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The Barrymores, Hollywood's "Royal Family"

In his late 40s, Jack married into another Catholic movie family, the Costellos. Some consider Maurice Costello to be the first movie star of any kind. Known as "the Dimpled Darling," he set a precedent in 1907 by saying, "I am an actor and will not build sets or paint scenery." During the 1920s, his daughters Helene and Dolores began brief movie careers. Dolores became Jack's third wife, which didn't please Maurice, a peer who knew him all too well.

Through years of loose living that nearly destroyed his talents, Jack never entirely abandoned Catholicism. (He once remarked that he wasn't a good enough Catholic to behave himself, but was too good a Catholic to kill himself.) A former altar boy, he wore religious medals and kept a statue of Mary. Before his death in 1942, he asked for Father John O'Donnell, pastor of a Los Angeles parish and family friend, and was reconciled to the Church. Lionel died in 1954, and Ethel in 1959.

All three are buried near one other at a Catholic cemetery in Los Angeles.

One remained an active Catholic her entire life. Another fell away, but was buried in the Church. The third, a sort of prodigal son, came back on his deathbed. Theirs is a story of tragedy and triumph, but their acting legacy continues in the career of another gifted Barrymore named for two great American stage families, John's granddaughter Drew.

5/16/2011 4:00:00 AM