As John Barrymore reckons with the ravages of his life of excess, he rents an old theatre to rehearse for a backer's audition to raise money for a revival of his 1920 Broadway triumph in Ric... Read allAs John Barrymore reckons with the ravages of his life of excess, he rents an old theatre to rehearse for a backer's audition to raise money for a revival of his 1920 Broadway triumph in Richard III.As John Barrymore reckons with the ravages of his life of excess, he rents an old theatre to rehearse for a backer's audition to raise money for a revival of his 1920 Broadway triumph in Richard III.
I've been a fan of Plummer forever, seeing him in minor films and minor roles in major films, and always wishing to see more of him. I'm also a fan of Ethel, Lionel, and John Barrymore, and have read a great deal about their lives. I read Plummer's memoir a few years back and enjoyed it immensely just to learn of the verve with which he approaches life, however alcohol-induced that verve may be; and also to read the tidbits about famous actors he has known and worked with.
The movie should be of interest to fans of old-school theater, but I suspect it will leave most audiences cold, or at least more than a little confused. Plummer is excellent--squeezing the juice out of every second he is on stage--but I was never convinced he was John Barrymore, even though he was telling me stories as if he was. I never heard how much young John hated his father, and somehow I cannot quite believe it. He saw the man's descent into hell through syphilis and was probably too young to understand or forgive it, but I never read that he was the one walking the old drunk into whorehouses. It may have happened, and it would have been traumatic, but I hadn't heard that one. I'm certain he would have treasured memories of his mother as he was 11 when she died, but in this play he says he hardly remembers her. It has often been stated how devoted he was to his grandmother, Mrs. Drew, until the day she died. This play doesn't capture that, but maybe I'm asking too much. To be as complex and confounding as John Barrymore was, one could not have had good memories of childhood, could one?
John Barrymore was indeed a garrulous drunk, and probably a fiercely angry one, which we didn't see. Somehow there were too many digressions to silly songs like "I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo," and "When the Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves for Alabam", getting in the way of the picture of the classical actor we know he was. One silly song, I could have accepted, but two is one too many. The real John Barrymore did refer to his marriages as bus accidents, and his grandmother did call him her little Greengoose. She also is known to have said she loved him so much because he was "a bad boy--like my husband." The script is interesting, but it doesn't quite capture the bad boy, or the madness, or the self-loathing that caused Barrymore's retreat into the bottle. And Plummer is missing the main tool Barrymore had in his actor's bag of tricks--his magnificent, multidimensional voice. I was aware every moment that I was hearing Christopher Plummer relating Jack Barrymore stories, and it only made me want to find a DVD of a movie with John Barrymore.
- Jul 5, 2015