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JOHN BARRYMORE (1882 – 1942) & DOLORES COSTELLO (1903 – 79)

John Barrymore was blessed with striking matinee-idol looks as a young man and was nicknamed ‘The Great Profile’ because of them. He was an outstanding Shakespearian actor and willing to use make-up and facial distortion to transform his appearance into memorable characters of horror. His legendary debauchery, (he had been drinking and seducing since he was a boy), soon destroyed his classical looks and he aged badly. His brother, Lionel Barrymore, and sister, Ethel Barrymore, were also major stars of stage and screen, although all three siblings only appeared together in one film, the 1932 feature Rasputin and the Empress. By the time of his death, during World War Two, John was a hopeless alcoholic.

The third of his four wives was the stunningly beautiful actress Dolores Costello who would become the mother of his son John Drew Barrymore. Once known as ‘The Goddess of the Silent Screen’, Dolores is best-remembered today as the grandmother of actress Drew Barrymore. She wed John in 1928 and against the wishes of her mother, bore him two children, but could not live with the man’s excessive drinking and divorced him in 1935. Dolores returned to the screen after the divorce, but her looks had been irreparably damaged by the harsh make-up used in early movie-making, the skin on her cheeks having deteriorated badly, and at 40 she called an end to her screen career. Curiously, like her grand-daughter, Drew, Dolores had a pronounced lisp that was eventually corrected after two years of working with a speech pathologist in the early thirties. She would die from emphysema at 75.

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John Drew’s mother, Dolores Costello, tried hard to dissuade him from becoming an actor, but he rebelled and signed a screen contract at seventeen. He foolishly chose not to do an apprenticeship in the theatre and jumped blindly into leading cinema roles with humiliating outcomes. He also had continual run-ins with the law (mostly drunken driving and spousal abuse issues), and in the sixties was incarcerated on drugs charges. His fourth wife gave birth to daughter Drew but as he got older John Drew became more and more reclusive, at times disappearing into the wilderness to live more or less as a derelict. Although his relationship with Drew was described by her as ‘abusive’ and ‘chaotic’, they ultimately reconciled in his final years, Drew helping to pay his bills at an assisted-living facility until cancer claimed him at 72.

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It would be reasonable to suggest that her upbringing contributed to Drew Barrymore encountering drug and alcohol problems at an early age. As revealed above, her father was a disaster as a parent, a drunken, abusive and violent substance abuser who exercised little or no control over her because he was rarely around. She was drinking alcohol at twelve, yet does not blame her folks. ‘My parents are not bad people’, she assures us without rancour. ‘It was just a case of them not wanting a child.’ Drew is openly bisexual and in favour of gay marriage. ‘I was raised by gay men and women’, she explains. ‘It’s who I am. You cannot define a family.’

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Drew & her father in his final years

As of June 2019, Drew has entered into three marriages. To describe them as unsuccessful unions would be a gross understatement. The first of these unhappy pairings was to Welsh-born Los Angeles barkeep Jeremy Thomas in 1994. The minister who joined them in holy matrimony was a clairvoyant from a psychic hotline who answered their phone-call and rocked up thirty minutes later! Not surprisingly, the couple called it quits eleven months later. Husband number two was actor Tom Green and this crack at matrimony was even worse – and briefer! It started in July 2001 and ended just nine months later. Marriage number three showed more promise. It produced two children and broke the four-year barrier before it, too, wound up in the divorce court. Now in her forties, Drew appears to have matured and mellowed considerably. Indeed, she has become living proof that it is possible to overcome adversity and substance issues and, in time, emerge a balanced and well-adjusted person at the other end.

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RICHARD BECKINSALE (1947 – 79) & JUDY LOE (1947 – ) with daughter Kate

Richard Beckinsale was a highly personable British actor who garnered a strong following because of his comedic roles in three British television series – The Lovers (1973), Porridge (1974) and Rising Damp (1974). His co-star in two of these, the brilliant British comedian Ronnie Barker, was devastated on hearing of Richard’s early death from a heart attack at 31 and could not work for several days. A post-mortem examination revealed a previously unknown congenital heart defect which almost certainly brought on the heart attack that killed the popular young actor as he slept.

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Richard married actress Judy Loe in 1977 when they were both 30 years old. Their daughter, Kate, was five years old when her father passed away. Judy has enjoyed a sound career in television and movies and, at 72, is still a most attractive woman. It appears beauty runs in the family. In 1997, she married TV director Roy Battersby on her 50th birthday. He was a member of the Workers Revolutionary Party and young Kate sold copies of The News Line, a Trotskyist newspaper in her youth. Outspoken activist Vanessa Redgrave was a family friend when Battersby was blacklisted by the BBC.

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In the late nineties and early noughties Kate was probably on most movie fans’ ‘beautiful people’ lists, especially after her starring role in Pearl Harbor (2001), a role she only won because Charlize Theron pulled out to make Sweet November (2001). By then Kate already had a daughter (Lily Mo Sheen) to British star Michael Sheen, the actor who played British PM Tony Blair in The Queen (2006). He never got around to proposing to her and that boat eventually sailed. Then she met director Len Wiseman on the set of 2003’s Underworld and the couple fell in love. He was a married man and Kate’s former lover, Sheen, was in the movie as well. She and Wiseman married in 2004 but divorced 12 years later. In October 2017, she was among the eighty or so women who accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault.

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