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American actor Lionel Barrymore earned the Academy Award for Best Actor for his work in “A Free Soul.” He has performed in theatre, cinema, and radio. He was one of the most varied and gifted character actors of the early 20th century and is also well remembered for his roles in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “The Mysterious Island.” Being a member of the famous theatrical family, the Barrymores, he was exposed to the entertainment industry at a young age and made his parents’ stage debuts when he was just a baby. When his family made him perform on stage when he was six years old, he threw a fit and refused. He pursued painting as a young man because he wanted to avoid acting. But destiny had other ideas, and he went back to the job he had initially hated. He eventually made a name for himself on Broadway as a huge hit, which paved the path for him to move to Hollywood. The talented actor, who stormed the performing community with his dramatic character roles, had no intention of turning around once he set foot in Hollywood. He had a long and successful career that lasted for six decades, and he was so dedicated to acting that he kept doing it even as he grew older and was confined to a wheelchair.

Early Childhood & Life

He was a member of the illustrious theatrical Barrymore family and was born Lionel Herbert Blythe on April 28, 1878, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States. Georgiana Drew Barrymore and Maurice Barrymore, both performers, were his parents. His parents had intended to expose each of their children to the entertainment industry at a young age. As a young child, Lionel frequently made stage appearances with his parents. When he was a little child, they made him perform, but he refused and started sobbing on stage.

The Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia served as his primary educational institution, and he later attended the Art Students League of New York. He was resolute from an early age that he would not become an actor like his parents. He spent three years studying painting because that is what he was more interested in.

Lionel Barrymore’s Career

Despite Lionel Barrymore’s steadfast desire to succeed as a painter, he was unable to do it. He grudgingly went back to acting out of a need to survive. When he was in his early twenties, he began performing on Broadway alongside his uncle John Drew Jr. in plays including “The Second in Command” (1901) and “The Mummy and the Hummingbird.”
He appeared in a number of theatre shows during the early 1900s, frequently alongside one or more of his more well-known relatives.

He traveled to Paris in 1906 to try his luck in painting once more because he was still disillusioned with the playing industry. He attempted to become a successful painter but was unsuccessful, and in 1909 he came back to the United States. He started producing motion pictures in the early 1910s, including ‘The Battle (1911), ‘The New York Hat’ (1912), and ‘Three Friends (1913). He became a well-known stage performer in New York City in the latter half of the decade in plays including “Peter Ibbetson” (1917), “The Copperhead” (1918), and “The Jest” (1919).

He concentrated more on film parts in the 1920s and returned to his stage role in the movie version of “The Copperhead” (1920). ‘Fifty-Fifty’ (1925), ‘The Bells (1926), and ‘Drums of Love’ (1928) are a few of his other well-known movies from the era. In 1929, he was the controversial director of the talkie ‘His Glorious Night’, starring John Gilbert. Before going back to acting, he also directed “Madame X,” which starred Ruth Chatterton, and “The Rogue Song.”

In movies like “Grand Hotel” (1932), “Captains Courageous” (1937), “You Can’t Take It with You” (1938), “On Borrowed Time” (1939), and “Key Largo” (1948), the actor was typecast as either a grumpy or a kind elderly guy. His performance of the cruel Mr. Potter in the James Stewart movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) made him particularly well-known during this time.

He spent his later years in a wheelchair due to a number of health issues. Nevertheless, he persisted in acting even in a wheelchair, winning the hearts of his followers even more. In the final two decades of his life, he also worked as a radio actor, lending his voice to Ebenezer Scrooge in yearly broadcasts of “A Christmas Carol.” He was not only a versatile performer, but he also kept an art studio and shop right next to his Los Angeles house.

Lionel’s Bigger Works

The role of Stephen Ashe, an alcoholic defense lawyer, was played by Lionel Barrymore in the Academy Award-winning performance “A Free Soul,” for which he won the Actor of the Year award. He gave a potent monologue that popularized the movie and brought him honors and praise. He portrayed Mr. Potter, a stingy and cruel banker, in the holiday fantasy drama movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which went on to be named one of the 100 greatest American movies ever created by the American Film Institute.

Recognition & Achievements

In 1931’s “A Free Soul,” Lionel Barrymore played an alcoholic lawyer and received an Academy Award for Best Actor.

Personal Legacy & Life

The little sister of his uncle Sidney Drew’s wife, Doris Rankin, was the bride when Lionel Barrymore wed her in 1904. The two daughters had both passed away when they were quite little. After losing both of their infants, the couple fell out of love and divorced in 1923.

In 1923, he married Irene Fenwick, and they were together until her death in 1936. His final years were impacted by arthritis. His medical issues were made worse by a hip injury that forced him to use a wheelchair. On November 15, 1954, Lionel Barrymore passed away from a heart attack. He was 76.

Estimated Net Worth

American actor and director Lionel Barrymore had a $3 million fortune at the time of his passing. That is equivalent to about $30 million in today’s dollars after inflation. His most well-known performances include those of Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life and Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.