The Drews and the Barrymores


famous american actors

Famous American Actors and Actresses
Wagner and Brady

Submitter: A book about actors and actresses published in 1961 doesn’t seem too relevant to today’s elementary school students. I’m too young to know any of those people, so the kids surely don’t. I’m a little puzzled by how this book managed to survive multiple rounds of weeding. It was actually checked out about 3 years ago, so maybe there’s a young theatre history buff in the community.

Holly: I know Submitter personally, and I’m older than her by at least 15 years. Only a few of these names slightly ring a bell with me. Kids who were hoping for some celebrity dish on Channing Tatum or Scarlett Johansson (or whoever is popular these days…) will be disappointed. The book has historical value, but not in a suburban public library, which is where it was found.

index of actors




  1. I recognize most of those names, but unless you have an elementary student who’s into history of the American theater, dump it. And yes, Drew Barrymore is a granddaughter of John Barrymore.

  2. I know a few of those names. The Barrymores were some of the earliest big stars in moving pictures. Edwin Booth was the brother of John Wilkes Booth. A book like this should be updated and then could serve well even in a suburban public library.

  3. Yes, that’s where Drew Barrymore’s name came from.

    My thought is that the people checking out this book were misled by “Famous American Actors and Actresses” and assumed there’d be more than 11 chapters about people long dead. At the very least, why wasn’t this pulled after the deaths of Katharine Cornell (1974) and the deaths of Lunt and Fontane (1977)?

  4. Nonfiction in the children’s room has always tended to be odd, IMHO. There’s nothing *wrong* with a theater history book for grades 4-6, say, but what an odd way to present it. Biographies can make good stories, but these aren’t long enough for that purpose… and they’re too long for any other.

  5. I’m into theater and I’m old but there are still names on here that leave me baffled. Booth I know because he’s related to John Wilkes; Lunt and Fontaynne I know only through Carol Burnett’s Funt and Mundane parody. Julie Harris and Helen Hayes were the ones still performing when I was a kid.
    Even back then I think it would have made sense to emphasize these are primarily stage stars, not movie stars.

  6. This book appears to be part of a series. It could still be useful for students of theater history. Joseph Jefferson made almost his entire career playing Rip van Winkle. That’s an interesting insight into American theater history in itself.

    We also have to take into account when the book was published. In 1961 the centennial of the American Civil War was in full swing. All things relating to the late 19th and early 20th centuries were popular.

    The cover design says it all. We see the font and layout of a 19th century theater poster complete with the paste bucket. This book was intended to acquaint young Americans with interesting people they were too young to know. The book might not circulate much but it still has a place in a public

  7. We have to remember this book is from 1961. At that time the Centennial of the American Civil War was in full swing and all things late 19th century were very popular.

    The cover of the book resembles a turn of the century theatrical poster complete with paste bucket and brush. Even though Helen Hayes was still active, the book was meant to be nostalgic,

    It’s hard to believe now but Joseph Jefferson made his career playing Rip van Winkle for decades.

    Here, we laugh about books being kept because ‘It’s historical!’ Well, this one is and deserves a place in a collection of theater history.

  8. I feel bad for 1961 kids who hoped this book would have profiles of popular TV stars like Lucille Ball or James Arness.

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