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John Barrymore

Final Curtain

John Barrymore would not remain at Calvary Cemetery. It was decided by his son that his body should be removed to the family plot in Mount Vernon Cemetery in Philadelphia. John Jr. took matters into his own hands to make sure this was accomplished. As recorded:

“Barrymore had left specific instructions in his will that his body be cremated and his ashes be laid to rest next to his father and mother in the family cemetery in Philadelphia. However, due to the fact that his brother Lionel and sister Ethel were Catholic and cremation had not at that time been sanctioned by the Catholic Church, the executors (Lionel and Mervyn Leroy) pulled some fancy judicial manipulations and Barrymore’s remains were entombed at Calvary Cemetery, in Los Angeles after his death in 1942. In 1980 John Barrymore, Jr., decided—after hearing a rendition of “The Cremation of Sam McGee”—that it was high time to have his Dad cremated. He recruited his son John Blyth Barrymore to help. The gravediggers removed the “Good Night, Sweet Prince” marble monument from the front of the crypt and the smell assaulted them. Barrymore had been dead for thirty-eight years, and the body was still decomposing. The casket was solid bronze, and although it had a glass liner, it must have cracked or something, because the fluids from the body had leaked out and had formed a kind of glue between the casket and the floor of the crypt. They muscled the coffin up on the hand truck and wheeled it down a long ramp to a van they had waiting outside. The body fluids were leaking out all the way. They cruised over to the Odd Fellows Cemetery, which had the nearest crematorium, and made the cremation preparations. John Jr. insisted on having a look inside the casket before they left. After viewing the body, he came out white as a sheet and crying. He got in the car and said to his son, “Thank God I’m drunk, I’ll never remember it.” John Blyth Barrymore got a graphic description later from one of the eyewitnesses. Apparently all the bouncing around during the move had sort of busted the jaw apart from what was left of the head. They were convinced it was John Barrymore by the very high quality dental work, and because although most of the flesh on the nose had decomposed, an incredibly long nose cartilage remained. (www.platinum-celebs.com/actors/john-barrymore)

In a private internment with only John Jr. and the funeral director present, the ashes, placed in a bronze urn, were buried near the graves of Maurice and Georgiana Barrymore. A headstone was later installed over the ashes with the words from Hamlet etched on it: “Alas Poor Yorick.”

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