Review: The Great Profile (1940)

>> Monday, September 3, 2007

USA/B&W-87m./Dir: Walter Lang/Wr: Hilary Lynn & Milton Sperling/Cast: John Barrymore (Evans Garrick), Mary Beth Hughes (Sylvia Garrick), Gregory Ratoff (Boris Mefoofsky), Anne Baxter (Mary Maxwell), John Payne (Richard Lansing)

John Barrymore was the most celebrated actor of his generation, remembered for important Shakespearean turns on the New York stage and for romantic leading
roles as one of the most treasured players in MGM’s star-studded stable. By 1940, however, the actor affectionately known as “The Great Profile” was far past his prime. His drinking (and possibly early-onset Alzheimers) had robbed him of his ability to memorize lengthy passages of dialog, and he was considered by most to be a washed-up, drunken ham. Even Barrymore’s biographers tend to ignore his final film roles or simply dismiss them as self-parody. This is a shame, because although his last few roles were certainly burlesques of his image, no actor threw himself into self-parody with greater gusto than the illustrious Jack Barrymore.

In The Great Profile, Barrymore stars as Evans Garrick, a renowned thespian with a lust for the bottle. After disappearing on a three-day bender, Garrick finds himself dropped by his movie studio, his agent (Gregory Ratoff), and his wife (Mary Beth Hughes) on the same evening. Luckily, fortune shines on the aging actor in the form of an inexperienced playwright (Anne Baxter) who provides him with a play and, more importantly, the financing to put it on. The girl’s script stinks on ice, but Garrick turns the show into a sensation by getting blotto on opening night and terrorizing the rest of the cast with explosive ad-libs.

Although The Great Profile is a silly piece of fluff, Barrymore’s hilarious hamming turns it into tremendous fun. Every line, no matter how inane, is captivating when delivered by Barrymore’s silver tongue. The supporting cast also carries their weight, and special praise should be showered upon the exceedingly yummy Mary Beth Hughes, whose performance as Garrick’s venomous wife nearly reaches Barrymore’s level. While no classic, The Great Profile is a tasty cocktail that leaves a pleasant aftertaste.

Drinks Consumed--It’s impossible to say, because Garrick’s guzzling is done off screen.

Intoxicating Effects--Belching, staggering, harmonizing, hangover, memory blackouts, and ad-libbing

Potent Quotables--GARRICK: I, Evans Garrick, do solemnly vow to put spirituous liquors from me life forever.
MEFOOFSKY: You take the pledge?! You going on the wagon now?!
GARRICK: The very thought of tasting the vile stuff nauseates me!
MEFOOFSKY: Alright, you don’t like the taste; we’ll give it to you intravenously with injections.

Video Availability--Never released on video

Similarly Sauced Cinema--The previous year, Barrymore had portrayed a loveable souse in the minor comedy classic The Great Man Votes (1939).

John Barrymore Collection (Sherlock Holmes / Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde / The Beloved Rogue / Tempest) (4pc) (Silent) (Full)

Hollywood's Hellfire Club: The Misadventures of John Barrymore, W.C. Fields, Errol Flynn and the Bundy Drive Boys

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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