Too Much, Too Soon (1958)

Too Much, Too Soon (1958), directed by Art Napoleon.

A soapy, weepy dramatization of Diana Barrymore's autobiography. Craving the attention of her long absent, high living father, she becomes an actress just to enter his world. After he dies she has a string of bad men and descends into alcoholic debasement. Maybe a bright light and new chance at the end when she decides to tell her story.

An earlier film -- The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) -- had a fictionalized portrayal of Diana by Lana Turner.

Dorothy Malone is fine in all the aspects of the lead -- youth, success, decline -- but the first half belongs to Errol Flynn in one of his last big roles. He has the beefy, dissipated look of his final decade and his portrayal of the raging alcoholic great actor is effectively scary.

John Barrymore was his best friend so it is appropriate that he play him 15 years later. In fact, watching this, I kept forgetting that I was watching Barrymore's story and thought it was actually Flynn's, their lives being so similar: superstars, then the decline through bad marriages, money trouble, alcohol and drugs.

There are various versions of a story that Raoul Walsh stole Barrymore's body and sat it in a chair at Flynn's house, causing him to scream and scream when he walked in. The stories are all myths. Flynn tells it in his entertaining autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, but that book has a lot of fiction. It was partly (mostly? entirely?) ghost-written, although much of it sounds like his voice, so maybe it was developed from notes or interviews. Thomas McNulty's Errol Flynn: The Life and Career sets the history straight.

Carl E. Guthrie and Nicholas Musuraca both get cinematography credits.

Available on DVD.