I only “know” two members of the Barrymore family: Drew, who has been on screens since I was a little girl and E.T. came out and hence I’m more familiar with her roles. Lionel, on the other hand, I’ve only seen in one movie (but what a list of talents he has to his name) and so that role is how I tend to see him – interesting is that he apparently played grouchy characters in his later years.
I’ve never really watched Duel in the Sun (1946) with a focus on Lionel Barrymore‘s character Senator Jackson McCanles. The various relationships between Pearl (Jennifer Jones), Lewt (Gregory Peck) and Jesse (Joseph Cotten) have always been at the forefront of the story and let’s face it, this is what drives the story. However, Senator Jackson McCanles might just be the most important character here. He’s a large influence as to why his sons have turned out the way they have; Jesse the good boy who does everything right (supposedly) whereas Lewt is the total opposite, the (really, really) bad boy. McCanles conveniently blames his wife for their sons’ behaviour when it suits him and doesn’t hesitate to speak his mind, mostly critically, to anyone and everyone. Lionel Barrymore does a stellar job of being this wheelchair-bound patriarch and employer with a mean temper. I can’t imagine it’s easy having a role like this but he successfully brings across to the viewer such intense anger and hostility that one almost expects him to forget he’s in a wheelchair and leap out at whoever might just have angered him again (or more). No wonder he’s won an Oscar for acting. I found a quote on IMDB of which this is a portion “…When you act, you move millions of people, shape their lives, give them a sense of exaltation…”. I honestly thinks he does just this – his role moves the viewer – I always find it uncomfortable watching how he lashes out at his sons, wife and those around him.
In contrast, we have Drew Barrymore as the sweet-natured and kind Danielle in Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998). She’s the girl who’s fortunes likewise haven’t been in her favour yet she makes the best of the situation, generally being happy and always helpful. She puts on a brave front when things aren’t going so well or when she’s struggling through a tough day and refrains from lashing out at those around her. With or without a prince she vows she will not give up on herself and moves forward with her life, standing up for herself where need be. Drew Barrymore brings a lovely innocence and freshness, yet not helplessness, to the Cinderella-role. Although, I think back in those days she was known to be a bit of a wild child…I may be mistaken. That’s the thing with great artists, they utterly convince you of their character. She’s got just enough sweetness and oomph to make her perfect in this role. Although never nominated for an Oscar, I see she’s won a Golden Globe and had two additional nominations.
So, hats off to both Lionel and Drew who are able to pull the audience in with their believable performances.