THE HOUSE OF BARRYMORE
by Margot Peters
Knopf; 596 pages; $29.95
In 1890 a 10-year-old reminded her brothers, "It's about time we were doing something in the theater." As Ethel Barrymore saw it, they were already years behind schedule; Grandma had made her New York City debut at eight.
The children wasted little time in catching up. Ethel became an adolescent star. Lionel and John followed in her footlights, and for half a century the trio dominated the American stage and screen. The story of the siblings has provoked innumerable books, plays and films -- including one appropriately titled The Royal...