THE STAGE: That's All There Is . . .

The leading lady was almost dumb with stage fright. On opening night in Philadelphia, her lines faded into half-heard whispers, and the audience squirmed with shared embarrassment. Then a voice rasped down from the cheap seats: "Speak up, Ethel. You Drews is all good actors."

The advice was fine, but results were slow. In the early winter of 1901, while Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines limped toward Broadway, 21-year-old Ethel Barrymore was sick with fear. And she suffered doubly because she had been born to the stage. Her father, Maurice Barrymore,...

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