American Vaudeville Museum

All material 1998-2012 American Museum of Vaudeville, Inc. Page 7

The Barrymores

Maurice Barrymore, the father of Lionel, Ethel and John, was the first notable actor of the American legitimate stage to appear in vaudeville; and vaudeville provided the last stage on which he was to play.

Lionel and John, both preferring the fine arts to the performing arts, were reluctant to take the stage, and, when they did, they were not adverse to appearing in vaudeville if that meant earning their daily bread early in their careers.

Ethel, however, who had accepted her destiny as an actor in one of the longest theatrical dynasties in Western drama, was reluctant to play vaudeville. Only after Sarah Bernhardt had played American vaudeville, did Ethel Barrymore succumb. Thereafter, for a fair number of seasons, and even after she was deemed the First Lady of the American Theatre, Ethel would drag out her reliable one acter, The Twelve Pound Note, and play vaudeville at $3000 a week whenever her bank account needed a quick infusion.