The dynasty started with Maurice Barrymore who was born in India and emigrated to America and joined Augustin Daly's acting troupe. Soon he was on Broadway and married fellow actress Georgianna Drew. Their three children were Lionel, Ethel and John Barrymore. In turn, their offspring made their own names for themselves in the entertainment industry.
Lionel is most remembered for his role as "Mr. Potter" in the holiday classic, "It's A Wonderful Life" (1946). John is remembered for many films including the comedy "Twentieth Century" (1934), in which he co-starred with Carole Lombard, of whom he said was the best actress he had ever worked with. Of course, Ethel had an extensive film and theater career and each sibling earned Oscars in respective roles throughout their careers. Remarkably, the three siblings did appear in two films together - "National Red Cross Pageant" (1917) which was a silent and has since been considered a lost film, and "Rasputin and the Empress" (1932).
It was in 1927, when the playwright team George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber wrote a parody based on the Barrymore family titled, "The Royal Family." However, the play did not use the Barrymore name. Instead, the playwrights George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber created a fictional family by the name of Cavendish. But it was the only exception - the characters remained thinly-sketched caricatures of the Barrymores. The play portrayed John as a alcoholic womanizer and Ethel as the diva of Broadway. It premiered on Broadway and ran for almost 400 performances before finally closing in the fall of October the following year. When John saw the play in Los Angeles, he was amused by it and congratulated Fredric March for his performance in the title role of Tony Cavendish, which alluded to be John. Meanwhile, when Ethel saw it, she was insulted by the play's portrayal of herself.
It was in 1943 that Kaufman formally met Ethel at a function and asked her if she would help him with his vaudeville act, "The Three Ethels." It would have been for a Red Cross Benefit and it involved Barrymore, Merman and Waters. But Ethel turned him down, saying "I'm sorry but I'm going to have laryngitis that night." As Ethel turned away, Kaufman realized that she had quoted "The Royal Family", his own play.
As for Drew Barrymore, who shares her namesake with a few members of her own famous family, started her career at 11 months old for a dog commercial. Amidst being a successful child actress, with her break-out role being in "E.T" (1982), it was not always easy. By the time she was 14, Drew was in rehab. The following year, she wrote her memoir "Little Girl Lost" describing her troubling past.
Since then, Drew has built a career as not only an actress, but as a producer and director with the underrated indie film "Whip It" (2009). As of March 2012, Drew has become the new co-host to Turner Classic Movie's series "The Essentials" where she will join Robert Osbourne as they discuss some of the most iconic films ever made.