Dolores Costello

Dolores Costello Biography

Dolores Costello (September 17, 1903 " March 1, 1979) 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

Dolores Costello was born in Pittsburgh, the daughter of actors Maurice and Mae Costello, of Irish and German descent, respectively. 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

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 starred opposite John Barrymore in The Sea Beast, 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 John Barrymore in When a Man Loves, an adaptation of Manon Lescaut. In 1928, she co-starred with George O'Brien in 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.

Later years

In 1939, she married Dr. John Vruwink, an obstetrician, 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 agreed to be interviewed for the documentary series Hollywood discussing her film career. She died from emphysema in Fallbrook, California, in 1979, and was interred in Calvary Cemetery, East Los Angeles. Her interview scenes were broadcast posthumously in 1980.

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:

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

Filmography (as adult performer)

Year Film Role Notes
1923 The Glimpses of the Moon Bit Part lost
Lawful Larceny Nora the maid lost; six minutes survives
1925 Greater Than a Crown Isabel Frances / Princess of Lividia ?
Bobbed Hair Bit part extant
1926 Mannequin Joan Herrick extant
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

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