Morrison has done the impossible. He has written an exciting, colorful
Barrymore book, without resorting to old wives' tales and innuendo. Truth
in his lively retelling is indeed stranger and far more satisfying than
-James Kotsilibas-Davis, author of Great Times Good
Times: The Odyssey of Maurice Barrymore
... a fresh perspective of the extraordinary man, John Barrymore. Fluent,
incisive, meticulous, faithful to fact - Michael Morrison charts this actor's
distinguished contribution to Shakespearean theatre tradition. Richly researched
with a superb, sustained quality of writing. The fascination is endless."
-William Luce, author of the play Barrymore
Morrison's most readable study vividly recreates act-by-act the Shakespearean
art of one of America's most charismatic and influential modern stage actors."
-Margot Peters, author of The House of Barrymore
Winner of the 1998 Special Jury
Prize for Distinguished Achievement for an Outstanding Book in the Area
of Theatre Studies, Theatre Library Association
of Shakespeare in this century broke as much new ground as Barrymore's
1922 version of 'Hamlet,' a galvanic production that almost single-handedly
dragged the English-speaking world's understanding of the Bard into the
modern age. The astonishment felt by critics and audiences in America and
England is expertly evoked by Michael Morrison in his engrossing book 'John
Barrymore, Shakespearean Actor,' which not only offers scene-by-scene descriptions
of Barrymore's performances . . . but puts Barrymore's acting feats into
historical, cultural, and biographical context. . . . 'John Barrymore,
Shakespearean Actor' is a book that should delight theatre scholars [and]
the general reader as well."
image is that of a hard-drinking matinee idol and movie star, but as Michael
Morrison shows, during the 1920s he was America's --and perhaps the world's--greatest
. . . Morrison's meticulously researched and well written book takes
the reader through the before and after of Barrymore's brief but memorable
Shakespearean career and brilliantly re-creates his development as an interpreter
of Richard and Hamlet. Both portrayals profoundly influenced the next generation
of actors, here and abroad, becoming the benchmark for future performances
of the roles."
a well researched and detailed look at how Barrymore prepared for, staged
and delivered Shakespearean performances that amazed and thrilled critics
Barrymore appeared in only two Shakespeare plays--Richard III and
Hamlet during the 1919-20 and 1922-23 New York seasons--they remain
high-water marks of 20th century interpretation of these classics. John
Barrymore, Shakespearean Actor . . . examines the famed thespian's
originality in portraying the warped monarch and troubled Prince of Denmark.
Meticulously researched and richly illustrated . . ."
biography spends most of its pages on Barrymore's golden age in the 1920s
and 1930s, describing in amazing pre-videotape detail his performances
at the height of his powers, playing what may be the 20th century's definitive
Hamlet . . . and other classical roles. Michael Morrison draws upon books,
reviews and other material to present painstaking line-by-line recreations
of Barrymore's most shining performances."
"Michael A. Morrison
gives us perhaps the best look so far at one of America's great actors."
the Barrymore legend in this study of the actor's interpretations of Shakespeare.
. . . Recommended for all libraries."
and richly detailed . . . useful to actor, director, designer, historian,
and critic. . . . John Barrymore, Shakespearean Actor is a valuable
resource of information and an outstanding report on the productions of
this star. . . . It is also a wonderful tale of a true original. A fine
scholar and raconteur, Michael Morrison presents the compelling and glorious
figure of John Barrymore in performance, providing us with a solid link
in that great chain of actors stretching back to Burbage and Shakespeare
"No actor ever
flew so high . . . In the '20s, with portrayals of Richard III and Hamlet,
Barrymore singlehandedly banished oratorical approaches, producing highly
conceptualized, kinetically-vibrant, conversational renderings of Shakespeare's
verse that managed to preserve the weave of the poetry. Barrymore's Hamlet
was like the resuscitation of a divine creature that had been frozen in
ice for centuries--it had sensitivity, humor and physical beauty, and it
translated Elizabethan platitudes into the vivid and muscular language
of a new cultural era. . . . Barrymore's work was the harbinger of interpretations
by Gielgud and Olivier, and, through osmosis, by later artists like Richard
Burton. . . . Morrison's book . . . cuts through the fog generated by 80
years of gossip about the outrageous Barrymore personality, forcing us
to concentrate on the nature of the greatness."
piece of work . . . There can be few still living who saw what was undoubtedly
one of the century's great performances, Barrymore's Hamlet. Morrison allows
the rest of us to stage it in our heads."
Literary Supplement (London)
detailed account of the Barrymore Hamlet on stage in London and New York.
This is the performance on which his claim to genius rests. . . . Morrison
makes a good case for him as the first truly modern Shakespearean. While
Gielgud and Olivier were still trapped within the conventions of a prematurely
old Old Vic, it was Barrymore on both sides of the Atlantic who shook off
the Victorian and Edwardian acting traditions and came up with a complex,
post-Freudian Prince who could mean something to a young audience."
act of reclamation tries to rediscover Barrymore's 1920s Hamlet and Richard
III. . . . Both productions, directed by Arthur Hopkins and designed by
Robert Edmond Jones, were considered audacious in bringing expressionist
design and Freudian psychology to Broadway, while Barrymore's portrayals
seemed galvanic and modern."
"The best book
about a bygone actor I have read for many years, immensely detailed, magnificently
illustrated and hugely readable."