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A triple biography, beginning with Maurice Costello--the first great movie star, the first international film star, the first screen heartthrob, the first to create the job description of screen actor, the creator of the first documented school of screen acting.
 
In short, the father of screen acting.
 
His daughter Helene was America's most popular child actress before becoming the first actress to star in an all-talking picture, The Lights of New York, in 1928.
 
Her older sister Dolores, besides being what Helene called "the most beautiful woman ever to appear in movies," was a silent star before she married John Barrymore and, by giving him a son, turned the Barrymore family into the dynasty it became with the celebrity of her granddaughter, Drew Barrymore.
 
After divorcing John, Dolores became the darling of the two greatest American screen auteurs of the 30s and 40s, respectively--as Dearest in David O. Selznick’s “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” and Isabel Minifer in Orson Welles’ “The Magnificent Ambersons."
 
Individually and as family members they were spectacularly dysfunctional.
 
At his worst, Maurice was an abusive alcoholic and a stalker.
 
Helene married four times, for the most part disastrously. Her second husband, Lowell Sherman, destroyed what remained of her career by publicly accusing her of reading pornographic literature.
 
Dolores stole her own grandchild when he was 18 months old and never gave him back.
 
Her son, John Barrymore Jr., lost his virginity at the age of 14 to his 25-year-old stepsister, the ill-fated Diana Barrymore.
 
If this wouldn't make the mother of all big-box mini-series, would you tell me what would?

AUTHOR Terry Chester Shulman is a historian who has written features for popular history publications, including Civil War Times Illustrated, Blue & Gray, Civil War, and Wild West. He has also reviewed a number of film biographies as a history book reviewer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.