Monday, July 18, 2016


Because clearly I am not only a little ADHD from way before the term existed but also an exhaustive and committed researcher, I thought I would finally begin to document on line the work I've been doing on Lionel Barrymore, oldest of the "Royal Family" of Broadway and Hollywood, actor, director, writer, composer, artist, and all around reticent guy.
Lionel Barrymore, 1913--not looking VERY reticent

I began this trip in part because I wanted to look at his performance as Dr. Leonard B. Gillespie in the "Dr. Kildare" series of films begun in 1938, when he was beginning to appear in films in his wheelchair. From 1938 onward, Barrymore was rarely seen in a film in anything else but his wheelchair, with the occasional use of crutches now and then. I have a personal interest in disability studies myself, and noticing John Barrymore's brother used a wheelchair in films...and that he did this for over a dozen me intrigued.

Having embarked on the research by determining how to best "code" the Kildare/Gillespie films for usable academic content for an article on how the films' success may have helped change public attitudes about people in wheelchairs, then by getting all the films, I set out to watch them and code. I discovered much more than I expected, so of course, I began researching Lionel Barrymore--a LOT.

So, here we are: another blog so my blog on multiple sclerosis doesn't get bogged down with Barrymorish thoughts, regardless of how much people might like to be reminded being in a wheelchair does not mean the end, destruction, woe, etc., etc. I know when I have had to use wheelchairs (thanks to puckish and missing brain synapses in my motor cortex area), it has been an exercise in realizing how depressingly similar human reactions are to the disabled. The cane I used for two years was bad enough!

In this blog you will find not only my own musings, but some pretty well-researched information on all Lionel Barrymore's films, derived from online and other sources, and sometimes verified by my own viewing of his films. Neither AFI nor Wikipedia has a perfect filmography, but I've tried to correct some of the more egregious errors on Wiki. There is a page, right-side menu, of his filmography as best I can determine right now.  I will also add a very brief bio, as not only was Mr. Barrymore reticent with information, he had no problem changing facts or dates for whatever reason. His own "autobiography", We Barrymores, written with Cameron Shipp and a student/stenographer via long conversations, is only middling to fairly faithful to known facts--he gives April 12, 1878 for his birthdate, for example, when his birth certificate and WWI draft card indicate:
Lionel Barrymore's draft card; note birthdate given

Verifying Barrymore-biography for all three of the Royal Family--Lionel, Ethel, or John--is always something slippery and potentially hazardous to a researcher's health. While all three wrote biographies of a kind (John "wrote" 2), all three were private, regardless of media mania. On the other hand, things like verifying film roles is enjoyable because it means I've watched more Barrymore Brother films than almost anyone I know. That's a good thing, right?

Things I plan on developing as I go along: a filmography with at least one photo of each film; a "check-off" list for my few readers to follow along when I see a Lionel Barrymore film I had not seen before; some academic musings on LB's importance to disability imaging in WWII era-America; links to media such as mp3s of Barrymore's compositions and radio work; and hopefully some revelatory moments, of which there could be a few or none at all, if I don't get moving.

Please bear with me as I work out the kinks and links! I'm blogging as fast as I can...
My LB tattoo, from original through process to completed tat. Thx Matt at Dandyland, San Antonio!


  1. Enjoyable read! I loved seeing his draft card! Looking forward to more posts :)

    1. Thank you! I seem to have been the first person to have pulled it from the library site it was on! Proud of that find.

  2. I'm a long time Barrymore fan, primarily of John. If he seemed to be the Crown Prince of that acting family, then Lionel was perhaps more of a Baron or Duke. That said, viewing their films today and taking nothing away from John's talent, Lionel seems a naturalistic actor, i.e., he doesn't appear to be acting. I can name a few others from his time that were similar such as J. Farrell MacDonald and William Frawley (later "Fred Mertz" on I Love Lucy). But if John was a "better" actor, and his sister Ethel had a much more distinguished theater career, I found Lionel to be a much more interesting person than either of his siblings. This is perhaps a long-winded way of saying that I think he deserves a blog of his own because he did so much with his time. I hope this blog allows mp3 posts because LB left us a great deal of audio work including his music compositions. So congrats and let me know if I can help!

    1. Thanks Robert! I do have a page on this blog for audio work he did, and have posted a few things there. I appreciate all the help you've already given me! And I agree--though John was my first crush/interest in the Barrymores, I find Lionel at his best to be more natural usually than Jack, and a more intriguing person in his relentless pursuit of what he called three "spheres": acting, painting, and music. Thanks for visiting!