I remember a time when PBS used to showcase vintage movies on weekend afternoons during which I caught TOO MUCH, TOO SOON starring the ever-interesting Dorothy Malone. The aim was to recreate movie house magic with previews, intermissions between double-bills, and it totally worked. I was around 17 (I think) and already had a thing for silver screen cinema. I was so absorbed by this latest showing that I spent years trying to catch it again, to no avail. It took the possession of a VHS player and the magic of eBay for me to finally find a print. Fast-forward to early 2010 and what do you know, a DVD copy finally comes my way, courtesy of Warner Brothers.
Based on the 1957 best-selling memoirs of Diana Barrymore (Drew Barrymore’s aunt), TOO MUCH, TOO SOON shows the world what it’s really like to have it all and still self-destruct. Malone’s downward spiral from the golden days of Hollywood to the sleazy side of the boulevard involves booze and booze and more booze. Did I say booze?
The fun starts pretty early when teen Malone—already in her 30s at the time—visits her matinee idol of a dad (an impressive Errol Flynn) whom she hadn’t seen in years on account that he’s a wandering lush (but stuck on a yacht for this scene). She quickly sees his ways when he drunkenly throws himself into the ocean to crash a party on another yacht. This sudden abandonment doesn’t bode well for Malone as the gauzy soft focus equipped camera zooms in on her sadden face. Cut to a few years later and Malone, now a society belle, yearns to see her name in lights but fails at it big time after receiving scathed reviews (sort of like in this film). Married now to fellow actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr (from SCRUPLES fame) and rid of her dad who has finally passed on, she sets out to be a good wife. Not for long, though, since she rather sleeps with tennis pro Ray Danton (who wouldn’t?) while hubby is away.
Divorced, she and Danton get hitched and live off her domineering mom. The two party like the Lowans before he swirls a tennis ball at her in a fit of rage. Ouch! She soon divorces him as well and consumes pints of alcohol to forget it all, especially the fact that she is now dead broke (her deceased mom’s has done a MOMMIE DEAREST on her in her will). Then we get to the film pivotal scene where Malone, drunk as a skunk and not much to look at, does an awful burlesque act in a seedy club to earn money and is quickly thrown off the stage. She ends up in rehab, cleans up finally and chance meets sweet old friend Martin Milner (Neely‘s first hubby in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS) who offers a helping hand. She kindly refuses but promises to keep in touch and heads off to her new sober life. The end.
In real life Diana Barrymore had a much longer battle with booze (and pills) which lasted until her untimely death (ruled suicide) in 196o. She was 38 years old. In between drinks she had tried to revive her acting career from the success of her novel but failed again. Clearly her life was meant to be shitty. Supposedly Lana Turner’s character in THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL is based on Barrymore. It has been years since I have seen that film. Need to check it out once again.
Until next post—Martin