TOO MUCH, TOO SOON has Dorothy Malone giving it the old college try in this poorly produced and directed story about Diana Barrymore, fated to the bottle and despair. Malone brings her brand of vulnerable sensuality to the role, but she’s defeated by the hackneyed script and has the films muted thunder stolen out from under her by Errol Flynn, as John Barrymore.
Playing his old friend here was one of the actors last roles, and he’s very good as the disintegrating star. Sad, in that Flynn’s own doom is mirrored in the portrait. Otherwise, the 1958 movie offers little, except Ray Danton doing another of his specialties as a sadistic prick. *
Based on Barrymore’s best-selling autobio. Malone got the lead after Carroll Baker turned it down (which refusal then lost Baker a role she craved, playing another fallen woman in The Brothers Karamazov. Monroe wanted that choice part, too, but it went to Maria Schell, who was terrific). Malone, 33, had cachet after winning an Oscar for her bad-bad girl in Written On The Wind (I always thought she was sexy as hell) and she does what she can, but the weak script, poor pass at any kind of period atmosphere and bland direction are little help.
Directed by Art Napoleon, who co-wrote the script with his wife Jo. Co-starring Efrem Zimbalist,Jr., Martin Milner, Murray Hamilton, Neva Patterson, John Dennis and Robert Ellenstein. In bit parts, keen eyes may spot Kathleen Freeman, John Doucette, Peter Brown and Joanna Barnes. Also in the background is sixteen-year old Beverly Aadland (“blonde at studio party”), who met and charmed the wayward Flynn on this shoot and became his final object d’fling. Her manipulative mother helped—this sad tale can be gleaned in 2013’s The Last Of Robin Hood: I suppose if one was going to collapse at 50, it may as well be from exerting oneself over someone with the nickname ‘Little Wood Nymph’). 121 minutes.
* Jack L. Warner, in his autobiography: “When we talked about the role of John Barrymore, who had literally boozed himself into the grave, I immediately thought of Errol. Frankly, I missed his gaiety and taunting laughter, and the excitement he generated on the set….he came back to the lot, but I could not bear to watch him struggle through take after take. The once strong and handsome face was puffy and gray, the dancing shimmer was gone in his eyes, and there was no longer a spring in his step….he was one of the living dead.”
Errol’s take: “To play Jack was hard. You don’t give an imitation–that’s bad. I tried to take him before he became the buffoon, before he started to burlesque himself. It was a period of his life when he was lost and trying to get hold of himself.”
Flynn was dead a year later. Diana Barrymore made it one more calendar, before dying at age 38 from alcohol & pills and a family curse.