Film’s First Family

Film's First Family

The Untold Story of the Costellos

Screen Classics

by Terry Chester Shulman

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Imprint: The University Press of Kentucky

304 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.00 in, 34 b&w halftones

  • Paperback
  • 9780813151946
  • Published: September 2021

$24.95 TD

  • Hardcover
  • 9780813178097
  • Published: November 2019

$35.00 TD


Scandal, adultery, secret marriages, divorce, custody battles, suicide attempts, and alcoholism—the trials and tribulations of the Costellos were as riveting as any Hollywood feature film. This eccentric and talented clan was one of the twentieth century's most famous families of actors, until their achievements were eclipsed by their own immutable penchant for self-destruction. Patriarch Maurice Costello was considered the first screen idol until his career, marked by accusations of spousal abuse, drunkenness, and physical assault, abruptly ended. Costello's daughter, Helene, was the first actress to star in an all-talking picture, but her career was ruined by a very public divorce from Lowell Sherman, who testified that his wife was a drunk and an avid reader of pornography. And though the original members of this family may be gone, the legacy lives on—most notably through actress Drew Barrymore.

Written with unprecedented access to the family's personal documents and artifacts, as well as interviews with several family members, Film's First Family explores the dramatic history of the Costellos and their extraordinary significance to the stage and screen.