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One day Maurice Barrymore took his children to the zoo. Young John -- fascinated by the large pelicans and cormorants in a filthy aviary -- begged his father to tell him about the exhibit's exotic creatures. "What," he asked at one point, "kind of birds are they?" "Presumably," the elder Barrymore replied, peering into a cage full of bird droppings, "they are birds of passage..."

[Born Maurice Blythe, the future actor adopted the Barrymore name after being disowned by his English family for pursuing a career as a professional boxer. His inspiration? An aging poster on an old English vaudeville house in London.]

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