Peking opera (also called Beijing opera) is a form of traditional Chinese theatre which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance, and acrobatics. It arose in the late 18th century and became fully developed and recognized by the mid-19th century. The form was extremely popular in the Qing dynasty court and has come to be regarded as one of the cultural treasures of China. Major performance troupes are based in Beijing and Tianjin in the north, and Shanghai in the south. The art form is also enjoyed in Taiwan, and has spread to other countries such as the United States and Japan. Beijing opera features four main types of performers. Performing troupes often have several of each variety, as well as numerous secondary and tertiary performers. With their elaborate and colorful costumes, performers are the only focal points on Beijing opera's characteristically sparse stage. They utilize the skills of speech, song, dance, and combat in movements that are symbolic and suggestive, rather than realistic. Above all else, the skill of performers is evaluated according to the beauty of their movements.
John Barrymore (1882–1942) was an American actor on stage, screen and radio. Born into a theatrical dynasty, he initially tried to avoid the stage, briefly attempting a career as an artist, but he soon followed his father Maurice and siblings Ethel and Lionel into acting. After beginning in light comedy, he moved to high stage drama, culminating in productions of Justice (1916), Richard III (1920), and especially Hamlet (1922), a role critics lavishly praised him for. After his stage career peaked, he turned entirely to cinema for the next 14 years, initially in silent films. His stage-trained voice proved an asset when sound films were introduced, and three of his works have been inducted into the National Film Registry. His personal life has been the subject of much attention before and since his death. He struggled with alcohol abuse from the age of 14, was married and divorced four times, and declared bankruptcy in his fifties. Much of his later work involved self-parody and the portrayal of drunken has-beens. A hugely influential actor whose talent still shapes Shakespearean acting today, his later career and private life were seen by the obituarists as a waste of a once-great talent.