John Drew Barrymore was born as John Blyth Barrymore, Jr. on June 4, 1932 in Los Angeles, California. He was born into the elite Barrymore family of actors which included his father, John Barrymore, and his father’s siblings, Lionel and Ethel. His mother was Dolores Costello who also had show business ties. His parents divorced when John was around 3 years old sometime in 1935. He claimed (probably fallaciously) to have met his father only once. John and his cousin, Dirk Drew Davenport, went looking for adventure and enlisted in the United States Navy during World War II. Owing to their mature physical appearance, the military did not discover until several weeks later that the boys were under age. John then ran away at age 17 and signed a film contract, but he repeatedly abandoned leading roles and the major film career he wanted never materialized.
Due to the postwar ebullience of the times the movie industry was looking for new faces that could bring Hollywood to a new standard of glamour. John Barrymore came upon the scene at just the right time. Many felt that he was the actor who could recapture and redefine the glamour, skill, and galvanizing presence of an earlier day. Sadly his life was to become a study of unrecognized potential.
He changed his name to John Drew Barrymore in 1958 and had a brief resurgence in film, appearing in several leading roles. However, his personal life and social behavior obstructed any professional progress. During the 1960s, he was occasionally jailed for drug activity, public drunkenness, and spousal abuse.
Sadly his personal problems continued to impede his career when in the late 1960s; John accepted a major guest role as Lazarus in the Star Trek episode “The Alternative Factor”. He failed to show up (and was ultimately replaced at the last minute by actor Robert Brown); this resulted in SAG suspending Barrymore for six months.
John Barrymore married four times with each marriage producing one child. His marriages all ended in divorce. A list of his marriages includes:
• Cara Williams: married 1952, divorced 1959; son John Blyth Barrymore
• Gabriella Palazzoli: married October 11, 1960, divorced ; daughter Blyth Dolores Barrymore
• Ildiko Jaid Mako: married 6 March 1974, divorced; 9 February 1981; daughter Drew Barrymore
• Nina Wayne: marriage date unknown, divorced; daughter Brahma (Jessica) Blyth Barrymore
Although he did continue to appear occasionally on screen, he became more and more reclusive. John Drew became a derelict apparently suffering from many of the same physical and mental problems that had destroyed his father. He became estranged from his family, including his children, his lifestyle continued to worsen while his physical and mental health suffered. In 2003, his daughter Drew moved him near her home despite their estrangement, paying his medical bills until his death from cancer. He was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to television. He died November 29, 2004 at the age of 72 years old.
His list of works includes:
The Sundowners (1950)
High Lonesome (1950)
The Big Night (1951)
While the City Sleeps (1956)
The Shadow on the Window (1957)
High School Confidential (1958)
Never Love a Stranger (1958)
Night of the Quarter Moon (1959)
Ti aspetterò all’inferno (1960)
The Night They Killed Rasputin (1960)
The Cossacks (1960)
The Pharaoh’s Woman (1960)
The Trojan Horse (1961)
Pontius Pilate (1962)
The Centurion (1962)
Invasion 1700 (1963)
Weapons of War (1963)
The Keeler Affair (1963)
Death on the Four Poster (1964)
War of the Zombies (1964)
Crimine a due (1965)
Gunsmoke TV episode – One Killer on Ice (aired 1/23/1965)
The Clones (1973)
Baby Blue Marine (1976)