STAGE AND SCREEN’S ROYAL FAMILY: THE BARRYMORES

Drew Barrymore by David Shankbone

Drew Barrymore by David Shankbone

Drew Barrymore has been working regularly on Turner Classic movies with Robert Osborne, discussing and introducing classic movies. Her face has changed in recent years. Now she looks like a Barrymore.

John Barrymore as Hamlet, 1922

John Barrymore as Hamlet, 1922

That’s no small thing because she is this generation’s only representative of what is the longest running act in show business.

Several families have two or three generations of actors and a couple of families have three or more generations of directors. Only one has been on stage and screen for more than 100 years, the royal family of stage and screen, the Barrymores.

As of this writing, Drew Barrymore is her generation’s only working actor. John Drew, Diana, Drew, and John Blyth are the only descendants of John Barrymore who became actors.

Garry and I were trying to guess how many acting dynasties include at least three generations, in which at least one family member in each generation has done something noteworthy as an actor. Not as a director, producer, or writer. Only actors.

dynasties_01

Define “noteworthy” please!

It started when we noticed a Capra listed as a crew member of an NCIS episode. Garry wondered if this was a fourth generation of Capras. There was a Frank Capra I, II and III, so it seemed likely to be members of the same family. The Capras are directors. No actors, so they don’t count for the purposes of this post.

Reality shows do not count. Non-speaking and cameo roles do not count, nor does work as a TV announcer, talk show host, or sportscaster. Mere celebrity does not count. Only acting.

The Barrymore genealogy is complicated because it is extensive. There have many marriages and a slew of children. Most of the men in the family are named John, which doesn’t make it easier to follow the trail.

Other acting families are even more confusing. Actors marry each other, divorce frequently, and have children by many partners. They adopt and raise children from former marriages and from spouses’ former relationships. It’s hard to keep track and sometimes, relationships intertwine to such a degree it’s impossible to say to which family a particular person belongs. Not unlike European royal families.

If you count only acting families — and only family members who have had a real acting careers — the number of entries in the field are manageable. You’ll quite a few 2-generation families. A handful of 3-generation families.

Only one family has four generations of working actors.

The Barrymore family.

Barrymore family tree graphic

A very simplified Barrymore family tree

Drew Barrymore is the family’s current representative.There are many other family members, but none are acting, as of this writing. It doesn’t mean they or their offspring won’t enter the family business in the future. It’s quite a legacy. Talk about family pressure.

If you want to see the other families, or at least most of them, you can look them up. Google “multi-generational acting families“. Wikipedia has a good write-up, but omits significant British families.

This link takes you to an alphabetical list of show business families. The intricacies of the marriages, divorces and resulting complex relationships will make your head spin.

The Barrymore family reigns. No other family comes near the prominence or longevity of this family of actors.

Wikipedia’s entry on the Barrymores includes actors and non-actors. There are quite a few family members who are not in show business. The acting family members are in blue.



Categories: Celebrities, Entertainment, film, History, Media, Movies, Show Business

Tags: , , , , , ,

25 replies

  1. Informative post. DB is superb – I loved her in ’50 First Dates’.

    Like

  2. That was interesting. I only know the Redgrave family, but not sure how many generations of actors they might have.

    Like

  3. We used to listen to a record of Lionel doing reciting (an abbreviated) Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ when we were kids. It was very good.. Yet I have not seen most of their work.Surely a lot of it was on stage/theatre.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Fondas–Henry, then Jane and Peter and now Bridget.

    Like

  5. Interesting dive into the Barrymore family tree. I’ve never really given all that much thought to families with more than two generations of actors, so this was a fascinating post. Thanks for the edutainment, Marilyn.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tippi Hedren’s granddaughter is in 50 Shades, so they are working on their 3rd generation.

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    • The Bridges are well into a third generation too as are the Douglas family, but Garry has rules about the level of achievement you need before HE counts you. His rules. He’s the maven 🙂

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      • I would be interested in reading a list of those rules.

        Liked by 1 person

        • The only one I know off the top of my head is that they have to have done something noteworthy. Garry judges that. Something good, not a cameo. A real performance. He gets to say. He is incredibly knowledgeable and it’s hard to argue with him. He’s tough. Soft spoken so people underestimate him, but he can argue me to a standstill. Not many people can.

          Like

        • My first rule is that almost all important trivia must be stored in your brain. Use of reference material lowers you in the movie maven pecking order. When we do the movie trivia show on WBZ-1030AM in Boston and the other “experts” check their computers for answers, my silent disdain is obvious. One of the downsides to my rule#1 is the high expectation from others. We once got a 3am call from a pal seeking the name of an obscure film. I’ve even corrected stars about their movie roles. Yes, I am ‘umble.

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          • Personally, my brain is increasingly similar to a very old swiss cheese.

            Like

          • I wish I could listen to that trivia show.

            Like

            • You can. It’s broadcast on the Internet. They get calls from all over the world. Sometimes I’m on it, too. I haven’t been for the past year because of all the heart surgery I had last year, but I’m getting better and hoping I can make the next show. WBZ Boston. The overnight between June 5 – 6. From midnight until around 3, sometimes 4 in the morning. We got snowed out of the last two shows, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be okay by June.

              Like

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