American actor with a sporadic career, the son of stage and screen legend John Barrymore. His father and mother, actress Dolores Costello divorced in his infancy and he claimed to remember seeing his father only once. His mother attempted to keep him from the acting life, sending him to St. John’s Military Academy and intending that he attend college. But young Barrymore rebelled and signed a movie contract at 17. He chose not to apprentice in the theatre in small roles, leaping blindly into leading roles then bailing out of them at least twice before ever managing to make his stage debut. Although his family, especially his aunt Ethel Barrymore, was humiliated by the embarrassment these failures brought to the Barrymore name, he received encouragement from them as well. His rebellious nature began to cause him great personal and professional difficulty. He had repeated scrapes with the law and was jailed numerous times for drunkenness and spousal abuse. (He had married actress Cara Williams.) In 1958 he changed his name to John Drew Barrymore and had a brief resurgence in film, appearing in leading roles in several not completely uninteresting projects. But his social behavior continued to derail any professional progress and he had further incarcerations in the Sixties for drug activity. Although he continued to appear occasionally onscreen, he became more and more reclusive, eventually disappearing into the wilderness to live a mystical existence that has also been described as derelict. He was long estranged from his family, including his son John Blyth Barrymore (who has repeated many of his father’s career and personal patterns) and daughter, actress Drew Barrymore.
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