Film's First FamilyThe Untold Story of the Costellos

Film's First FamilyThe Untold Story of the Costellos

Terry Chester Shulman

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9780813178097

Publisher: University Press of Kentucky

Abstract

The story of the Costellos is the story of the twentiethcentury’s second most accomplished family of actors—second only to the Barrymores, with whom they intermarried to beget a dynasty of unrivaled importance tothe stage and screen. Maurice Costello became what Photoplay called “the first recognized star in movies,” as well as the first screen heartthrob and the first truly modern screen actor. His daughter Helene was the first actress to star in an all-talking picture, The Lights of New York, in 1928. His daughter Dolores was a major star in her own right before marrying John Barrymore and bearing him a son to carry on the Barrymore name to successive generations of famous actors. The inner narrative is the story of not just what Hollywood does to actors, but what actors do to themselves. Maurice entangled himself in the movies’ first career-destroying scandal. Successive scandals continued to reduce the family fortunes, as, one by one, the Costellos’ brilliant achievements were eclipsed by their own immutable penchant for self-destruction.