Toward the end of his life, master actor John Barrymore became an embarrassment: he was a classic drunken has-been who could neither pull it together nor pack it in. But this unusual biography spends most of its pages on Barrymore''s golden age in the 1920s and 1930s, describing in amazing pre-videotape detail his performances at the height of his powers, playing what may be the 20th century''s definitive Hamlet, along with Macbeth and other classical roles. Michael Morrison draws on books, memories, reviews, and other material to present painstaking line-by-line recreations of Barrymore''s most shining performances.
John Barrymore''s Richard III and Hamlet, first seen in New York during the 1919-20 and 1922-23 seasons, stand as high-water marks of twentieth-century Shakespearean interpretation. Michael Morrison reconstructs these historic performances through analysis of the production preparation, audience response, reviews, and memoirs. Tracing the Victorian and Edwardian antecedents of Shakespearean performance, this book situates Barrymore''s distinctive contribution in light of past and ensuing tradition. As well, it provides a biographical sketch of one of the most revered and tragic actors of the twentieth century. "This young artist, profiting by the lessons of tradition...casts it boldly aside and emerges into the rarefied atmosphere of a new art, greater because it is new, stronger because it is built upon an old foundation." Brooklyn Times, March 9, 1920
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