John Barrymore's Introspective Performance in Beau Brummel

Martin, Shingler (2017) John Barrymore's Introspective Performance in Beau Brummel. In: Hamlet Lives in Hollywood: John Barrymore and the Acting Tradition Onscreen. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp. 47-58. ISBN 9781474411394

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When a male actor looks at himself in a mirror while acting for the screen, does he see himself and contemplate the processes of his own mind or does he see his character and think the thoughts that his character would be thinking? The 1924 silent photoplay Beau Brummel, directed at Warner Bros. by Harry Beaumont and starring John Barrymore, presents several of these instances, enabling us to reflect on this very question. When John Barrymore gazes at himself in a mirror in this film, does he see himself and think his own thoughts or does he see his character and think the thoughts of Beau Brummel? In other words, when confronted by his own image, can he prevent himself from thinking about himself or can he, even when confronted by what he looks like and what he’s doing at that moment, remain in character? Remaining in character was a fundamental part of the teaching at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in the 1890s and 1900s, as well as a central component of the teaching of Soviet Social Realist Konstantin Stanislavsky, associated closely with the actors of the Moscow Art Theatre. It is also feature of what Cynthia Baron describes as Modern Acting, a precursor to the Method. Is it possible that John Barrymore, that infamous theatrical ham was also an exponent of Modern Acting? It may seem unlikely but analysis of the film suggests that Barrymore was indeed able him to see his character Beau Brummel when he gazed in a mirror and remain focused on thinking the thoughts of his character in that moment of introspection. At least, that is the argument advanced in this essay.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: Performing Arts > Drama
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries
Depositing User: Martin Shingler
Date Deposited: 10 May 2018 08:03
Last Modified: 10 May 2018 08:03

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