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Diana Barrymore


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Diana Barrymore (March 3, 1921 – January 25, 1960) was an American film and stage actress.

Early life

Born Diana Blanche Barrymore Blythe in New York City, New York, she was the daughter of renowned actor John Barrymore and his second wife, poet Blanche Oelrichs. She was stepdaughter of Dolores Costello and half-sister of actor John Drew Barrymore.

Her parents' tumultuous marriage lasted only a few years and they divorced when she was four. Educated in Paris, France and at schools in New York City, she had little contact with her estranged father, a situation exacerbated by her mother's bitterness towards him. Her parenting was left to boarding schools and nannies.


While in her teens, Barrymore decided to study acting and enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Because of the prominence of the Barrymore name in the world of theatre, her move onto the stage began with much publicity including a 1939 cover of Life. At age 19, Barrymore made her Broadway debut and the following year made her first appearance in motion pictures with a small role in a Warner Bros. production. In 1942, she signed a contract with Universal Studios who capitalized on her Barrymore name with a major promotion campaign billing her as "1942's Most Sensational New Screen Personality." However, alcohol and drug problems soon emerged and negative publicity from major media sources dampened her prospects with widely read magazines such as Collier's Weekly, writing about her conduct in an October 1942 article titled "The Barrymore Brat". After less than three years in Hollywood, and five significant film roles, Barrymore's personal problems ended her film career.

Her father died in 1942 from cirrhosis of the liver after years of alcoholism. Barrymore's life became a series of alcohol and drug related disasters marked by bouts of severe depression that resulted in several suicide attempts and extended sanitarium stays. She squandered her movie earnings and her inheritance from her father's estate, and when her mother died in 1950 she was left with virtually nothing from a once-vast family fortune.

After three bad marriages to addicted and sometimes abusive men, in 1955 Barrymore had herself hospitalized for nearly a full year of treatment. In 1957, she published her autobiography, Too Much, Too Soon which included her portrait painted by Spurgeon Tucker, and the following year Warner Bros. made a film with the same title starring Dorothy Malone as Barrymore and Errol Flynn as her father.

Personal life and death

Barrymore was married three times, first to actor Bramwell Fletcher, who was seventeen years her senior. Then she married John Howard, a tennis player. Her last marriage was to a handsome but abusive man named Robert Wilcox. Diana might have found Wilcox to be the love of her life, but he nearly beat her to death in one of his assaults. The marriage to Wilcox ended only when he died of a heart attack at 45 in 1955.

Barrymore died from an overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills on January 25, 1960 and is interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York, next to her mother.

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