washingtonpost.com  > Metro > Obituaries

John Drew Barrymore; Acting Legend's Son

Wednesday, December 1, 2004; Page B08

John Drew Barrymore, 72, the reclusive and eccentric son of acting legend John Barrymore and father of actress Drew Barrymore, died Nov. 29 in Los Angeles.

"He was a cool cat. Please smile when you think of him," Drew Barrymore said in a statement.

John Drew Barrymore had a sporadic film career.

There was no immediate information about the circumstances of his death, including where or how he died.

Known for a rebellious streak that led to numerous scrapes with the law, friends and family, Mr. Barrymore had a sporadic film career, with roles in movies including Joseph Losey's "The Big Night" (1951) and Fritz Lang's "While the City Sleeps" (1956).

He was the son of John Barrymore, through the actor's brief marriage to actress Dolores Costello. John Barrymore died at age 60 in 1942 of pneumonia and cirrhosis of the liver.

John Drew Barrymore said he remembered seeing his famous father only once.

His mother tried to stop him from entering the family business by sending him to a military academy. But he dropped out and signed a movie contract at age 17, taking on roles for which he was not prepared and which other family members found embarrassing.

He got into repeated fights during his career and was arrested several times for drug use, drunkenness and spousal abuse.

He had a long estrangement from his children, Drew and a son, John, and at various times was reported to be living like a hermit, a derelict or a vagabond.

Drew's mother, Jaid, had left Mr. Barrymore by the time Drew was born in early 1975.

Drew Barrymore said he was the sort of man who had not owned a pair of shoes in 40 years, did not believe in material possessions and often muttered Scripture to passersby.

"My father was a junkie and an alcoholic for 30 years. Nice combo, huh? So that breeds [bad] behavior. It was hard for me to deal with growing up. It was chaotic and violent and scary," she once said.

In her memoirs, "Little Girl Lost," written when she was 14, she related how her father used to practice kung-fu on her. When she complained about the pain, he grabbed her hand and stuck it into a candle flame.

When she had gained fame with "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" at age 7, she told Rolling Stone magazine that she threw a chair at him and didn't speak to him until she was 14.

She also told Rolling Stone that in 1999 she was helping her father with his legal problems and had found him a place to stay where he could be looked after.

"I think in every family, everyone probably sits in their head and just goes a little crazy every once in a while. My dad just happens to do it all of the time. Sometimes I have a sense of humor about it. Sometimes I don't."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company