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Dolores Costello

Dolores Costello
June 1926 photograph
Born (1903-09-17)September 17, 1903
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died March 1, 1979(1979-03-01) (aged 75)
Fallbrook, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1909–1943
Spouse(s) Dr. John Vruwink
(m.1939-1950; divorced)
John Barrymore
(m.1928-1934; divorced)

Dolores Costello (September 17, 1903 – March 1, 1979)[1] was an American film actress who achieved her greatest success during the era of silent movies. She was nicknamed "The Goddess of the Silent Screen". She was stepmother of John Barrymore's daughter Diana, by his second wife Blanche Oelrichs, the mother of John Drew Barrymore and Dolores (Dee Dee) Barrymore, and the grandmother of John Barrymore III, Blyth Dolores Barrymore, Brahma Blyth (Jessica) Barrymore, and Drew Barrymore.


  • Early years 1
  • Film career 2
  • Later years 3
  • Filmography 4
    • Child roles 4.1
    • Adult roles 4.2
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early years

Dolores Costello was born in Pittsburgh, the daughter of actors Maurice Costello and Mae Costello (née Mae Altschuk). She was of Irish and German descent. She and her younger sister, Helene, made their first film appearances in the years 1909–1915 as child actresses for the Vitagraph Film Company. They played supporting roles in several films starring their father, who was a popular matinee idol at the time. Dolores Costello's earliest listed credit on the IMDb is in the role of a fairy in a 1909 adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Film career

Dolores Costello with husband John Barrymore and children John Drew Barrymore and Dolores Barrymore (1934)

The two sisters appeared on Broadway together as chorines and their success resulted in contracts with Warner Brothers Studios. In 1926, following small parts in feature films, she was selected by John Barrymore to star opposite him in The Sea Beast,[2] a loose adaptation of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. Warner Bros. soon began starring her in her own vehicles. Meanwhile, she and Barrymore became romantically involved and married in 1928.

Within a few years of achieving stardom, the delicately beautiful blonde-haired actress had become a successful and highly regarded film personality in her own right, and as a young adult her career developed to the degree that in 1926, she was named a WAMPAS Baby Star, and had acquired the nickname "The Goddess of the Silver Screen".

Warners alternated Costello between films with contemporary settings and elaborate costume dramas. In 1927, she was re-teamed with Noah's Ark, a part-talkie epic directed by Michael Curtiz.

Costello spoke with a lisp (something that her granddaughter, Drew Barrymore, seemingly inherited), and found it difficult to make the transition to talking pictures, but after two years of voice coaching she was comfortable speaking before a microphone. One of her early sound film appearances was with her sister Helene in Warner Bros.'s all-star extravaganza, The Show of Shows (1929). Her acting career became less a priority for her following the birth of her first child, Dolores Ethel Mae "DeeDee" Barrymore (born April 8, 1930) and she retired from the screen in 1931 to devote time to her family. She would have another child (John Drew Barrymore), but the marriage proved too difficult due to her husband's increasing alcoholism, and they divorced in 1935.

She resumed her career a year later and achieved some successes, most notably in Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). She retired permanently from acting following her appearance in This is the Army (1943), again under the direction of Michael Curtiz.

Making a rare radio appearance, Costello appeared as the Danish Countess Elsa on the radio program Suspense with an air date of August 28,1943. The title of the episode is The King's Birthday written by Corporal Leonard Pellitier US Army.

Later years

In 1939, she married Dr. John Vruwink, an obstetrician who was her physician during her pregnancies, but they divorced in 1950. Costello spent the remaining years of her life in semi-seclusion, managing an avocado farm. Her film career was largely ruined by the destructive effects of early film makeup, which ravaged her complexion too severely to camouflage. Her final film was This Is the Army (1943). In the 1970s her house was inundated in a flash flood which destroyed a lot of her property and memorabilia from her movie career and life with John Barrymore.

Shortly before her death, she was interviewed for the documentary series Hollywood (1980) discussing her film career. She died from emphysema in Fallbrook, California, in 1979, and was interred in Calvary Cemetery, East Los Angeles.

Dolores Costello has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to Motion Pictures, at 1645 Vine Street.


Child roles

Dolores Costello appeared as a child actress in many films made between 1909 and 1915 . Among them are:

Year Film Source
1909 A Midsummer Night's Dream
1910 The Telephone
1911 Consuming Love, or St. Valentine's Day in Greenaway Land A Geranium
1911 The Child Crusoes
1911 His Sister's Children
1911 A Reformed Santa Claus
1911 Some Good in All
1912 Captain Jenks' Dilemma
1912 The Meeting of the Ways
1912 For the Honor of the Family
1912 She Never Knew; Lulu's Doctor
1912 The Troublesome Step-Daughters
1912 The Money Kings
1912 A Juvenile Love Affair
1912 Wanted ... a Grandmother
1912 Vultures and Doves
1912 Her Grandchild
1912 Captain Barnacle's Legacy
1912 Bobby's Father
1912 The Irony of Fate
1912 The Toymaker
1912 Ida's Christmas
1913 A Birthday Gift
1913 The Hindoo Charm
1913 In the Shadow
1913 Fellow Voyagers
1914 Some Steamer Scooping
1914 Etta of the Footlights
1914 Too Much Burglar
1915 The Evil Men Do

Adult roles

She re-started her motion picture career in 1923 after spending several years modeling in New York.

Year Film Role Notes
1923 The Glimpses of the Moon Bit part lost
Lawful Larceny Nora the maid lost; six minutes survive
1925 Greater Than a Crown Isabel Frances / Princess of Lividia ?
Bobbed Hair Bit part extant ; foreign archive Spain
1926 Mannequin Joan Herrick extant ; Library of Congress
The Sea Beast Esther Harper extant (George Eastman House)
Bride of the Storm Faith Fitzhugh lost film
The Little Irish Girl Dot Walker lost film
The Third Degree Annie Daly extant (Library of Congress)
1927 When a Man Loves Manon Lescaut extant (Turner/Warner Bros.)
A Million Bid Dorothy Gordon incomplete (Library of Congress- Italian title cards)
Old San Francisco Dolores Vasquez extant (Turner/Warner Bros.)
The Heart of Maryland Maryland Calvert extant (incomplete; Library of Congress)
The College Widow Jane Witherspoon lost film
1928 Tenderloin Rose Shannon lost film
Glorious Betsy Betsy Patterson extant (silent only, Vitaphone talking, music and sound effects missing)
Noah's Ark Mary/Miriam extant (Turner and/or UCLA Film & Television Archives)
1929 The Redeeming Sin Joan Billaire lost film
Glad Rag Doll Annabel Lee lost film (trailer survives)
Madonna of Avenue A Maria Morton lost film
Hearts in Exile Vera Zuanova lost film
The Show of Shows Meet My Sister number extant (Turner/Warner Bros.)
1930 Second Choice Vallery Grove lost film
1931 Expensive Women Constance "Connie" Newton extant (Library of Congress)
1936 Little Lord Fauntleroy "Dearest" Erroll
Yours for the Asking Lucille Sutton
1938 The Beloved Brat Helen Cosgrove
Breaking the Ice Martha Martin
1939 King of the Turf Eve Barnes
Whispering Enemies Laura Crandall
Outside These Walls Margaret Bronson
1942 The Magnificent Ambersons Isabel
1943 This Is the Army Mrs. Davidson
1980 Hollywood (documentary) Herself her scenes broadcast posthumously


  1. ^ Motion Picture Performers. A bibliography of magazine and periodical articles, 1900–1969; compiled by Mel Schuster. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1971.
  2. ^

External links

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