Advance Praise
Michael 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 fiction.

-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


"Michael 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

"Few performances 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."
--Boston Globe
"John Barrymore's 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 Shakespearean Actor."
--Washington Post
"Fascinating . . .  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."
"Morrison gives a well researched and detailed look at how Barrymore prepared for, staged and delivered Shakespearean performances that amazed and thrilled critics and theatergoers."
--Denver Post
"Although John 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 . . ."
--Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
"This unusual 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."
--Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Morrison enlarges the Barrymore legend in this study of the actor's interpretations of Shakespeare. . . . Recommended for all libraries."
"Fascinating 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 himself."
--Theatre History Studies
"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."
--American Theatre
"An admirable 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."
--Times Literary Supplement (London)
"An immensely 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."
--Literary Review (London)
"Morrison's ambitious 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."
--Plays International (London)
"The best book about a bygone actor I have read for many years, immensely detailed, magnificently illustrated and hugely readable."
--The Stage (London)
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