Thursday, September 04, 2014

"Va Va Voom" Star of the Day

Diana Barrymore
Her autobiography was titled Too Much, Too Soon, which was completely apropos for the life of Diana Barrymore. Part of the talented yet tortured Barrymore family tree, she was the aunt of Drew Barrymore, and a pretty talented actress in her own right.  However, her tumultuous personal problems prevented her from being truly successful.

Her life even began dramatically, as her parents' rocky marriage lasted only a few years after her birth and they divorced when she was only four.  From then on she had little contact with her estranged father, as she traveled around the world to study, and her mother's bitterness towards her former husband didn't help foster a healthy relationship. Diana was raised by school matrons and nannies, as she went from boarding school to boarding school, but once she reached her teens she found her focus in acting.

Carrying the Barrymore name had its perks, and she quickly advanced in the world of theatre.  By 1939 she was on the cover of Life. At age 19 she starred on stage and screen, exploding immediately to success and garnering a contract in 1942 with Universal.  She seemed on her way to success.

However, Diana was plagued with alcohol and drug problems, and the media thrived on the bad publicity, ruining many acting prospects.  In an October 1942 an article titled "The Barrymore Brat" sealed her fate, and after less than three years in Hollywood, and only six significant film roles, her personal problems and the constant negative publicity ruined her career.

After years of alcoholism her father died in 1942 from cirrhosis of the liver, and Diana's life continued downward. Battling her own severe depression, she attempted suicide several times and stayed extensively at a sanitarium. In 1949 she was offered her own television talk show that would be entitled "The Diana Barrymore Show" but she failed to show up for filming and the program was immediately canceled. Had she gone through with the show it would have been the first television talk show, and she would've revolutionized TV history. Her drinking and depression continued to dictate her life, and all of her movie earnings and inheritance were squandered.  She found herself without any money by her mother's death in 1950; her mother had left her barely anything, due to her own lavish spending.

After three bad marriages to addicted and sometimes abusive men, in 1955 Barrymore had been hospitalized for nearly a full year of treatment.  She finally sobered up, especially after the death of her third husband.  In 1957, she published her autobiography, Too Much, Too Soon, with a ghostwriter.  The following year Warner Bros. made a film with the same title starring Dorothy Malone as herself and Errol Flynn as her father.
The book and film seemed cathartic to her, but only three years later, on January 25, 1960 Barrymore overdosed on alcohol and sleeping pills.  In her book she said, "So much has been dreamed, so little done; there was so much promise and so much waste."  It seems that no amount of treatment could help stop the Barrymore curse of drug and alcohol addiction.

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