GREAT TIMES, GOOD TIMES: The Odyssey of Maurice Barrymore by James Kotsilibas-Davis

GREAT TIMES, GOOD TIMES: The Odyssey of Maurice Barrymore

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Theater-lovers who wade through these 35 relentlessly detailed chapters will never again think of M. H. Barrymore as merely the sire of Broadway's royal three--Jack, Ethel, and Lionel. They'll learn that Herbert Blyth, after childhood in India, rebellious English schooldays, and notoriety as a prizefighter Adonis, began stumbling into acting jobs and had to change his name to half-appease a horrified (the theater!) father and aunt. And they'll discover that ""Barry"" soon became a transatlantic matinee idol (he hated the label), married into America's First Family of the Theater--the Drews--and spent the rest of his life (cut short by syphilis) struggling to gain stature as a playwright. Relying on maximum research and minimum imagination, Kotsilibas-Davis pieces together all of Barrymore's productions, lawsuits, affairs, and Lambs' Club moods (liberal quotation from journalists of the period) and even reconstructs surprising chunks of dialogue, some of it pithy (wife Georgiana: ""I'm going to mass; you go to hell""), most of it starchy. A cast of thousands--Lily Langtry, Mme. Modjeska, Mark Twain, Grover Cleveland--joins the Barrymore-Drew clan to produce anecdotes in quantity, and all is told with unassailable literacy. But Kotsilibas-Davis doesn't dig much beneath the surface or try for the broader perspectives (the matinee-idol phenomenon, the dilemma of the Adonis-intellectual) that would justify the elephantine documentation. Thus, everything you could possibly want to know about Barrymore pere except: why he might deserve a 500-page biography.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Doubleday