Too Much, Too Soon

For the album by the New York Dolls, see Too Much Too Soon (album).
Too Much, Too Soon

1958 Theatrical Poster
Directed by Art Napoleon
Produced by Henry Blanke
Written by Diana Barrymore (book)
Gerold Frank (book)
Art Napoleon
Jo Napoleon
Starring Dorothy Malone
Errol Flynn
Music by Ernest Gold
Cinematography Carl E. Guthrie
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • 1958 (1958)
Running time
121 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office 131,427 admissions (France)[1]

Too Much, Too Soon is a 1958 biographical film made by Warner Bros.. It was directed by Art Napoleon and produced by Henry Blanke[2] from a screenplay by Art Napoleon and Jo Napoleon, based on the autobiography by Diana Barrymore and Gerold Frank. The music score was by Ernest Gold and the cinematography by Carl E. Guthrie. Diana died in 1960, two years after the release of this film.

It stars Dorothy Malone and Errol Flynn (as John Barrymore), with Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Ray Danton, Neva Patterson, Murray Hamilton and Martin Milner.


Fourteen-year-old Diana Barrymore is being raised by her domineering mother, a poet. Her father, the famed actor John Barrymore, has not laid eyes on Diana for 10 years, but they share an evening on his boat before John abandons her again.

At 18, Diana has become an actress and has a steady boyfriend, Lincoln Forrester. When a Hollywood contract comes her way, Diana's mother warns her not to live with John, now a washed-up alcoholic.

She finds her father living in a nearly empty mansion, having sold or pawned his belongings to pay his bills. He keeps a bald eagle in a cage indoors and has a servant, Gerhardt, who must physically knock out John to put him to bed.

Diana's famous name gains her some publicity, but her performances are panned. Her new husband, actor Vince Bryant, is away a lot, so Diana turns to drink and leaves Vince for tennis player John Howard. When her father dies alone, a penniless and often drunk Diana and her husband move in with her mother, who can only stand so much before making them leave.

After marrying again, this time to recovering alcoholic Bob Wilcox, she discovers after her mother's death that she has been left no inheritance. Diana takes demeaning jobs, including a striptease. She becomes violent and is hospitalized. Her only hope at salvation is an offer to write her memoirs, and old friend Linc returns to her life, offering some badly needed kindness.


Original book

Too Much Too Soon
Author Diana Barrymore
Gerold Frank
Language English
Genre autobiography
Publisher Henry Holt & Co.
Publication date
Pages 380

The movie was based on the best selling 1957 autobiography, by Barrymore and Gerold Frank. Frank had previously worked on I'll Cry Tomorrow, a popular book about another alcoholic celebrity, Lillian Roth.[5]

"There's no message, I didn't set out to point a moral", said Barrymore. "But writing it has been a cleansing process. It's like psychiatry in a way."[6]

When the book was published the New York Times called it "an extremely skilful piece of work, a craftsman's product aimed at a mood and a market that spell big business. It is a book for the mass audience... as an artisan, Mr Frank is no slouch."[7] The Washington Post thought the book "fails to touch the heart even though it spins a recognisably sad story."[8] Louella Parsons said the book "told too much too loudly."[9]

The book became a best seller.[10][11]

By the time the book came out Diana Barrymore tried to reactivate her acting career and was seeing a psychiatrist but she had not given up drinking.[6]


There was film interest in the book early on – I'll Cry Tomorrow had been a box office hit and Diana Barrymore had been fictionalised in a popular movie, The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) (the character played by Lana Turner).[12] In December 1956, even before the book had been published, Warner Bros took an option on the film rights for a reported minimum of $100,000.[13] (Another source said it was $150,000.[14])

In January it was announced that Gerold Frank would work on the script in collaboration with Irving Wallace, and that Irving Rapper would direct and Henry Blanke would produce.[15] By June however it was reported that the film was having "script problems" with the script two months overdue.[16] In August, Warners said that Art and Jo Napoleon would write and direct the movie.[17]


Originally, Carroll Baker, who had just made a big impression with Baby Doll (1956) and was under contract to Warners, was to star as Diana.[18] Fredric March was mentioned as a possible John Barrymore.[19] However, Baker refused to play the role, and Warner Bros put her on suspension[20] and refused to let her make The Brothers Karamazov (1958) at MGM.[21]

Natalie Wood, also under contract to Warners, was mentioned as a possibility for the lead,[22] as was Anne Baxter.[23] Finally in August 1957 it was announced Dorothy Malone, who had recently won an Oscar for Written on the Wind would play Diana Barrymore.[17] Malone never met Diana Barrymore.[24] (She was invited to the set but declined.[25])

Gene Wesson was mentioned as auditioning for the part of John Barrymore.[26] Jo Van Fleet was discussed for the part of Michael Strange.[27]

By September 1957 Errol Flynn had signed to play John Barrymore.[28] Errol Flynn was a friend of John Barrymore's and the film was the first he had made for Warner Bros in a number of years.

Flynn flew back into Hollywood to make the movie and was arrested only a few days later for public drunkenness, stealing an off duty policeman's badge and trying to kiss a girl. Flynn denied he was drunk and was released from jail on bail after an hour.[29]


Warner Bros recreated John Barrymore's yacht and house for the film. A Hollywood mansion that used to be owned by Madge Kennedy and Pola Negri was hired for the latter.[30]

A number of characters in the movie were fictionalised due to legal reasons – for instance first husband Bramwell Fletcher was turned into "Vincent Bryant".[31] Real names were used for her last two husbands, despite their unsympathetic portrayls – John Howard had been arrested on white slavery charges[32][33] and Robert Wilcox was dead. Howard later became a car salesman and threatened to sue Warner Bros.[34]

Ray Danton, who played Howard, a tennis professional, received tennis coaching from Tony Trabert.[35]



The New York Times said the film was "not bad, just ineffectual... undaring and even unsurprising. Gone is most of the endless soiled linen that aggressively flapped through Miss Barrymore's best-selling autobiography – and, with it, it's left wallops, perhaps the book's only real substance... Mr Flynn steals the picture lock, stock and keg. It is only in the scenes of his savage disintegration, as the horrified girl looks on, that the picture approaches real tragedy."[36]

The Los Angeles Times called the film a "depressing affair, one that never should have been considered... it doesn't stick to the facts... it is not good storytelling, either in structural form or characterisation... For all his capturing of John's surface mannerisms, some of the physical appearance and, most effortlessly, his way with a bottle, Flynn is not the great profile and great actor of our time. I resented him in the part."[37]

The Washington Post called it "a sorry film" in which Errol Flynn's performance "may seem to have at least dazzling vitality, but it's about as dishonest a portrait of the volatile actor as you're likely to find."[38]

The Chicago Daily Tribune called it "a sordid, unattractive tale, poorly written and badly acted."[39]

See also


  1. Errol Flynn films box office performance in France at Box Office Story
  2. "Too Much, Too Soon". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
  3. A picture of the real life John Howard with Barrymore
  4. Old Confidential magazine article with pictures of Barrymore and her husbands
  5. Mike Wallace interview with Diana Barrymore 14 July 1957 accessed 27 February 2013
  6. 1 2 "BIOGRAPHY IS TALE OF GIRL WITH THREE LIVES: Diana Barrymore's Story: The Glitter and Bitter" Pauley, Gay. Los Angeles Times 23 April 1957: A2.
  7. "For Diana, Nothing Failed Like Success: Nothing Like Success" by ELIZABETH JANEWAY. New York Times 07 April 1957: 255.
  8. "Two Ladies' Sad Bouts With the Bottle" GLENDY CULLIGAN. The Washington Post and Times Herald [Washington, D.C.] 7 April 1957: E7.
  9. "'Too Much' May Be Just That, All Right" by Louella Parsons. The Washington Post and Times Herald [Washington, D.C.] 7 April 1957: H7.
  10. "BEST SELLING Books IN THE MIDWEST" Chicago Daily Tribune 2 June 1957: b3.
  11. "Heinrich Heine's Background Told" Los Angeles Times 9 June 1957: F5.
  12. Too Much Too Soon at Movie Morlocks
  13. "OF PEOPLE AND PICTURES: COLLEGIAN" by A.H. WEILER. New York Times 16 Dec 1956: X7.
  14. Louella Parsons: Gary Set for Railroad-Building Role The Washington Post and Times Herald (1954-1959) [Washington, D.C] 28 Dec 1956: A11
  15. "HUDSON IS SLATED FOR SELZNICK FILM: Way Cleared for Actor to Sign for Male Lead in 'A Farewell to Arms'" by THOMAS M. PRYOR New York Times 30 Jan 1957: 32.
  16. "Roz Has a Gala Birthday Celebration" The Washington Post and Times Herald [Washington, D.C.] 12 June 1957: D6.
  17. 1 2 "DOROTHY MALONE IN FILM BIOGRAPHY: 'Oscar' Winner Is Cast as Diana Barrymore--Paul Douglas Gets New Role Giulletta Masina to Co-Star Of Local Origin" New York Times 21 Aug 1957: 22.
  18. Diana Barrymore Story Set for Screen Louella Parsons:. The Washington Post and Times Herald (1954-1959) [Washington, D.C] 31 Jan 1957: B4.
  19. The Gabor Girls Love Each Other The Washington Post and Times Herald (1954-1959) [Washington, D.C] 04 Feb 1957: B6.
  20. "FILM BODY RULES ON 'OSCAR' WINNER: Mysterious Author of 'Brave One' Must Identify Himself to Claim the Award Two Join Brando Firm" by THOMAS M. PRYOR New York Times 12 Apr 1957: 22.
  21. "WARNERS TO HOLD ACTRESS TO PACT: Studio Halts Deal Between Carroll Baker and M-G-M for 'Karamazov' Movie Maria Schell Sought" by THOMAS M. PRYOR New York Times 3 May 1957: 20.
  22. "Tracy Set for 'Ten North Frederick'" The Washington Post and Times Herald [Washington, D.C.] 10 Apr 1957: B8.
  23. "Doris Duke Blows Into Town", Dorothy Kilgallen: The Washington Post and Times Herald [Washington, D.C.] 20 Apr 1957: D9.
  24. "TRAGEDIES TAKE TOLL: Bad Girl' Dorothy Wants Comedy Role Dorothy Malone Yearns for Change-of-Pace Film Roles" Scott, John L. Los Angeles Times 20 Apr 1958: E1.
  25. "'Too Soon' Star Lauded" Los Angeles Times 14 May 1958: B7.
  26. Actor Who Grayed Hair For Tryout Loses Job New York Times 24 July 1957: 28.
  27. "Errol Wants to Make Up Again" Dorothy Kilgallen: The Washington Post and Times Herald [Washington, D.C.] 19 Sep 1957: C10.
  28. "FLYNN TO PORTRAY JOHN BARRYMORE: Star Returning to Warners in 'Too Much, Too Soon' --Gary Cooper Role" by THOMAS M. PRYOR New York Times 28 Sep 1957: 20.
  29. "Flynn, Jailed as a Drunk, Shouts 'Foul': ERROL FLYNN CRIES 'FOUL' AT DRUNK CHARGE Missing Police Badge, Kiss His Downfall", Chicago Daily Tribune 21 Oct 1957: 1.
  30. "HOLDEN TO REVIVE PRODUCTION UNIT: Star Will Reactivate Toluca Films With Two Stories-- Wilde to Do 'Maracaibo' Cornel Wilde Active" New York Times 4 Sep 1957: 41.
  31. Tony Thomas, Rudy Behlmer & Clifford McCarty, The Films of Errol Flynn, Citadel Press, 1969 p 216
  32. "F.B.I. ARREST TENNIS MAN.". The Barrier Miner. Broken Hill, NSW: National Library of Australia. 31 October 1950. p. 6. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  33. "Diana Barrymore's Ex-Mate in Vice Net: John Howard Jr. Accused of Conducting Ring Catering to Hollywood Executives" Los Angeles Times 19 March 1953: 18.
  34. Harrison Carrol, "Behind the Scenes in Hollywood", The Billings County Pioneer 19 December 1957 accessed 9 January 2014
  35. "'Peyton Place' Thoroughly Dissects Small-Town Life" Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 13 Dec 1957: B16.
  36. "Diana Barrymore's Story at 2 Theatres" Thompson, Howard. New York Times 10 May 1958: 19.
  37. "Barrymore Biography Ill Advised: Barrymore" Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 16 May 1958: A8.
  38. "So Soon, So Little!" by Richard L. Coe. The Washington Post and Times Herald [Washington, D.C.] 16 May 1958: B6.
  39. "Film About Barrymore Deadly Dull: "TOO MUCH, TOO SOON"" TINEE, MAE. Chicago Daily Tribune 10 June 1958: a6.
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