1935 John Barrymore Annotated Script of “King Lear”

Value (2003) | $3,000 Retail

APPRAISER:
This little book is a pocket version on the play King Lear. And it's illustrated by Eric Gill, who was a well-known British book illustrator in the 1920s. Now, of course, what distinguishes it in this case is that it belonged to possibly the most famous member of the great Barrymore acting dynasty: John Barrymore. And perhaps you'd tell us something about how it came to you.

GUEST:
All right. The photo shows Elaine Barrymore, his fourth wife, and Barrymore in happier times there. And she sent this picture to me, which you can see there.

APPRAISER:
How did you know her?

GUEST:
I met her through a mutual acquaintance in New York who, at that time, dealt in entertainment memorabilia but who became a very good friend of Elaine Barrymore.

APPRAISER:
Well, he was born in 1882 and died in 1942 and his fourth wife was actually 19.

GUEST:
When they met.

APPRAISER:
When they met, yes.

GUEST:
And he was much, much older than that and she just died in March of this year.

APPRAISER:
Well, what's crucial here is that he was such a great actor, such a great physical actor coming after a period in the 1890s when it was more "stand up and deliver."

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
In 1920, he did Richard III and in 1922, I think, he did Hamlet. And here we have Lear, which is incredibly interesting because here are his annotations. We have diagrams here of characters and of course nearly all the Shakespeare tragedies are much too long, so anybody directing or acting has to cut down things, and this is standard procedure. This book was published in about 1935, so a mere seven years before his death.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
And the great tragedy, of course, is that he never played Lear.

GUEST:
And that was his life's ambition, to play Lear. That was the one thing he really wanted to do.

APPRAISER:
Well, the whole package is fascinating. I find these deletions thrilling. Um, there's a mark back here where he's written, adding in here, "Out, treacherous villain," for emphasis right there. You have a large collection of Barrymore.

GUEST:
But this is the thing I treasure the most. This way I get into his head, you know, as an actor.

APPRAISER:
Well, I think this is probably worth, on the retail market, about $3,000.

GUEST:
Oh, my. John would be pleased.

APPRAISER:
Yes, he would, wouldn't he?

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Bloomsbury Auctions
London, England
Appraised value (2003)
$3,000 Retail
Event
Chicago, IL (July 26, 2003)
Form
Script
Material
Paper

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