first American to dare to play Hamlet in England.
He died of his vices at age 60. The Barrymore family has a history of brilliant acting and alcoholism. Barrymore's father and grandfather were famous actors who drank themselves to death. His daughter Diana overdosed on sleeping pills and his son John Drew Barrymore just barely saved himself from drugs in the 1960s and dropped out of show business. His granddaughter Drew Barrymore started drugs and liquor at age 9 and was a recovered alcoholic by 17. John Barrymore's last words were to screenwriter Gene Fowler-"Say Gene, isn't it true you are an illegitimate son of Buffalo Bill?"
Whether the infamous prank actually happened where Raoul Walsh, Bertholdt Brecht, Peter Lorre, W.C. Fields and some others (the"Bundy Drive Boys") kidnapped Barrymore's body, bribeding the undertaker, from Pierce Brothers Funeral Home and propped it up at the poker table to scare the willys out of Errol Flynn is a matter of debate. They sat it in a chair in Errol Flynn's living room where Barrymore always used to sit. Flynn entered, nodded at Barrymore and strode towards the bar....then he froze. Flynn and Paul Heinried said it was true, writer Gene Fowler said it was false. Later, this prank was re-created in the movie W.C. Fields and Me.