Lionel Barrymore was born in Philadelphia to the actors Georgiana Drew Barrymore and Maurice Barrymore. He was the elder brother of Ethel and John Barrymore, the uncle of John Drew Barrymore and Diana Barrymore and the great-uncle of a well-known actress Drew Barrymore. A lot of talented cinema and theater actors come from the Barrymore acting family, and most of them start their careers from the very young age. He is considered one of the most well-known and successful members of the theatrical family.

Lionel was raised a Roman Catholic. He attended the Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia. He attended private schools as a child, including the Art Students League of New York. He was married two times, and both his wives were actresses.

The best known Barrymore's work is, for sure, A Free Soul (1931), for which he won an Oscar. He is also famous even among modern generation for his role of Mr. Potter in the 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life.

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