Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on January 30, 2004
One of the members of the great American theatre clan of Barrymores, along with brother John. Lionel Barrymore was famous as a character actor on radio and on screen, usually playing crusty, cantankerous types. His roles as Dr. Gillespie in the Dr. Kildare films and as the evil banker Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life are some of his best-remembered roles; though he also won an Oscar for his performance in the 1931 film A Free Soul. A combination of arthritis and a leg injury confined him to a wheel chair for the last 15 years of his life, but did not slow down his busy acting schedule.
Bugs Bunny does a brilliant imitation of Barrymore in Hot Cross Bunny (McKimson, 1948) referring to the Dr. Gillespie role, but mimicking the crusty, heart-of-gold role that Barrymoore played in the radio show Mayor of the Town, broadcast mostly on CBS throughout the forties. The character usually helped people in trouble, such as the “poor boy going to prison” mentioned by Bugs.