John Freakin’ Barrymore, Mary Astor. Dir: Harry Beaumont

Please understand that any typos or misspellings that may occur will be the result of my excitement about writing this recommendation and/or my cat licking my hands and lying on my keyboard as I type. Because she thinks it’s Cat Time. But I disagree, because it’s actually John Freakin’ Barrymore time.

I’m going full fangirl now. No, I will restrain myself. Mostly.

I love John Barrymore because he was a really great actor. I realize that sentence sounds like the opening sentence for an essay which was begrudgingly written by a third grader, but it’s a simple fact written simply. For those of you who don’t know (and by this point, you probably do) he was the grandfather of Drew Barrymore. Not great or great great, just plain grandfather. He was old-ish when he begat her father and her father was old-ish when he begat her. John came from a famous family of actors, who started out on the stage and he and his siblings, however reluctantly, moved over to film. His nickname was “The Great Profile” due to the left side of his face being so incredibly distinguished and attractive. Mind you, the right side was nothing to sneer at, but the left side is the one most photographed. Which brings me to the first thing I noticed about the film: the first time we see Barrymore on camera, we are presented with his right profile. Very unusual.

I don’t want to alarm you, but, given that this movie was made in 1924, it is silent. Don’t freak out, there’s nice music. In fact, it’s a new score from a composer who won a competition on TCM and it was added to the film, if you watch it on TCM, that is. The movie is actually public domain because some brainbox (or a team thereof) neglected to renew the copyright on it. This is both good and bad for the general public. It’s good because you can watch it almost anywhere online for free. It’s bad because the majority of outlets are showing scratchy, unrestored copies. The one that TCM shows is restored and beautiful.

Now, if you don’t want to hear any spoilers, plug your ears because I’m about to tell you what the movie is about. It’s about Beau Brummel. He was a real guy who lived in Regency England (that’s Jane Austen times to you less-enlightened). And he was friends with the Prince Regent, until he wasn’t. And then bad things happened.

Barrymore is perfectly cast as the arrogant rogue that was Brummel. Probably because Barrymore was an arrogant rogue himself, but he was a good enough actor, I’m fairly certain that if he hadn’t have been typecast he could have pulled it off anyway.

You may have noticed up at the top that I mentioned Mary Astor was in this picture. That’s because she is. She was never more lovely than this. She was 17 and began seeing Barrymore during the making of the film and for a little while after (I told you he was a rogue). She once said that the summer they filmed this movie was the most magical summer of her life and that Barrymore made her feel like a princess. Awwwww… Astor was astoundingly good as the female lead with wisdom portrayed far beyond her years. She was a fine actress and this is a great example of that.

Now, almost no movie is without its faults, and this one has one. Toward the end of the movie, my dear Barrymore’s acting is funny when it’s not supposed to be. I can’t explain it away. It’s high drama and Brummel has grown quite mad (that’s mad-crazy, not mad-angry, you know), and it just comes off as silly. But that is entertaining too, so it must be okay. Right? Or maybe it’s actually not funny at all and I’m just a terrible person.

There are times in this film when it rips your heart right out of your chest, which obviously makes you cry, what with it being invasive surgery with no anesthetic and all. But then it hands your heart back to you. So it can rip it out again. Most of this happens toward the end of the movie before the acting goes south (I live in the South, why does that mean bad?).|+++++++++{| My cat just stretched. You’re welcome.

There are a lot of intentionally funny moments as well as plenty of innuendo. Everyone loves innuendo. Innuendo is good for you.

Make sure you watch Beau Brummel the minute you get the chance.


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