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Person Facts

Known Credits: 27

Birthday: 1879-08-15

Day of Death: 1959-06-18

Place of Birth: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.

Adult Actor: False

Official Homepage: -

Also Known As

  • Ethel Mae Blythe

Ethel Barrymore

Biography

Ethel Barrymore was the second of three children seemingly destined for the actor's life of their parents Maurice and Georgiana. Maurice Barrymore had emigrated from England in 1875, and after graduating from Cambridge in law had shocked his family by becoming an actor. Georgiana Drew of Philadelphia acted in her parents' stage company. The two met and married as members of Augustin Daly's company in New York. They both acted with some of the great stage personalities of the mid Victorian theater of America and England. The Barrymore children were born and grew up in Philadelphia. Though older brother Lionel Barrymore began acting early with his mother's relatives in the Drew theater company, Ethel, after a traditional girl's schooling, planned on becoming a concert pianist.

The lure of the stage was perhaps congenital, however. She made her debut as a stage actress during the New York City season of 1894. Her youthful stage presence was at once a pleasure, a strikingly pretty and winsome face and large dark eyes that seemed to look out from her very soul. Her natural talent and distinctive voice only reinforced the physical presence of someone destined to command any role set before her. After the opportunity to appear on the London stage with English great Henry Irving in "The Bells" (1897) and later in "Peter the Great" (1898), she returned to New York to star in the Clyde Fitch play "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines" (1901) (produced by her friend and benefactor Charles Frohman), which brought her initial American acclaim. Lead roles, such as Nora in Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House" (1905) and starring in "Alice By the Fire" (also 1905), "Mid-Channel" (1910) and "Trelawney of the Wells" (1911) proved her popularity as a warm and charismatic star of American stage. In the meantime she married stockbroker Russell Griswold Colt in 1909 and gave birth to three children while continuing her acting career.

Although the stage was her first love, she did heed the call of the silver screen, and though not achieving the matinée idol image that younger brother John Barrymore garnered in silent movies after similar chemistry on stage, she won over audiences from her first film appearance in The Nightingale (1914). However, her early film roles, steady through 1919, took a back seat to continued stage triumphs: "Declassee" (1919), her impassioned Juliet in "Romeo and Juliet" (1922), "The Second Mrs. Tanqueray" (1924) and, especially, "The Constant Wife" (1926).

She harnessed her considerable talents in the role of an activist as well, being a bedrock supporter of the Actors Equity Association and, in fact, had been a prominent figure in the actors strike of 1919. By 1930 she was entering middle age and her movie roles reflected this. Except for Rasputin and the Empress (1932) with her brothers, the roles were elderly mothers and grandmothers, dowager ladies and spinster aunts. Perhaps wisely she put off Hollywood for over a decade, with stage work that included her most endearing role in "The Corn is Green" (a tour that lasted from 1940 to 1942). She finally moved to Southern California in 1940.

When she passed away in 1959, she was interred near her brothers at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles.

Acting
1974 That's Entertainment! as Herself - at Banquet (archive footage) (uncredited)
1957 Johnny Trouble as Katherine Chandler
1954 Young at Heart as Aunt Jessie Tuttle
1954 Climax! - (1 episode)
1953 The Story of Three Loves as Mrs. Hazel Pennicott
1953 General Electric Theater - (1 episode)
1952 Omnibus - (1 episode)
1952 Just for You as Alida De Bronkhart
1952 Deadline - U.S.A. as Margaret Garrison
1951 It's a Big Country as Mrs. Brian Patrick Riordan
1951 The Secret of Convict Lake as Granny
1951 Kind Lady as Mary Herries
1949 Pinky as Miss Em
1949 The Red Danube as Mother Superior ('Mother Auxilia')
1949 That Midnight Kiss as Abigail Trent Budell
1949 The Great Sinner as Grandmother Ostrovsky
1948 Portrait of Jennie as Miss Spinney
1948 Moonrise as Grandma
1947 The Paradine Case as Lady Sophie Horfield
1947 Night Song as Miss Willey
1947 Moss Rose as Lady Margaret Drego
1947 The Farmer's Daughter as Agath Morley
1945 The Spiral Staircase as Mrs. Warren
1944 None But the Lonely Heart as Ma Mott
1932 Rasputin and the Empress as Czarina Alexandra
1929 The Academy Awards - (3 episodes)
1926 Camille as Olympe