when he was 18 months old, and he rarely saw his father afterward. Educated at private schools, he made his film debut at 17, billed as John Barrymore Jr.[1]

In July 1948, he made headlines when he ran away from his mother.[3]


Early films

Barrymore's film career began with a small role in The Sundowners (1950), a Western with Robert Preston.[4] As he was a minor he needed his mother's permission. His fee was $7,500.[5][6]

He was promoted to leading man in just his second movie, High Lonesome (1950), another Western. That was written and directed by Alan Le May who also wrote Barrymore's next film, Quebec (1951).[7]

He starred in The Big Night (1951), written and directed by Joseph Losey and was in Thunderbirds (1952) with John Derek at Republic.

In 1953 he was briefly jailed for failing to appear on three old traffic charges.[8]


Barrymore's films had not been particularly successful at the box-office. He moved into television, guest-starring on shows like Schlitz Playhouse and The 20th Century-Fox Hour . He did some TV movies The Reluctant Redeemer (1954) and The Adventures of Lt. Contee (1955) and appeared in several episodes of Matinee Theatre. In 1957, he directed an episode of Matinee Theatre, "One for All". "Television gives me the chance to do what movies didn't," he said.[9]

In 1955, Barrymore was sued by Lanny Budd Productions for not making a series of movies in Europe. Barrymore counter-sued.[10]

Barrymore returned to features with supporting parts in While the City Sleeps (1956), for director Fritz Lang, and The Shadow on the Window (1957). In 1957, he appeared in a production of Romeo and Juliet at the Pasadena Playhouse with Margaret O'Brien.[11] He guest starred in Playhouse 90 (the original production of The Miracle Worker), Climax!, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse and Wagon Train.

In 1958, he changed his middle name to Drew, although he had previously been credited in past works as Blyth. He had a supporting part in High School Confidential! (1958) at MGM, and the lead in Never Love a Stranger and MGM's interracial drama, Night of the Quarter Moon (1959) with Julie London.[12]

In December 1958, Barrymore was sentenced to three weekends in prison after a drunken public fight with his wife in a carpark.[13]

In January 1959, his ex-wife sued for non payment of alimony.[14] In March 1959, he was arrested for suspected hit and run drunk driving.[15] In October 1959, he quit the touring company of Look Homeward, Angel after a week and a half of rehearsals.[16]


Barrymore journeyed to Italy to star in The Cossacks (1960) with Edmund Purdom. The actor stayed in Europe for the next few years. He and Purdom were reunited on The Night They Killed Rasputin (1960), with Barrymore playing Felix Yusupov.

Barrymore starred in I'll See You in Hell (1960) with Eva Bartok, The Pharaohs' Woman (1961), The Centurion (1961), The Trojan Horse (1961) with Steve Reeves (Barrymore played Ulysses), Pontius Pilate (1961) with Jean Marais, Jeanne Crain and Basil Rathbone (Barrymore played Judas and Jesus), Invasion 1700 (1962) with Crain, and Arms of the Avenger (1963).

Barrymore went to England to appear in The Christine Keeler Story (1963) as Stephen Ward. In Italy he was in Natika (1963), Rome Against Rome (1964), Death on the Fourposter (1964), and A Game of Crime (1965).

Return to LA

Barrymore returned to Los Angeles. He announced he made 16 films abroad but "I'm not going to do anything bad any more. I feel I'm straightened out and down the block. Somewhere around the block I lost half my ego, so I don't work for applause."[17] He also said he had started to write scripts.

He guest starred on shows such as Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Run for Your Life,[18] The Road West, Jericho, and Dundee and the Culhane. He was also in TV movies like Winchester 73 (1967), and This Savage Land (1969).

Barrymore's social behavior obstructed any professional progress. In the 1960s, he was occasionally incarcerated for drug use, public drunkenness, and spousal abuse.[1][19] In 1964 he went to prison for possession of marijuana.[12]

In 1966, Barrymore was signed to play a guest role as Lazarus in the Star Trek episode "The Alternative Factor". However, he failed to show up (and was ultimately replaced at the last minute by actor Robert Brown), resulting in a SAG suspension of six months.[20]

Later years

After the SAG suspension was served to Barrymore in 1967, he sporadically worked on-screen, sometimes with a few years between appearances.

In 1967, he was imprisoned for possession of drugs following a car crash.[21] In 1969, he was again arrested for possession of drugs after another car accident.[22]

His final appearances included The Clones (1973), an episode of Kung Fu and Baby Blue Marine (1976).

His TV and film career ended permanently by 1976, although even before this point he became more and more reclusive. Barrymore suffered from the same addiction problems that had destroyed his father, and he became a derelict. He was estranged from his family, including his children, and his lifestyle continued to worsen as his physical and mental health deteriorated.[23][24]

In 2003, his daughter Drew moved him near her home, despite their estrangement. She paid his medical bills until his death from cancer the following year at age 72. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to television.

Personal life

All of Barrymore's marriages ended in divorce. His first marriage was to actress Cara Williams in 1952; they had one child, John Blyth Barrymore (b. 1954), before their divorce in 1959. A year later, in 1960, Barrymore married Gabriella Palazzoli. Their daughter, Blyth Dolores Barrymore, was born that same year. Their marriage lasted 10 years before ending in divorce in 1970.[25]

  • Cara Williams (1953–1959) (divorced) (1 child)
  • Gabriella Palazzoli (1960–1970) (divorced) (1 child)
    • Blyth Dolores Barrymore, born 1960
  • Ildiko Jaid Mako (1971–1984) (divorced) (1 child)
  • Nina Wayne (1985–1994) (divorced) (1 child)
    • Brahma (Jessica) Blyth Barrymore (1966–2014)[26]



  1. Oliver, Myrna (December 1, 2004). "John Drew Barrymore, 72; Troubled Heir to the Throne of the Royal Family of Acting". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  2. According to the State of California. California Birth Index, 1905-1995. Center for Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento, California. Searchable at (account required)
  3. JOHN BARRYMORE JR. PUTS ON RUNAWAY ACT. Los Angeles Times. July 20, 1948: 2.
  4. John Barrymore Jr. in Films. The New York Times. August 11, 1949: 26.
  5. John Barrymore Jr. Gets O.K. On Contract. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963); Chicago, Ill. [Chicago, Ill]June 3, 1949: 14.
  6. Barrymore Son Signs Film Contract to Begin at $150: Silent Star Mother Accompanies Youth to Court for Approval of New Career Terms. Los Angeles Times. June 3, 1949: 2.
  7. "John Drew Barrymore". The Independent. London.
  8. JOHN BARRYMORE JR. JAILED FOR IGNORING TRAFFIC TAGS Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif] April 28, 1953: 15.
  9. BARRYMORE JR. FINDS TV AIDS REAL ACTORS M P. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963); Chicago, Ill. [Chicago, Ill] June 30, 1957: sw18.
  10. Producer Counter-Sued by John Barrymore Jr. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]. July 8, 1955: 19.
  11. John Barrymore Jr., Margaret O'Brien Face Test in 'Romeo' Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times. May 5, 1957: E1.
  12. Obituaries; John Drew Barrymore, 72; Troubled Heir to the Throne of the Royal Family of Acting: Oliver, Myrna. Los Angeles Times. December 1, 2004: B.10.
  13. John Barrymore Jr. Is Jailed. The New York Times. January 1, 1958: 30.
  14. Barrymore's Alimony Lags, Ex-Wife Charges Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif] January 10, 1959: B8.
  15. John Barrymore Jr. Held in Hit-Run Case. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif] March 8, 1959: 32.
  16. BARRYMORE QUITS PLAY: Had Been Rehearsing in Tour of 'Look Homeward, Angel'. The New York Times. October 14, 1959: 51.
  17. John Barrymore Jr. Turning Out Scripts. Hedda Hoppers' Hollywood:. The Washington Post, Times Herald August 18, 1964: A25.
  18. John Barrymore Jr. Joins TV Episode. Los Angeles Times. (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif] January 18, 1966: c15.
  19. John Drew Barrymore, 72, of Acting Clan, The New York Times, December 1, 2004
  20. Solow, Herbert F. & Robert H. Justman "Inside Star Trek" ISBN 0-671-89628-8 pp. 201-202
  21. John Drew Barrymore Seized. The New York Times. (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y] April 21, 1967: 17.
  22. John Barrymore Jr. Seized on Drug Charge. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file); Chicago, Ill. [Chicago, Ill] August 6, 1969: a4.
  23. John Drew Barrymore Actor son of John Barrymore who exceeded even his father's off-screen excesses, The Independent obituary, December 1, 2004
  24. John Drew Barrymore dies, Sydney Morning Herald, November 30, 2004
  25. "John Drew Barrymore". The Independent. London. December 1, 2004. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  26. Alt.Film.Guide - Jessica Barrymore Found Dead: Daughter of John Drew Barrymore, Drew Barrymore Half-Sister
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