Trade in your item
Get a £3.02
Gift Card.
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

Damned in paradise: The life of John Barrymore Hardcover – 1977


See all formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Hardcover
"Please retry"
£38.54 £9.83


Trade In this Item for up to £3.02
Trade in Damned in paradise: The life of John Barrymore for an Amazon Gift Card of up to £3.02, which you can then spend on millions of items across the site. Trade-in values may vary (terms apply). Learn more

Product details

  • Hardcover: 401 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum; 1st Edition edition (1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689108141
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689108143
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 14.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 992,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, and more.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
5 star
1
4 star
1
3 star
0
2 star
0
1 star
0
See both customer reviews
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie De Pue TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 18 Feb 2012
Format: Hardcover
John Barrymore, "The Great Profile," was one of the Twentieth Century's more beautiful and notorious actors. Gene Fowler's "Good Night, Sweet Prince," published shortly after Barrymore's death, did a pretty good job of chronicling his doings. But Fowler, who was close to Barrymore in life, published less than everything that he knew. So along came John Kobler, a sturdy freelance and former star crime reporter for "PM", newspaper that pioneered the "you are there" style, to rectify the situation. For "Damned in Paradise," Kobler drew upon Fowler's unpublished material, previously unpublished letters and diaries, and interviewed about 50 people, some of whom only then felt free to tell it like it was. He produced 374 indexed, illustrated pages of fully-buttressed, horrifying detail about Barrymore's hellish life in Hollywood, London and New York.

Barrymore sprang from two of our more legendary theatrical dynasties: the Drews and Barrymores. His brother Lionel and sister Ethel were almost as honored and famous as he was, and little Drew Barrymore is enjoying a successful career herself. John achieved great stage success on both sides of the Atlantic, notably as "Hamlet," and left us a gallery of cinematic portraits of some stature: Beau Brummel,Svengali ,Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde . He played opposite Greta Garbo in
...Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent service from the company.
The book was in good condition as it said.
John Barrymore belongs to a different time and age. I expect he would prefer to be remembered for his acting talent which he possessed in abundance, rather than the sad escalation into alcoholism. A fascinating read.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 12 reviews
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
The Beautiful and the Damned 30 Oct 2006
By Stephanie De Pue - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
John Barrymore, "The Great Profile," was one of the Twentieth Century's more beautiful, and notorious actors. Gene Fowler's "Good Night, Sweet Prince," published shortly after Barrymore's death, did a pretty good job of chronicling his doings. But Fowler, who was close to Barrymore in life, published less than everything he knew. So along came John Kobler, a sturdy freelance and former star crime reporter for "PM", newspaper that pioneered the "you are there" style, to rectify the situation. For "Damned in Paradise," Kobler drew upon Fowler's unpublished material, previously unpublished letters and diaries,and interviewed about 50 people, some of whom only then felt free to tell it like it was. He produced 374 indexed, illustrated pages of fully-buttressed, horrifying detail about Barrymore's hellish life in Hollywood, London and New York.

Barrymore sprang from two of our more legendary theatrical dynasties: the Drews and Barrymores. His brother Lionel and sister Ethel were almost as honored and famous as he was, and little Drew Barrymore is enjoying a successful career herself. John achieved great stage success on both sides of the Atlantic, notably as "Hamlet," and left us a gallery of cinematic portraits of some stature: "Beau Brummel," "Don Juan," "Captain Ahab," "Dr. Jekyll-and Mr. Hyde," "Svengali." He played opposite Greta Garbo in "Grand Hotel,"opposite Carole Lombard in "Twentieth Century," and how many actors have ever been able to play first-rate tragedy and comedy? He was an intelligent, hard-working, hard-drinking, man; who, by preference, spent his time with intelligent, hard-drinking, hard-working people.

By Barrymore's own testimony, during his 14th year he was seduced both by his father's second wife, and by the fruit of the grape. (Doctors agreed that he had been an alcoholic since his early teens.) He married four times, pursued any number of additional women, amassed and spent several fortunes, collected rare books and animals.

Presumably he occasionally enjoyed himself, though there's not much of that in this all fornication-no fun book. There's much more on the dark side of this film and matinee idol's life, in fact, than many people may care to know. As when we find him near death, sick in bed with damaged liver and kidneys, legs grotesquely swollen with fluid he was unable to pass, insisting that his daughter Diana, then 21, call a prostitute for him. We are able to judge just how damaging Barrymore's home was, and how the sins of the father can be visited on the sons, as Diana later became an alcoholic herself,committing suicide at age 38; while her brother, John Jr.,also became an alcoholic. John Jr. fathered Drew Barrymore, beat her severely when she was a child. Drew herself was a preteen drug addict who appears to have miraculously gotten herself straightened out.

It may not have been Kobler's intention, but the author surely illuminates the heavy costs of living trapped by the machismo ideal. Barrymore's close friend and neighbor W.C. Fields, another of the "Bundy Drive Boys" noted for their alcoholism and misogyny, is frequently treated quite worshipfully, and doubtless his alcoholic, misogynstic movies are wonderfully entertaining, but his private side, too, was quite dark. Fields to Barrymore: he could love the "little nectarines" if they were neither aggressive nor possessive. Barrymore to Fields:"Is there any other kind?" Barrymore upon another occasion:" Don't trust any of them as far as you can throw Fort Knox....When a woman leaves you, she has opened the door and set you free." At other times he called women "the collecting sex," and "twittering vaginas," and remarked that "I wish I'd been born a pansy." But it's not news that heavy boozing will have some lousy effects on the kidneys and liver, and seeing women as sex organs who must either be hired, or paid alimony to, is expensive in a lot of ways. On stage and screen, Barrymore doubtlessly had his act together. Offscreen, what a price he paid.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of 2 Dec 2007
By Borowy26 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
John Kobler is probably best remembered for his biography of the notorious gangster Al Capone. It was a solid book and it still holds up rather well despite being superseded as to some details by a few subsequent historical research revelations contained in newer books about the Prohibition Era. This biography of John Barrymore, however, proved to be much more memorable in my opinion.

I am somewhat surprised that it is not better known as it is an engrossing account of triumph and tragedy, idealism and dissipation. It must have been providential that Barrymore was cast as Jekyll and Hyde; few actors have lived both roles so completely as he did in his private life. Art does imitate life sometimes.

John Barrymore was one of the finest actors of his generation. Regrettably, many of his best known surviving films date from the period when his career was in decline and he was reading from cue cards and appearing before the camera simply to pay his numerous creditors. While Barrymore made many sound films, he was past his prime (he was forty-eight in 1930) and had only a few occasions to demonstrate his full range during the Thirties. While he appeared in highly acclaimed roles in "Grand Hotel," "Counsellor at Law," "Dinner at Eight," and "The Twentieth Century," he frequently played supporting roles such as the recurring role of Colonel Neilson "The Bulldog Drummond" series or prestige cameos in big budget extravaganzas. In the final years of his life, Barrymore engaged in alcoholic self parodies such as "The Great Profile," "The Invisible Ghost," and "Playmates." Barrymore died in 1942 of cirrhosis and pneumonia and did not have the opportunity to act in any of the better and more realistic film dramas that were made as the Hollywood film industry matured in the Forties.

Unfortunately, most of Barrymore's best film performances date from the silent era. He was active in the industry almost from its inception, but many of his early films have been lost. Likewise, there is very little that remains of his Shakespearean roles on celluloid. For example, there is only one filmed monologue of Barrymore as Richard III from an omnibus picture made during the pioneering period of the talkies. Similarly, he filmed a screen test of "Hamlet," but the production was abandoned.

Laurence Olivier was honest enough to admit that his own interpretation of the Prince of Denmark incorporated much of what he had learned from watching the athletic Barrymore play the part on the London stage years earlier. Barrymore did appear in the lavish MGM production of "Romeo and Juliet," but in the supporting role of Mercutio.

Kobler described how good a performer Barrymore was when he was the toast of Broadway and London. For a time, Barrymore was earned salaries as high as $75,000.00 to $150,000.00 per week in the movies. The Barrymore and Drew families had been theatrical performers for generations and John and his two siblings became accomplished actors as well. The theatrical reviews summarized in the book explain Barrymore's great reputation.

His personal life was filled with more high adventure and tragedy than any of the dramatic roles that he had played on the stage or screen: he was seduced by his attractive stepmother while still a teen and felt pangs of secret guilt and remorse for cuckolding his father for years to follow. Although he was to become celebrated for his many romances, he never entirely trusted women as a result of this seduction. A doctor noted that Barrymore was a confirmed alcoholic from the age of fifteen. He attended and was expelled from fine Catholic boarding schools for his drinking and smoking. He had become a rebel. He would travel the world, hunt, sail and climb mountains, but nothing could contain his restless nature.

When his tragic father, Maurice Barrymore, died of syphilis, his three children were scattered. Ethel, who was considered a great beauty, once rejected a British suitor, Winston S. Churchill, because she felt that his immediate prospects were not promising. John and the future Prime Minister remained friends and reunited years later. Lionel had artistic ambitions, but eventually became an actor to pay the bills and had a lengthy career as a character actor.

While still leading a bohemian existence as a starving sketch artist, John had an affair with a teenaged model and chorus girl named Evelyn Nesbit. Their affair ended when the money hungry "Flora Dora Girl" threw him over to become the mistress of architect Stanford White (who had the sixteen year old Nesbit hospitalized for "acute appendicitis" in order to abort her unborn child by Barrymore). When the fifty-two year old White would not divorce his wife, Nesbit married the insane millionaire Harry Thaw. Her jealous husband murdered White when he learned of his wife's premarital sex life and of the red velvet swing installed in White's secret penthouse apartment where he had dallied with Evelyn. Late in her life, Nesbit deeply regretted that she had chosen money over love.

Kobler does an excellent job of recreating the turn of the century artistic milieu in which great new books were published and grand plays were staged while crudely filmed movies were being watched by the masses in five and dime arcades. Absinthe drinkers retreated into flights of fancy and madness as Barrymore struggled to afford a ten cent meal of pancakes and sausages and experienced genuine poverty in unheated garret apartments before making a name for himself. The book is filled with wonderful anecdotes about the people that Barrymore knew, loved, disappointed and abandoned. Some of those named became household words, others who enjoyed immediate fame on Broadway and were largely forgotten in intervening decades.

Like many actors, Barrymore felt uncomfortable earning his living as a player and belittled his status as a matinee idol. He preferred playing villains and mad men because he could apply heavy make up and disguise his handsome features. The book's title comes from a revealing passage in Herman Melville's epic novel "Moby Dick." Captain Ahab became one of Barrymore's signature film roles and he played the part twice, once in the silent era and in an early talkie remake.

Late in life, Barrymore settled in with a crowd of Hollywood's most outrageous alcoholics, the Bundy Drive Boys. Included in this group were W. C. Fields, Gene Fowler (author of the earlier biography of Barrymore, "Good Night, Sweet Prince"), Errol Flynn and a young Anthony Quinn, among others. Their nightly gatherings could make a movie that would rival "Animal House." Once when a drunken Barrymore staggered into a women's restroom by mistake, he was told that by an indignant matron that it was for "Ladies only." He pointed to his fly and responded: "So is this, but sometimes I must run water through it." On his death bed, Barrymore confessed that he still suffered from carnal thoughts. When the priest asked the dying sixty year old who was the object of his lust, Barrymore laughed and pointed to a dowdy nurse and said "Her."

Throughout his four shaky marriages, replete with many backstage affairs (amazingly, his advances were spurned by a virginal Tallulah Bankhead, who later became known for her own personal promiscuity), Barrymore had two secret loves, art and literature. He once noted that a woman is only a woman, but a book bound in calfskin that was a voluptuous delight. I think that he would be pleased to have this biography on his library shelves.

If the name Barrymore only meant John's granddaughter Drew Barrymore of "Charlie's Angels" and "The Wedding Singer" to you previously, you are in for an awakening if you can seek out this worthwhile and entertaining biography.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Barrymores 9 Sep 2013
By Sharyn Ann Tadolini - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very thorough biography that explains why this extremely attractive artist lived his life the way that he did.
A lot about his father, Maurice, his siblings Ethel & Lionel and his grandmother whom he called Mum-Mum.
This book really comes to life, if you can also watch the movie/play "Barrymore" with Christopher Plummer.
I did not realize that John Barrymore & Evelyn Nesbit [of the Harry Thaw/Stanford White scandal]
had a romantic relationship when she was only 16 and JB was 27.
The writer's choice of words baffled me from time to time, as I had to "look up" the meaning of some of them
A very interesting read. Some good pics as well, of the man known as "The Profile"
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding Biography of a Legendary Actor 31 Jan 2011
By James Strock - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is beautifully written and likely to be authoritative. As is necessary with Barrymore's life, it veers from the highest levels of performance in theater (including excellent discussions of his intense training in his early years) to the demimonde that surround a Hollywood career careening publicly into decline. Highly recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Full of fascinating characters and history 5 Mar 2014
By An Average Joe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I ordered this book as a result of watching Christopher Plummer's portrayal of Barrymore on Great Performances. One hesitates to describe this chronicle of dissipation as "entertaining", yet it is-- more comi-tragic than tragi-comic. Barrymore was quite the wit. What a life! full of fascinating characters and escapades. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in theater history.
Were these reviews helpful? Let us know

Look for similar items by category


Feedback