Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ethel Barrymore: Hiding in Plain Sight On Stage

Above: Ethel Barrymore (1879-1959) at her dressing room mirror: "That's all there is, there isn't any more..."

Ethel Barrymore's curtain call line, quoted above, was designed to send insistently worshipful audiences on their way.  The movie industry, where Ethel Barrymore claimed "[h]alf the people in Hollywood are dying to be discovered and the other half are afraid they will be," was simply a way for the doyenne of the American stage to make money. Thankfully, though, in the process of collecting remarkable fees for their time, ( $40k for the silent The Final Judgment in 1915), the lady turned in some memorably effective performances. Though in exchange for lending her considerable prestige to such dubious fare as the undemanding parts she played in The Secret of Convict Lake (1951) or That Midnight Kiss (1949) or Johnny Trouble (1957), the actress' better movies offer us some clue about what kind of power Ethel Barrymore could have for an audience—even while her contemporaries on stage, the legendary Maud Adams and Laurette Taylor, are simply unknowable....More on the TCM Movie Morlocks


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