Cast & Crew
Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
Fourteen-year-old Diana Barrymore cowers under the control of her domineering mother, famed poet and socialite Michael Strange, and longs to see her father, actor John Barrymore, with whom she has had no contact for ten years. One day, Diana notes the kindness shown to her by her mother's editor, Gerold Frank, but is soon distracted by Michael's anger at the interception of a letter Diana has written to her father, asking to visit. Although Michael warns that John, whose career as a matinee idol has been nearly ruined by his infamous womanizing and alcoholism, will not respond, she finally allows Diana to send the letter, and John invites the girl onto his boat. There, Diana glows under her father's warm attention, but, after years of worship from afar, is unable to contain herself from talking incessantly. By nightfall, when a boat full of John's "friends" approaches and they urge him to join them, a drunken John jumps into the water and swims to them, offering Diana the use of the boat. Four years later, Diana has grown into a lovely, sophisticated woman, but the neglect she has suffered has caused her to emulate her father in an attempt to be closer to him. To this end, she decides to become an actress, despite her mother's exhortations that the press will exploit her for her famous name. On opening night on Broadway, Diana's poor acting skills deter neither her loyal boyfriend, Lincoln Forrester, nor the audience members, who are eager to see another Barrymore on stage. As a result, she is offered a Hollywood contract, which her mother allows her to sign only in exchange for agreeing not to live with John, whose drunken escapades have kept him from working for four years. In Los Angeles, the press greet her rapturously, especially after John welcomes her at the train station, providing excellent fodder for the fan magazines. He brings her to his mansion, and although he has pawned all of the furniture to support his alcoholism, he has outfitted a beautiful room upstairs in the hopes that she will move in with him. She resists, but is won over when he vows that he is through searching for an elusive achievement and wants only her. She is happy living with him, though she is wary of both his burly servant, Walter Gerhardt, and the huge eagle John keeps in a massive cage in the living room. Before appearing in her first role, under the tutelage of Imperial Pictures producer Charlie Snow, Diana struggles to learn her lines and disregard the insulting comments of the hairdresser. A romance soon blossoms with fellow actor Vincent Bryant, who kisses her one night but then must leave to spend several weeks on location in San Francisco. After bidding him goodbye, Diana returns home to find John in a drunken rage, with bottles smashed and his bird loose in the house. Gerhardt, who has been hired expressly for this purpose, gently tells her to leave before he knocks John out and puts him to sleep. Diana is horrified but remains supportive, urging John the next morning to try to quit drinking. He agrees, and a month later, on the night of Diana's movie's press premiere, he appears and charms the press corps with his debonair stories about the early days of filmmaking. Impressed with his charisma, Charlie offers to recommend John for the role of Sheridan Whiteside in the upcoming production of The Man Who Came to Dinner . At home, flush with enthusiasm, John, who remembers Michael as the only "real woman" he ever loved, decides to call the poet and invite her to visit them. She is not at home, however, and by the time she calls back, John has taken several drinks to calm his nerves. Sensing that he is drunk, Michael sadly hangs up on him, sending John into a rage during which he blames Diana for wanting to keep him to herself. She slaps him and leaves the house, despite his quiet plea that she stay. Weeks later, Diana's performance is criticized at a preview screening, and on the same evening, Gerhardt informs her that John, who has been drinking steadily since she left, has entered the hospital. Diana rushes there but is too late to see him before he dies. Distraught and blaming herself for his death, Diana turns to alcohol, and when Vince returns from San Francisco, he finds her passed out. She begs him to make love to her, and soon after, the two are married. Although they are happy, Vince's budding career takes him away frequently and Diana, unable to be alone, grows fiercely possessive. When Vince disregards her entreaties, she resorts to throwing raucous parties in his absence. At one, she meets rapacious tennis player John Howard, who encourages her to drink, carouse and renege on her Imperial contract. When Vince returns to find the two together, he leaves in a fury, and Diana immediately marries John. Soon, they are penniless and full of mutual distaste, and with nowhere else to go, they arrive at Michael's, where Linc is distressed to see Diana's drunken state. After a month of continual drinking, Michael throws the couple out, at which point John sadistically hits a tennis ball at Diana's face. To support herself, Diana is forced to perform at summer theater, where her name is enough of an attraction to earn her a role. When she shows up drunk, young actor Robert Wilcox shields her from the manager and helps her to sober up for the production. Although he warns her that he is a recovering alcoholic and averse to commitment, Diana cannot keep herself from seducing him. Soon, they are married and miserable, and when Bob hears that Michael has died and left no money, he becomes abusive. Diana resorts to performing impressions at a girlie show, but cannot hold even that job, stripping off her clothes to gain the audience's approval. When she destroys a pharmacy window in the street, she is hospitalized. There, Gerold Frank finds her and asks her to write her memoirs with him when she is released. He gives her his address in Manhattan, stating that she will have a chance to discover herself through writing about her background. Although she is doubtful, she clings to this opportunity, and upon leaving the institution, attempts to take the bus to Gerold's house. With no money, however, she is forced to walk the fifty blocks, and along the way, stops to ask a wealthy man for change for the bus. Upon realizing that the man is Linc, Diana runs in shame, but when he follows and embraces her, she begs him not to look at her, fearing that the years and drinking have robbed her of all beauty and dignity. To allay her worries, Linc doffs his hat, revealing the bald pate underneath. Diana laughs with pleasure, but despite her gratefulness and knowledge that Linc is a truly kind man, she has finally realized that she must find herself before she can find love, so she tells him she must go. After lending her bus fare, Linc urges Diana to write to him, then watches as she heads off to Gerold's.
Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
Francis De Sales
George James Hopkins
Francis E. Stahl
Too Much, Too Soon -
Born into Hollywood and stage royalty, Diana Barrymore was raised in Europe by her mother, poetess Blanche Oelrichs (Patterson), while hardly seeing her father. She grew up to be an attractive woman, and with the Barrymore name, landed a Hollywood contract. Against her mother's wishes, Diana went to live with her father, who she found to be a hopeless and nearly broke alcoholic.
Diana's acting ability doesn't live up to the family name, and she suffers through marriages to actor Vince Bryant (Zimbalist), a pseudonym for real-life actor Bramwell Fletcher, tennis player John Howard (Danton), and alcoholic actor Robert Wilcox (Kemmer). Like many in the Barrymore family, Diana herself becomes an alcoholic and her life goes into a downward spiral. Things take a turn for the better when she is asked to write her autobiography, and the film ends on an optimistic note.
Carroll Baker was originally slated to play Diana, but she refused to play the part, which led to her suspension by the studio. Natalie Wood and Anne Baxter were mentioned in the press, but it was Dorothy Malone, who had just won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for Written on the Wind (1956), who got the part. Errol Flynn had been one of Warner Bros.' biggest stars in the 1930s and 1940s, but his Barrymore-like drinking and behavior had taken its toll on his looks and his career. Ironically, Ray Danton, playing tennis pro John Howard, received lessons from Frank Feldtrop, the same Beverly Hills Hotel tennis pro who had introduced the real-life Howard to Diana Barrymore.
Warner Bros. may have changed Bramwell Fletcher's name to avoid being sued, but they used the real names of Howard and Wilcox. Actor Robert Wilcox had died of a heart attack in 1955, and therefore could not be libeled, and John Howard had been arrested on pimping charges. He later threatened to sue Warner Bros.
Despite the book being a best seller, the film version of Too Much, Too Soon wasn't a hit with the critics. Howard Thompson, writing for The New York Times felt that Too Much, Too Soon and Malone were "not bad--just ineffectual. [...] Mr. Flynn, as the late John Barrymore, a moody, wild-drinking ruin of a great actor, steals the picture, lock, stock and keg. It is only in the scenes of his savage disintegration, as the horrified girl hangs on, that the picture approaches real tragedy." The reviewer from The Sunday Herald disagreed, writing that "Errol Flynn, who can't act, is able to convey the idea that John Barrymore, who could act, was a friendly drunk, but he can't convey much else about the great hambo."
A year after Too Much, Too Soon was released, Errol Flynn was dead at 50 from a heart attack and a life of dissipation. Only a year later Diana Barrymore herself would be dead from a combination of alcohol and pills. She was 38 years old.
By Lorraine LoBianco
Carroll, Harrison "Behind the Scenes in Hollywood" The Billings County Pioneer 19 Dec 57
"FBI Arrest Tennis Man" Barrier Miner 31 Oct 50
"The Gabor Girls Love Each Other", The Washington Post 4 Feb 57
The Mike Wallace Interview: Diana Barrymore http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/multimedia/video/2008/wallace/barrymore_diana_t.html
"At the Movies: Three Novels Comes to Local Screens", Sunday Herald 1 Jun 58
Thompson, Howard "Too Much Too Soon (1958) Diana Barrymore's Story at 2 Theatres" The New York Times 10 May 58
Too Much, Too Soon -
The title credit reads: "Too Much, Too Soon: The Daring Story of Diana Barrymore". During a scene on his boat, Errol Flynn, as "John Barrymore," performs a monologue from William Shakespeare's Henry V. Too Much, Too Soon was based on the autobiography of the same name by Diana Barrymore (1921-1960), daughter of John Barrymore (1882-1942) and Blanche Marie Oelrichs, who wrote poetry under the name Michael Strange (1890-1950). The many actors in the celebrated Barrymore family have included Georgiana Drew; her children Ethel, Lionel and John; John's children Diana and John, Jr.; and John, Jr.'s daughter Drew. In addition to their fame as actors, some of the family members have struggled publicly with alcohol and drug addictions. Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman purportedly based The Royal Family, their 1927 play about a madcap theatrical family, on the Barrymores. That play was later made into a 1931 Paramount film entitled The Royal Family of Broadway (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40).
As noted by many reviewers, Too Much, Too Soon digressed sharply from its source. In the book, Barrymore discussed her father's many marriages; her own multiple suicide attempts and arrests; and her varied stage and film roles, many of which garnered positive reviews. Unlike in the film, Diana became estranged from her father after he asked her to hire a call girl for him, but maintained a relationship with her aunt, Ethel. Although in the film Diana works for Imperial Pictures, in real life she was under contract to producer Walter Wanger, and was suspended from his studio for refusing to co-star in a Sherlock Holmes picture. Her first husband, called "Vincent Bryant" in the film, was actor Bramwell Fletcher. Diana made her film debut in the 1942 Universal feature Eagle Squadron, and died in 1960 of an apparent suicide, two years after the release of Too Much, Too Soon.
Flynn had been close friends with John Barrymore, and stated in his autobiography that he took great pains to portray the great actor's "inner self" rather than impersonate him. However, to approximate the features of the man known as "The Great Profile," Flynn agreed to wear a nose prosthetic. Too Much, Too Soon marked the first time in five years that Flynn had worked for Warner Bros., the studio that held his contract during the peak of his stardom. Like Barrymore, Flynn was an alcoholic and was suffering from the disease during the production of the film. Studio chief Jack Warner wrote in his autobiography that Flynn was playing the part he lived, but praised his performance, as did most of the reviewers.
According to Hollywood Reporter news items, location shooting occurred at Seal Beach and at Union Station in Los Angeles. November 1957 Hollywood Reporter news items add the following members to the cast: Yvonne Peattie, Coulter Irwin, Shirley Mitchell, Joanna Barnes, Maila Nurmi, Nicky Blair, Malcolm Atterbury, Frank Scannell, Mary Hokanson, Ruth Lee, Lester Dorr, Frederic Vallani and John Bonitz. Their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
Released in United States Spring May 1958
Released in United States Spring May 1958