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Ethel Barrymore

“To be a success an actress must have the face of Venus, the brain of Minerva, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of Macaulay, the figure of Juno and the hide of a rhinoceros.”



Born into a long-established American theatrical family, Ethel Barrymore dreamed of being a concert pianist, but found that acting was virtually the only profession for which she was truly qualified — and which ensured a livable income. Like all her forebears, she worked her way up the theatrical ladder from bits to full leads. Though she was quite popular on the road and in Europe, her first full-fledged Broadway hit was Clyde Fitch’s 1901 play Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines, in the virtuoso role of a supercilious woman of wealth. Her later attempts to excel in the Classics were to no avail; from Captain Jinks on, she was confined to glamorous roles, usually comic in nature, specially written for her. Disdaining movies for the most part (several silent films notwithstanding) Ethel was intrigued at the notion of working with her celebrated brothers John and Lionel Barrymore, but the film vehicle chosen by MGM, Rasputin and the Empress (1932), showed only Lionel to advantage. After… read more


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