Tallulah Bankhead arrived NY the teenage winner of a movie magazine beauty contest. By accident her chaperone registered at the Hotel Algonquin, allowing her vivid personality to be discovered by famous folk of the Round Table. She is more noted for wit than her acting. On the advice of an astrologer she tried London where fame embraced her.
(Ack: The Theatrical 20’s Allen Churchill-McGraw Hill)
John Barrymore was in his generation considered the finest American actor who from light comedy roles could capture the New York theatre goers with his rendition of Hamlet. As a young man he had dreamed of being a newspaper cartoonist, sketch artist or caricaturist. He even did a stint as an artist for Manhattan newspapers. But his family name and striking good looks made it easier to make a transition to the matinee idol. His comic roles elicited from Alexander Woollcott this comment: ‘ This apparently raffish clown has genius.’
He had besides his robust colourful vocabulary, voice control that could shape every syllable, sending chills up the spines of his audience, among whom Churchill lapped up his soliloquies as coming from Bard himself. Richard III(1920),Hamlet(22-23) were sensational. His Hamlet proved he had delved deep into the writing of Freud who was then vogue. His was a cerebral performance with overtones of neuroses. He has been called the Hamlet of the Century.’ Since then great many actors have emoted on the stage and I can recall John Gielgud, Olivier, Burton all in the role of the brooding Dane. In my mind’s eye I still hold Barrymore as epitome of Hamlet. I haven’t seen him but from what little seen of his acting (Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet and Richard III-YouTube, The Grand Hotel, Trilby and a few) I know I am right.
Elsewhere I have posted anecdotes about the Great Profile so I merely sketch a thumbnail sketch.