Thursday, April 13, 2017

Jack and Mike went up the hill…

…to buy a pair of nice trousers.

I kid. It seems to be a truth that, tuxedos (rented, borrowed, or otherwise) aside, Lionel Barrymore—the “Mike” of the title—did not spend an inordinate amount of time on his own concerned with his appearance, though at certain points in his life, possibly under the influence in particular of his second wife, he was capable of sporting quite nice duds. His brother, on the other hand, while at times similarly sloppy or careless, was more consistently groomed and tended to more fitted clothing. Now, all of this is OUT of character observations. Both were well-capable of fitting their characters’ duds as needed. A discussion of the difference between John and Lionel Barrymore’s very different hair looks and styling is a whole ‘nother thing, so let’s look briefly at the men and their varying degrees of sharpness:

Exhibit A: Older brother Lionel, circa 1914:

(Motion Picture Story News April 1914, when he had been appearing in films for 3 years)

Now, the angle of the shot is not helpful, but the collar is oddly loose, the tie somewhat indifferently knotted (this is pre-bowtie preference). Little brother Jack commented he thought Lionel deliberately chose to wear larger clothing, despite his general thinness for the vast majority of his adult life.  But the hair is neat, and though the suit itself, a three-piece one, may be a bit, er, checked, it’s workable. That pattern of cloth we will see again with Lionel.

Exhibit B: Younger brother John, age 9:

Not exactly fair, but images of Lionel younger than 19 are very scarce! The tie is not well-knotted, but the collar fits and the stick pin is quite natty. The jacket may be over big, but hey, he’s nine!

Exhibit C: Mike & Jack,1905:

Both boys clean up beautifully! Lionel had yet to run off to Paris with new bride Doris Rankin (where he gained at least an extra 125 pounds in three years!), and the brothers were supporting sister Ethel on Broadway (not in the same play at the same time). Jack’s suit seems nicely cut, his collar is a little more, well, “modern, and he wears a long tie. Mike’s small tie is flat, his collar tall and probably indifferently stiff, and his coat seems too big for him.  In these photos you see the similarities and dramatic differences in the brothers’ appearance and inheritance from mom and dad. Jack sports a lovely mustache, and Lionel’s typical shaved look is at least well-presented. They differ in hair parting, with Lionel’s indifferently combed on one side. Handsome gents!

Exhibit D: Mike and Jack, 1917:

In this case, Lionel seems to have the better suit, with a nice watch chain across it. John looks very young and his own suit sports an interestingly large pocket—note the difference of ties, but in this (posed) case during the time of their hit Broadway show Peter Ibbetson, both brothers look natty—and their hair is all combed down! They still don’t look terrifically alike to me, but well… bonus points for the three-piece suits, gentlemen! (Lionel had lost all his Paris-era weight well before 1917).

Exhibit E: Mike, 1915 (announcing his role in The Romance of Elaine serial):

Trim, fit, and even looking well-dressed and groomed, this is a great picture of Lionel Barrymore at what would be his “romantic” height in films (if he ever really had one, and he did get the girl in several silent films!). The tie is flat and tight, the collar and jacket fit, and whoever managed his unruly hair did an excellent job.

Exhibit F: Mike and Jack take in Don Juan, 1927:

My favorite picture of the boys so far, with their apparent sartorial style on display. Even in his tuxedo (which he may or may not have owned—he borrowed or rented one for his Oscar win in 1931), Lionel manages to look larger and less “couture” than Jack does. The ties are the standout difference, and Lionel’s jacket, even unbuttoned, seems larger in the shoulders than it need be, while Jack’s looks tailored, pressed, etc. Both look casually bored at the event, but it’s good to see them together—this was after a 3-year painful break in their friendship after Lionel’s second marriage. To me, they look remarkably alike.

Penultimate exhibit: “We Three” cover

The cover of Jack’s second “autobiography” coincided with the filming of Rasputin and the Empress (1932), and this is part of a series taken where Ethel was staying, to show off John Barrymore, Jr. The boys have hands in pockets (a trait Jack accused Lionel of having), both wear long ties and both have decently combed hair. But—look at the trouser difference, and while Lionel’s vest is clearly well-fitted, the volume of fabric in his jacket and his trousers likely means a very loosely-cut suit.

Last exhibit of this case: Uncle Mike, Diana, and Daddy John, 1942 Un

Mike and Jack and Diana, ten years after the above photo was taken. Lionel’s preferred bowtie is haphazardly in place, Jack’s long tie, longish collar, and dark suit is in place, and though both are probably tired out, Lionel looks ten times more rumpled than Jack, and most certainly needs a haircut! He is also wearing a shirt with button cuffs, not cufflinks—I’m not sure when that became a regular innovation, but I’m sure I can figure it out—or someone out there can help me. Given his physical deterioration, Lionel was not trying very hard to wear complicated clothing.

So I’ll stop there, with the Brothers Barrymore and their infernal need for publicly acceptable clothing. John was more prone to wearing something like a wide-striped suit jacket and slippers, while Lionel seemed happy to wear what was acceptable and not tight, even before his physical limitations became prohibitive. Now, in films, both men could REALLY wear beautiful clothing beautifully (e.g., Lionel in Enemies of Women, The Eternal City, Jack in any number of silents, Grand Hotel, etc), but that’s another thing. 

Okay, one more, in which the boys look more alike than not, from clothes to attitude:
1935--when Lionel picked up John at a train station during the Elaine era. (sorry, haven't cleaned it up! h/t HI and google!)

And here endeth post 2 of Lionel Birthday Blog Bash.

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