Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"An unbelievable number of pictures."

I came across an interesting 1937 telegram about all 3 Barrymores :

In terms of film production, as Mr B the elder's film career began in 1911, it would be difficult nowadays to attain the 200+ films he completed during his 42 year filmic career. It would be nigh on impossible to make 40+ in one year with any quality at all as Biograph did in the teens, and as Lionel did in 1913.

But even after his feature film roles began, Mr B was far more prolific than his siblings, and not only for Metro Goldwyn Mayer, the studio with whom he signed in 1926 (and with whom he remained until his death in 1954). He would be loaned out at great expense for the borrowing studio when MGM felt willing to let him work for others. Another note post 1938 disablement mentions that MGM kept their valuable and loyal character star busy about 50 weeks a year.

Now, it's true Ethel was not as well known to the film-only viewer, but it is not necessarily true she was not very famous.  Hard to believe,  but it was not John or Lionel's health reported on huge lighted  signs, but their sister's.  Lionel's divorce did make front page news in 1922 in at least one paper, but Ethel Barrymore was very famous from her teens. Then, on her second attempt in films, she would go on to win an Oscar for The Corn is Green (much after the 1932 romp with her brothers), making her and Lionel the only brother and sister winners in Oscar history.

The note does show the sense Ethel was perhaps a little past her best, but she would prove all doubters wrong. John would indeed get the above rate for a while longer, but Lionel, MGM's longest-term ever signing, would continue to draw at least a guaranteed  $3000 a week until his death, with the occasional bonus from other studios, carefully parceled out to him to avoid tax liens. Both brothers died owing taxes,  however,  thanks to bad financial planning and a laissez-faire attitude about both taxea and money.

I've learned more than I wanted to about film producing and performer financials, especially in the studio contract years. Also interesting,  the agent Mr. B mentions in We Barrymores, Morris (Maury) Small, represented Ethel in the 30s as well.  La Barrymore went through a great number of agents,  however, always in search of the best deal.

Here's to you all, Lionel, Ethel, and John-- Mike, Ee-thel, and Jake!

No comments:

Post a Comment