Ainda adolescente, cortejou a [[corista]] [[Evelyn Nesbit]] de 1901 a 1902. Por anos correram rumores que Nesbit havia engravidado e que Barrymore havia providenciado um [[aborto]], disfarçado como uma operação de [[apendicite]]. Muitos anos depois, outro amante de Nesbit, o famoso [[arquiteto]] [[Stanford White]], foi morto pelo marido desta, o milionário de [[Pittsburgh]] [[Harry K. Thaw]]. Barrymore foi chamado como testemunha de defesa no julgamento de Thaw, na esperança de provar que Evelyn Nesbit possuía um histórico de "imoralidade". Tanto Nesbit quanto Barrymore negaram o episódio do aborto sob juramento.<ref>Kobler, John. ''Damned in Paradise: The Life of John Barrymore'', New York: Atheneum, 1977, p. 88</ref>
Barrymore estava hospedado no Hotel St. Francis, em [[San Francisco]] quando ocorreu o famoso [[Sismo de San Francisco de 1906|Terremoto de 1906]]. Ele estrelava uma produção de "''O Ditador''" e tinha agendado uma turnê para a [[Austrália]] com a peça. Com o fracasso de seus planos, recolheu-se, passando os próximos dias a beber na casa de um amigo na Van Ness Avenue. Durante essa temporada de bebedeiras, ele arquitetou um plano para explorar o terremoto em seu próprio benefício. Ele decide apresentar-se como reporter "no local da tragédia", maquiando todos os eventos que ele alegava ter presenciado. Vinte anos depois, Barrymore finalmente confessou
sua mentira, porém o ator era tão famoso a essa altura que o mundo simplesmente sorriu indulgentemente a essa confissão <ref>Gordon Thomas e Max Morgan Witts: ''The San Francisco Earthquake'', Stein and Day, New York and Souvenir Press, London, 1971; reimpressão Dell, 1972, SBN 440-07631, p. 212</ref>
was also great friends and a drinking buddy with
[[Mike Donlin]]. Donlin
eventually appeared in two of Barrymore's silent movies
''Raffles The Amateur Cracksman''
The Sea Beast
Barrymore was staying at the [[St. Francis Hotel]] in [[San Francisco]] when the [[1906 San Francisco Earthquake|1906 earthquake]] struck. He had starred in a production of ''The Dictator'' and was booked to tour Australia with it. Since he loathed this prospect, he hid, spending the next few days drinking at the home of a friend on Van Ness Avenue. During this drinking jag, he worked out a plan to exploit the earthquake for his own ends. He decided to present himself as an on-the-scene "reporter", making up virtually everything he claimed to have witnessed. Twenty years later, Barrymore finally confessed to his deception, but by then, he was so famous that the world merely smiled indulgently at his admission."<ref name=thomas&morgan>Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts: ''The San Francisco Earthquake'', Stein and Day, New York and Souvenir Press, London, 1971; reprinted Dell, 1972, SBN 440-07631, page 212</ref> His account was written as a "letter to my sister Ethel". He was sure the letter would be "worth at least a hundred dollars." In terms of publicity it earned Barrymore a thousand times that amount.<ref name=thomas&morgan/>
Barrymore was also great friends and a drinking buddy with [[baseball]] legend [[Mike Donlin]]. Donlin eventually appeared in two of Barrymore's silent movies, ''Raffles The Amateur Cracksman'' and ''[[The Sea Beast]]''.
==Early theatre and film career==
Barrymore delivered some of the most critically acclaimed performances in theatre and film history and was widely regarded as the screen's greatest performer during a movie career spanning 25 years as a leading man in more than 60 films.
Barrymore specialized in light comedies until convinced by his friend, playwright [[Edward Sheldon]], to try serious drama. Thereafter Barrymore created a sensation in [[John Galsworthy]]'s ''Justice'' (1916) co-starring [[Cathleen Nesbitt]]. It would be Nesbitt who would introduce him to [[Blanche Oelrichs]]. He followed this triumph with [[Broadway theatres|Broadway]] successes in ''[[Peter Ibbetson]]'' (1917), a role his father Maurice had wanted to play, [[Leo Tolstoy|Tolstoy's]] ''[[Redemption (play)|Redemption]]'' (1918) and ''[[The Jest]]'' (1919), co-starring his brother [[Lionel Barrymore|Lionel]], reaching what seemed to be the zenith of his stage career as [[Richard III (play)|Richard III]] in 1920. Barrymore suffered a conspicuous failure in his wife [[Michael Strange]]'s play ''[[Clair de Lune]]'' (1921), but followed it with the greatest success of his theatrical career with ''[[Hamlet]]'' in 1922, which he played on [[Broadway theatres|Broadway]] for 101 performances and then took to London in 1925.
Barrymore entered films around 1913 with the feature ''An American Citizen''. He or someone using the name ''Jack Barrymore'' is given credit for four short films made in 1912 and 1913 but this has not been proven to be John Barrymore. Barrymore was most likely convinced into giving films a try out of economic necessity and the fact that he hated touring a play all over the United States. He could make a couple of movies in the off-season theater months or shoot a film in one part of a day while doing a play in another part. He also may have been goaded into films by his brother Lionel and his uncle Sidney, who had both been successfully making movies for a couple of years. Some of Barrymore's silent film roles included [[A. J. Raffles]] in ''[[Raffles The Amateur Cracksman (1917 film)|Raffles the Amateur Cracksman]]'' (1917), ''[[Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920 film)|Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde]]'' (1920), ''[[Sherlock Holmes (1922 film)|Sherlock Holmes]]'' (1922), ''[[Beau Brummel (1924 film)|Beau Brummel]]'' (1924), [[Captain Ahab]] in ''[[The Sea Beast]]'' (1926), and ''[[Don Juan (film)|Don Juan]]'' (1926). When talking pictures arrived, Barrymore's stage-trained voice added a new dimension to his screen work. He made his talkie debut with a dramatic reading of the big Richard III speech from ''[[Henry VI, part 2]]'' in [[Warner Brothers]]' musical revue ''[[The Show of Shows (film)|'The Show of Shows]]'' (''"Would they were wasted: marrow, bones and all"'') , and reprised his Captain Ahab role in ''[[Moby Dick (1930 film)|Moby Dick]]'' (1930). His other leads included ''[[The Man from Blankley's]]'' (1930), ''[[Svengali (1931 film)|Svengali]]'' (1931), ''[[The Mad Genius]]'' (1931), ''[[Grand Hotel (film)|Grand Hotel]]'' (1932) (in which he displays an affectionate chemistry with his brother Lionel), ''[[Dinner at Eight (1933 film)|Dinner at Eight]]'' (1933), ''[[Topaze (1933 American film)|Topaze]]'' (1933) and ''[[Twentieth Century (movie)|Twentieth Century]]'' (1934). He worked opposite many of the screen's foremost leading ladies, including [[Greta Garbo]], [[Katharine Hepburn]], [[Jean Harlow]], [[Joan Crawford]], and [[Carole Lombard]]. In 1933, Barrymore appeared as a Jewish attorney in the title role of ''[[Counsellor at Law]]'' based on [[Elmer Rice]]'s 1931 play. As critic [[Pauline Kael]] later wrote, he "seems an unlikely choice for the ghetto-born lawyer...but this is one of the few screen roles that reveal his measure as an actor. His 'presence' is apparent in every scene; so are his restraint, his humor, and his zest."