Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy John Barrymore Awareness Day!

Oh sure, some people like to call it Valentine’s Day, poor misguided souls. They just need to be educated in the badassery that is “The Great Profile” – and you can be the one to do it! ! Show them this handy checklist to convince them to ditch the chubby kid with the arrows, and give flowers and candy in Jack’s name instead:

1. Best. Hamlet. Ever.

During the 1920s, Jack was regarded as the finest Shakespearean actor of his time, perhaps of all time. His performances of Hamlet and Richard III were religious experiences; the critic John Corbin marveled that “[t]he atmosphere of historic happening surrounded John Barrymore's appearance last night as the Prince of Denmark; it was unmistakable as it was indefinable. It sprang from the quality and intensity of the applause, from the hushed murmurs that swept the audience at the most unexpected moments, from the silent crowds that all evening long swarmed about the theatre entrance. It was nowhere-and everywhere. In all likelihood we have a new and lasting Hamlet.” (NYT, Nov 17 1922)

The only footage we have of Jack performing Hamlet is a two-strip Technicolor screen test made for a 1933 screen version, eventually aborted:

2. Rooftop Romance

Jack and brother Lionel (left) in 1917

October 1917 saw Jack occupying the top floor of an old four-story building in Greenwich Village. After he fixed up the apartment to his bohemian liking, he turned his attention to the roof. From Gene Fowler’s wonderful Good Night, Sweet Prince:

[He] planted cedars eight feet tall…[he] also installed white wisterias, arbor vitae, cherry trees, and grapevines…Mrs Nicholls [Jack’s landlady] returned to find a horticultural frenzy atop her house. She was somewhat amazed, but did not complain…for there was a startling yet weird beauty to Barrymore’s creation, and the man himself seemed so childishly content as he fed the birds on his “estate”.

3. Love, Love, Love

Jack & Dolores

Jack’s intelligence and charisma were legendary. Combined with darkly handsome good looks and an athlete’s build, he was the epitome of Lady Caroline Lamb’s “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”. He was married four times – one of those to the actress Dolores Costello – and had liaisons with Mary Astor, Jeanne Eagels, and Evelyn Nesbit, among others.

4. Ahoy There!

Captain Jack

Jack adored sailing more than anything in this world, and was quite accomplished at it.  When he wasn’t on board The Mariner, he lovingly furnished his home with model ships, navigation charts, even pieces of wrecks.  He would take to the sea for months at a time, keeping a detailed captain's log of his adventures and exploits.

5. King of the Retorts

Hepburn's debut film

The sheer number of brilliant quips and quotes from Jack is staggering.  He rivaled Oscar Wilde in pithiness and was sharp as a razor.  So many anecdotes are attributed to him that it’s hard to determine which ones are apocryphal, but this has always been one of my favorites (courtesy Anecdotage.com):

During the production of A Bill of Divorcement, Katharine Hepburn frequently quarreled with John Barrymore. When filming wrapped, she turned to her co-star and screamed, "Thank God I don't have to act with you anymore!" "I wasn't aware," Barrymore tartly replied, "that you ever had, darling."

There you have it.  Five great reasons why February 14th should be all about Jack!

How are you celebrating today?  


Kimberly J.M. Wilson said...

Like that retort to Hepburn. Still, I don't think I'm ready to replace Cupid with Jack.

Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

Perhaps he's an acquired taste? Plus, babies don't require as much whiskey. ;)

FlickChick said...

I love JB - and every day is JB day in my world! A lovable rogue, for sure!

Flapper Flickers + Silent Stanzas said...

That's my girl! =D

Laura said...

He's just so wonderful. So versatile: he was one of those rare actors who could make you laugh just as easily as he could make you cry. Why oh why was his 1933 Hamlet aborted?!