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John Barrymore Jr. dies at age 72

Actor, absentee father of Drew, had repeated legal problems
/ Source: The Associated Press

John Drew Barrymore, the sometimes troubled heir to an acting dynasty and absent father of movie star Drew Barrymore, died Monday. He was 72.

“He was a cool cat. Please smile when you think of him,” Drew Barrymore said in a statement issued by her publicist’s office.

No information was released about the cause of death or where in Los Angeles he died.

John D. Barrymore was part of an acting clan that included his father, the famed stage and early film actor John Barrymore, and his father’s siblings, Lionel Barrymore and Ethel Barrymore. Drew Barrymore was his daughter by his third wife, Ildiko Jaid Barrymore.

John D. Barrymore was born in Beverly Hills on June 4, 1932. His mother was actress Dolores Costello.

He started his career while a teenager, appearing professionally first as John Barrymore Jr. and then as John Drew Barrymore. He had movie roles in the 1950s in “The Sundowners,” “High Lonesome,” “Quebec,” “The Big Night,” “Thunderbirds” and “While the City Sleeps.”

But along the way there were problems with drugs, drunken driving and violence, domestic and otherwise. By the early 1960s he had left Hollywood for Italy to work in European movies.

In a 1962 interview with The Associated Press in Rome he made no apologies for headline-grabbing street brawls there.

'I'm just a human being'
“I’m not a nice, clean-cut American kid at all,” he said. “I’m just a human being. Those things just happen.”

By 1964 he had been married twice, to Cara Williams and to Italian actress Gabriella Palazollo, and had returned to Hollywood after making more than a dozen films overseas — none of them any good by his own estimation.

By then his billing had become John Drew Barrymore, perhaps to step out of his father’s shadow.

“I don’t mind if my acting is compared to him,” he said in an AP interview. “The trouble is that people expect me to live like him.”

Later, Barrymore had sporadic film and television roles.

As a teenage star battling alcoholism herself, Drew Barrymore wrote about her father in the memoir “Little Girl Lost.” He was depicted as menacing, showing up only to abuse his daughter and former wife and ask for money.

“The little bit of relationship that there was was very abusive and just chaotic,” Drew Barrymore told the AP in 1990. Still, she said, “I had this fantasy in my mind, that I was going to have ’Father Knows Best’ walk through the door. I wanted that so bad, and I wasn’t going to face reality that it wasn’t going to happen.”

John D. Barrymore is also survived by a son, John Barrymore III, by his first wife.