Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Good Night, Sweet Prince: The Life and Times of John Barrymore, Gene Fowler presents the story of the life of one of the most famous actors of the twentieth century. Fowler’s style is one that most readers have found attractive: He is not dry and factual. In fact, a reader sometimes has trouble knowing exactly in what year a given scene takes place or to what person the author refers. Fowler strings together a series of scenes and anecdotes, most of which were repeated to him by others. In addition, he provides long quotations from letters and telegrams sent to and from the actor and makes use of Barrymore’s occasional diaries. The book reproduces a number of photographs of Barrymore in his starring roles on stage and in motion pictures, including two of him as Hamlet. One of Barrymore’s own sketches is included, and the endpapers of the original edition show many of his drawings.

Fowler sets the actor’s career in its many contexts. He describes the origins of this eminent theatrical family, its growth and its triumphs. As the author describes its most famous son, John Barrymore, he also sketches in lively detail the people who touched the actor’s life and who were touched by him, including his grandmother, his parents, his uncles and aunts, and his famous brother and sister. Barrymore also influenced other actors, playwrights, producers, managers, servants, and such famous people as Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Enrico Caruso,...

(The entire section is 498 words.)