Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dear John(s)

As dishy as John Drew Barrymore was (before the whole drinking, drugging, derelict thing kicked in), we think the senior Barrymore couldn't be beat in the looks department when he was a dashing young thing himself.

He also displayed a refreshing willingness to explore his feminine side...

...before settling into his most famous role as Hollywood's favorite ham.

Somewhat remarkably, given his lifelong penchant for hard living and harder drinking, John Barrymore made it to age 60. Although his last wishes were to be cremated, his family's Catholic faith determined that he be interred in Philadelphia's Mount Vernon Cemetary. A conflicting, ghoulish, Hollywood Babylon-worthy tale appears on the Internet Movie Database site:

[John Drew Barrymore's father], the legendary actor John Barrymore, had left specific instructions in his will that his body be cremated and his ashes be laid to rest next to his father and mother in the family cemetery in Philadelphia. However, due to the fact that his brother Lionel Barrymore and sister Ethel Barrymore were Catholic and cremation had not at that time been sanctioned by the Catholic Church, the executors (Lionel and Mervyn LeRoy) pulled some fancy judicial manipulations, and Barrymore's remains were entombed at Calvary Cemetery, in Los Angeles after his death in 1942. In 1980, Barrymore decided -- after hearing a rendition of "The Cremation of Sam McGee" -- that it was high time to have his Dad cremated. He recruited his son, John Blyth Barrymore, to help. The gravediggers removed the "Good Night, Sweet Prince" marble monument from the front of the crypt, and the smell assaulted them. Barrymore had been dead for 38 years, and the body was still decomposing. The casket was solid bronze, and although it had a glass liner, it must have cracked or something, because the fluids from the body had leaked out and had formed a kind of glue between the casket and the floor of the crypt. They muscled the coffin up on the hand truck and wheeled it down a long ramp to a van they had waiting outside. The body fluids were leaking out all the way. They cruised over to the Odd Fellows Cemetery, which had the nearest crematorium, and made the cremation preparations. John Jr. insisted on having a look inside the casket before they left. After viewing the body, he came out white as a sheet and crying. He got in the car and said to his son, "Thank God I'm drunk; I'll never remember it." John Blyth Barrymore got a graphic description later from one of the eye-witnesses. Apparently, all the bouncing around during the move had sort of busted the jaw apart from what was left of the head. They were convinced it was John Barrymore by the very high quality dental work, and because, although most of the flesh on the nose had decomposed, an incredibly long nose cartilage remained.

Vintage stage photos of John Barrymore found HERE.


  1. Oh kay....thank you for that.

    I'll be um dieting the rest of the night now.

  2. Stop! I’ve had enough coffin stories for one day!

  3. Jason - Better than Dexatrim, and better still, not endorsed by that annoying Deirdre Hall.

    MJ - That story is so sad, but you gotta wonder: how the heck did his widow even think that he'd fit into a standard-sized coffin?!

  4. There are stories of women swooning, dropping lifeless in their seats, when he appeared in his revealing tights as Hamlet.

  5. How gruesome and yet compelling! On a dare I once stuck my face into the airholes of Douglas Fairbanks Sr.'s crypt at the Hollywood Cemetery and will never forget the dank reek of mothballs and rotting wet wool.