15 July 2010

A Profile in Greatness

Let me tell you about John Barrymore. This guy. This guy is un-fucking-believable. He gives a great performance in every picture of his I've seen. I've already touched on his talent in When a Man Loves, and he brings similar energy and gravity to Beau Brummel, with equally superb results. His portrayal of the eponymous villain in 1931's Svengali was easily the best part of the picture -- in a film full of uncomfortably stiff acting, Barrymore's delightfully over the top performance really carries the whole movie.In the all-star bonanzas of Grand Hotel and Dinner at Eight, John Barrymore delivers a pair of memorable performances, his portrayal of a tragically forgotten silent film star in the latter picture being particularly moving. He is similarly great as Mercutio in the 1936 production of Romeo and Juliet (this in spite of the fact that he, along with just about every other member of the cast, was at least twice as old as the character he was playing, if not more so).

The fact that John Barrymore turned in such great performances throughout his film career becomes even more impressive when one remembers that he was partying like the proverbial Rock Star the whole time, raising the devil with his frequent drinking buddies W.C. Fields and Errol Flynn. It seems that this lifestyle caused trouble for him as early as 1933, as he apparently had such difficulty remembering his lines that he resorted to using cue-cards placed off camera and around the set -- of course, the guy is so good at what he does that it's impossible to tell.

On and off the screen, John Barrymore is one of my favorite actors. He had talent that I can only dream of having, and maintained a lifestyle that I can only dream of emulating. To put it simply, John Barrymore: a pretty cool guy.

[Image Sauce]

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