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John Barrymore Pranks John Carradine

Did John Barrymore pull a screen test prank on John Carradine?

Published Sep 20, 1998

Claim:   John Barrymore once pulled a risque screen test prank on John Carradine.

Status:   Undetermined.

Origins:   We'll just present Jamie Farr's version of this (likely apocryphal) tale and let it go at that:

This happened back in the 1930s, when Barrymore was one of the biggest things in Hollywood, and Carradine, a fine Shakespearean actor on Broadway, was seeking work in Hollywood. Somehow, Barrymore, an old friend, was put in charge of Carradine's test at Twentieth-Century Fox. "Not to worry, dear boy," said Barrymore. "I'll take good care of you."

He took care of him all right. He guided Carradine over to a vacant stage, where a cameraman and some lighting guys were waiting, and explained that the entire test would be done in pantomime. "I want you to come out from behind this door," said Barrymore, "and you're to make the audience feel that you've just had the best feast of your life."

Carradine said he could do that. And he did. He put on a helluva mime show, licking his lips, wiping them with his kerchief, patting his stomach, almost burping with contentment, smiling to himself, sighing with the rapture of it all. "How did I do?" said Carradine, when Barrymore cried cut.

"Terrific," said Barrymore.

"When do I get to see it?"

"Tomorrow. Come to the commissary at noon tomorrow. We'll take a look at it after lunch." So, after lunch the next day, Barrymore corralled a half-dozen of the studio executives to take a look at Carradine, who wondered why his friend was making such a big deal out of a simple, little, no-dialogue piece of celluloid. He found out. Up there on the screen, after his marvelous mime, the camera cuts to the same door Carradine had come out of. Now here comes Barrymore, smiling and winking at the camera and zipping up his fly.

Last updated:   9 August 2007

  Sources Sources:

    Farr, Jamie.   Just Farr Fun.

    Clearwater, FL: Eubanks/Donizetti Inc., 1994.   ISBN 0-9640775-0-7   (p. 34-35).

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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