Too Much, Too Soon (1958)


Art Napoleon

The daughter of iconic actor John Barrymore becomes reunited with her father after a ten year estrangement and engages in his self-destructive lifestyle.

Warner Brothers purchased the book the film is based on with the intention of starring Carroll Baker (then under contract) in an adaptation. When she declined on the grounds that she did not want to play “a nymphomaniac”, they refused to lend her to an outside company to appear in “The Devil’s Disciple” opposite Sir Laurence Olivier.

A masochistic wallow…enjoyable, nonetheless, especially with Malone in the lead

10 July 2012 | by moonspinner55 (las vegas, nv) – See all my reviews

Dorothy Malone does very fine work portraying Diana Barrymore, the daughter of alcoholic actor John Barrymore, a young woman with dreams of carving out her own niche in show business before succumbing to the same demons which dogged her father. The picture, however, is little more than a potboiler, co-written by director Art Napoleon with Jo Napoleon, from the book by Diana Barrymore and Gerold Frank. Errol Flynn is solid as John Barrymore, and there’s a sweet supporting performance from Martin Milner as a family friend (Milner’s final scene, revealing a bald head, is especially good). Still, this movie about the movies seems lackluster and naive, not to mention under-produced. For buffs, a somewhat enjoyable wallow with a quiet, even pace, and Malone manages to be sympathetic on the road to ruin without becoming a nuisance. **1/2 from ****


“Too Much, Too Soon” is Errol Flynn’s last good role

Author: (chuck-reilly) from Los Angeles
7 March 2008
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It’s strange watching “Too Much, Too Soon” mainly because of Errol Flynn’s take on his old mentor John Barrymore. The story involves the real John Barrymore’s daughter, Diana, who herself was an early version of some of Hollywood’s wayward children of today. Ms. Barrymore, charismatically played with loads of verve by Dorothy Malone, could’ve been a huge star, but it wasn’t meant to be. Booze, drugs and an endless string of bad lovers put her career on the rocks from which she never really recovered. Ms. Barrymore’s story is sad and morose and this movie does its best to sensationalize it. Her fast rise is chronicled here as well as her even faster fall from grace. That said, the performances are uniformly good in this movie, particularly Flynn as John Barrymore. Flynn died at the age of 50 the year after this film came out, and he was literally fading away during the entire production. He had his own demonic battles with alcohol, so he could entirely relate to the character he was playing.


After winning an Academy Award earlier, Dorothy Malone’s movie career mostly stalled after this film, but she later achieved lasting fame on TV’s “Peyton Place” as Constance MacKenzie. Ray Danton, another fine actor who never got his due in Hollywood, is along for the ride here as one of Dorothy’s gigolo/lovers. The depressing tale of Diana Barrymore could probably stand a good remake today with a capable cast and director. After all this time, she’s still a worthy subject.


Incredible Movie

Author: rsgallo from Lee’s Summit, MO
30 June 2001

Dorothy Malone’s performance is unbelievable. From a teenager to a middle aged woman. It is truly like seeing Diana Barrymore. Errol Flynn also was so outstanding. It was one of the greatest performances I have ever seen for him. The movie is one of the best I have seen. I highly recommend it.

Flynn Makes It Memorable

Author: Tom Hodgins from Mississauga, Ontario
9 April 2011

Based on the 1957 autobiography of Diana Barrymore, Too Much, Too Soon is one of a series of film biographies produced by Hollywood in the 1950’s dealing with show business personalities. While the second half of the film dissolves into soap opera antics, the first hour is remarkably compelling.

This is entirely due to the touching and profoundly sad performance of Errol Flynn, cast as the legendary ruin of a once great actor, John Barrymore. Flynn had been a crony and admirer of the Great Profile in the latter’s final years of alcoholic excess. The two men had much in common, talent, fame, and success, along with self-loathing and large streaks of self-destructive behaviour.


Tragically, Flynn, though he would never know it, even had his own version of Diana Barrymore, a daughter of whom he saw little who, like her father, would be cursed with personal demons, a life of potential squandered with drug addiction that preceded an early death. That, however, would be almost forty years after Flynn had performed his own incrementally slow suicide through alcohol and drugs.

Flynn adopts few of Barrymore’s mannerisms. Instead, his performance splendidly captures the inner turmoil and vulnerability of the Great Profile in his wilderness years, as well as one startling scene in which he depicts the mean, violent drunk that could emerge. There is a sadness and loneliness at the soul of this characterization, made all the more powerful because what the viewer is seeing is largely a reflection of Flynn himself. After years of self-indulgence and with a great career that had all but vanished, Flynn knew only too well the anguish that Barrymore felt towards the end.

There is also the irony of a scene in which Flynn, as Barrymore, regales a small gathering of people in a closed theatre with anecdotes about some of the old-time Hollywood personalities he had known. A year after Too Much, Too Soon’s release Flynn would be doing the same thing again, but now in real life at a private party, minutes before he suffered his fatal heart attack. Among the people that he discussed was John Barrymore.

The theme of the film is of a child of privilege, denied love by her self-absorbed parents, who spends her life seeking that love as she descends into an increasingly sordid world of alcohol and abusive relationships. It’s a pretty grim story though actually cleaned up for this film version. Diana Barrymore’s complete story was even more degrading than the one vaguely depicted in the screenplay of Art Napoleon, who also directed the film. Nor is any mention made of the fact that Diana’s first husband, played by Efrem Zimbalist Jr., is based on the actor Bramwell Fletcher, who had actually co-starred with her father eleven years before, in one of Barrymore’s greatest film triumphs, Svengali.


There are also, no surprise for a Hollywood product, some embellishments with the truth. One of the film’s best scenes involves Flynn, as Barrymore, making a person-to-person call to Diana’s mother, whom he had divorced years before, because he wants a second chance. It’s a great moment for the actor, a closeup on his face as his eyes first register fear then hopeful anticipation as he hears the phone ring at the other end, followed by a look of dejection when the operator comes on line to announce that the call isn’t being answered.

The real Barrymore, however, had two stormy marriages after that divorce (never mentioned in the screenplay, among many other things) and was engaged in an obsessive love-hate relationship with his fourth wife (Elaine Barrie) at the time that Diana briefly moved in with him. I’ve never read any indication that he still carried a torch for Diana’s mother, as Napoleon’s writing would have you believe.

Flynn’s performance is haunting but once his character dies at the film’s half way point there’s little reason for the viewer to continue to watch. Diana Barrymore’s own story is decidedly less interesting, as she runs through a succession of men, most of them predictably very bad for her. Dorothy Malone, fresh off her best supporting actress Oscar win for Written on the Wind, is quite good in the lead role but the viewer still feels robbed that Flynn is no longer on screen.

After a final hour of watching Diana Barrymore’s descent into a personal hell, the film ends on a slightly upbeat note with the indication of a possible rehabilitation for the main character. Unfortunately, it was not to be for the real Barrymore who would die from a drug overdose less than two years after this film’s release (and just four months after Flynn’s demise).

It’s a cautionary tale of celebrity self-destruction, made memorable by the heart rending performance of a man who channelled his own life story into that of the friend he portrayed.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s