Nine Three-Generation Film Families

Two out of three generations of Fondas

Nepotism. It's an inherent part of showbiz. Centuries ago, when actors were poor and looked down upon, the children of traveling players would be expected to carry on the "family business." Now that movie people make millions, the allure for their spoiled offspring to make it equally big is obvious. And, of course, the opportunities are there: just talk to mommy's agent. Still, it's quite rare to see three generations of movie stars and filmmakers. These are the nine that I found:

  1. The Barrymores. There have been so many Barrymores in show business that it's hard to keep them straight. Here's a quick breakdown of the family tree: Siblings Ethel, Lionel, and John Barrymore were all stars of stage and screen. You remember Lionel as mean Mr. Potter in It's a Wonderful Life. Ethel won an Oscar for the film None But the Lonely Heart and was nominated three more times. John was very popular in the 1930s, and went on to sire actors Diana Barrymore and John Drew Barrymore. Diana died tragically; John Drew never made it big, although he acted frequently. Today, the family line continues with John Drew's daughter: Drew Barrymore.
  2. The Hustons. This family tree is a little more gnarled: Huston patriarch Walter was a beloved character actor, winning an Oscar for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – which was directed by his son John, who launched his showbiz career around the same time as his father and went on to great success as a director and as an actor. John's daughter Anjelica is a famous actress, of course, and she won her Oscar under dad's direction for Prizzi's Honor. John's son Danny is also an accomplished actor and has directed a couple of features as well.
  3. The Fondas. We begin with Henry Fonda, one of the greatest screen icons of all time. His daughter Jane did fairly well for herself too, I'm told. Son Peter was less successful, but still had quite a career (Easy Rider) – as well as a daughter of his own, Bridget, who made it on the A-list herself.
  4. The Ritters. Tex Ritter was a major country singer in his day, and he also played cowboys, usually named "Tex", in over 70 films. His son John became a star in the '70s sitcom Three's Company and starred in many theatrical features. John's son Jason is finding his own star slowly rising, appearing on the TV series Joan of Arcadia and several independent features.
  5. The Coppolas. This is almost cheating, for Carmine Coppola – Francis's dad – only got film work (as a composer) thanks to his famous son. Too bad he can't lay claim to the brilliant Godfather theme: that was Nino Rota's music. As for Francis, his renown helped nearly the whole family find employment: His sister Talia Shire, his son Roman, his nephews Nicolas (Coppola) Cage and Jason Schwartzman (Talia's son), and of course his daughter Sofia.
  6. The Carradines. John Carradine starred in over 300 films in his long career. That's right: 300 films. A lot of garbage, but some classics too (Captains Courageous, The Ten Commandments, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Court Jester). Anyway, his sons Robert, Keith, and David each met with success in his own right (and each has appeared in his share of junk, too). Who's the third generation? Keith's daughter, actress Martha Plimpton.
  7. The Dorleacs. The French have their showbiz families too. Actor Maurice Dorleac was the patriarch of this clan. You might have heard of his more famous daughter, Catherine Deneuve. She in turn had a daughter with Italian legend Marcello Mastroianni: Chiara Mastroianni, whose half-brother Christian Vadim (son of Deneuve and director Roger Vadim) has also acted in a large number of French productions.
  8. The Kohners. Who? All right: Paul Kohner was a German producer who married Mexican actress Lupita Tovar (still alive, as of this writing, at 96). Their daughter Susan Kohner was nominated for an Oscar as a light-skinned African American in Douglas Sirk's celebrated weepie Imitation of Life. She married agent John Weitz and had two boys with him: Chris and Paul Weitz, whose work as writers, directors, and producers include American Pie, About a Boy, The Golden Compass, and In Good Company.
  9. The Redgraves. Almost as sprawling a family as the Barrymores, the Redgrave lineage goes something like this: English stage actor Roy Redgrave starred in a handful of silents before dying in 1922. Roy begat Michael Redgrave, a popular British actor who starred in over 60 films. Michael had three actor children: Vanessa, Lynn and Corin, all of whom went on to fame. Keeping track? We're already at three generations, so let's keep going: Vanessa's daughters Joely and Natasha Richardson have also starred in many films, and Corin's daughter Jemma Redgrave has appeared in a number of British features. Four generations deep, one expects the Redgraves to just go on and on.