Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Flynn Plays Barrymore on TCM, Friday Jan 9 at 11am (EST)


Recommended Posts

I see that American TCM viewers (not Canadian) will have the fairly rare opportunity to see Too Much Too Soon broadcast tomorrow, Friday, January 9th at 11am (EST).

 

Here's a posting that I did of the film the last time it appeared on the channel. This was the third last film of Errol Flynn's career, with a genuinely poignant portrayal by him of old drinking buddy John Barrymore:

 

A 1958 adaption by Warner Brothers of Diana Barrymore’s autobiography of the same name, it stars Dorothy Malone, fresh off her Oscar win from Written on the Wind, effectively cast in the title role in a vague, watered down version of her sad, tawdry life story as John Barrymore’s daughter.

 

The film is primarily remembered, however, for Errol Flynn’s portrait of her father. Having just had a comeback performance playing an alcoholic in The Sun Also Rises, Flynn then leaped at the opportunity to play his old crony when offered the role by Jack Warner. It would be his last film for his old home studio.

 

Flynn had long been an admirer of Barrymore, and their life stories had many parallels. Both had been world famous celebrities with reputations for having “gone Hollywood,” with affluent lifestyles, and fortunes spent. Barrymore had a yacht, the Infanta, while Flynn had a couple, the Sirocco and the Zaca. Both became legendary for their carousing, womanizing and alcoholism, both aged prematurely with their careers detrimentally affected. Both men had been married numerous times (Barrymore four times to Flynn’s three), both had been absentee fathers.

 

Barrymore had stayed at Flynn’s home for a few trying weeks towards the end of the Great Profile’s life. There would even be a practical joke that has become a part of Hollywood legend, in which director Raoul Walsh is said to have borrowed Barrymore’s body from the morgue in order to surprise Flynn at his home. This is a claim that Flynn supported in his autobiography.

 

The irony is that by the time he portrayed Barrymore in the final months of 1957 Flynn was playing a man whose life was falling apart at a time in which his own was doing the same thing. Too Much Too Soon was a difficult shoot, with its director and co-writer, Art Napoleon, facing budgets overruns because of Flynn’s tardiness on the set and difficulty with lines due to his drinking.

 

Flynn and Napoleon did not get along. At one point on the set Flynn, in a moment that was pure Jack Barrymore, asked the director with a majestic indignity, “Are you, Art Napoleon, telling me how to play a drunk?”

 

Efrem Zimbalist Jr., a co-star in the film, said that he believed that Flynn’s insecurities as an actor added to the performance.

 

In spite of all the problems on the set Flynn is highly effective in the role of Barrymore, primarily because he channels his own anguish into the role and creates a searing portrait of decline and loneliness. There’s a sadness in Flynn’s eyes that has nothing to do with acting, but the results, on screen, are quite poignant. His final scene in the film, without revealing its contents, is achingly real and profoundly sad.

 

Having said that, touching as Flynn is, it’s distressing for fans of the actor who remember him from his athletic prime to see what had become of him by the end of his life. (He would die the year after Too Much Too Soon’s release).

 

The physical and mental changes that had overcome Flynn were profound. Robert Matzen writes in Errol and Olivia, his excellent exploration of the on and off screen relationship of the two superstars, of an incident that occurred during the filming of Too Much Too Soon.

 

Flynn had not seen de Havilland since 1942, shortly after completion of They Died With Their Boots On. He heard, however, that there was going to be a party across town for Olivia’s latest film, The Proud Rebel. Flynn decided to surprise his former co-star by popping in.

 

Flynn, being Flynn, decided to greet de Havilland with a small practical joke.

 

“As I was walking in,” Olivia said, “somebody kissed me on the back of my neck. I whirled around in anger and said, ‘Do I know you?’”

 

Some accounts of the incident say that de Havilland slapped the man.

 

“It’s Errol,” Flynn responded, reeling back, red faced.

 

“He had changed so much,” de Havilland said, “His eyes were so sad. I stared into them in enough movies to know his spirit was gone. They used to be so full of mischief, with little brown and green glints. They were totally different. I didn’t recognize the person behind the eyes.”

 

Feeling badly about the incident, Olivia invited Flynn out to lunch where they would discuss old times for a couple of hours. Soon she would be off to Paris and he to Africa to shoot another film, his second last. It would be the last time that Olivia would ever see her Robin Hood co-star. Only the man she saw was no longer Robin Hood.

 

There would be one last tragic parallel between the Flynn and Barrymore sagas. Two years after Too Much Too Soon was released to theatres, Diana Barrymore would die of a drug overdose. In 1998 one of Flynn’s daughters, Arnella, a free spirit like her father who briefly had a career as a model, would also die the same way.

 

Tawdry as Too Much Too Soon becomes, particularly in the film’s second half, it is also surprisingly compelling viewing because of Flynn’s performance. The vulnerability he brings to the role is palpable. I admire Flynn’s courage in playing Barrymore. As much as he wanted to pay tribute to an old crony, he must have been aware that audiences would also know that what they were really viewing on screen was, in fact, his own tragic decline.

 

56ebafc3-c844-437a-b1c4-16d64ae67b76_zps

Link to post
Share on other sites

I see that American TCM viewers (not Canadian) will have the fairly rare opportunity to see Too Much Too Soon broadcast tomorrow, Friday, January 9th at 10:30am (EST).

 

Here's a posting that I did of the film the last time it appeared on the channel. This was the third last film of Errol Flynn's career, with a genuinely poignant portrayal by him of old drinking buddy John Barrymore:

 

 

-----edited for post size-------

Well, this certainly sounds interesting, if only because you say so. I didn't like any of the pretty boys in their heyday, but found Flynn, in addition to Robert Taylor and Victor Mature, very watchable when they had aged.

 

Now lets hope I don't forget the note telling me it's on, as I did with Burt's excellent noir Criss Cross.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh! Thanks for the heads up. I didn't get my January copy of Now Playing. (Up for subscription renewal. I think not. They miss sending me a copy every other month.)

Anyway, I've seen this picture. It's been a long, long time, but I remember that Errol Flynn was really good in it.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh! Thanks for the heads up. I didn't get my January copy of Now Playing. (Up for subscription renewal. I think not. They miss sending me a copy every other month.)

Anyway, I've seen this picture. It's been a long, long time, but I remember that Errol Flynn was really good in it.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

You're very welcome, Janet.

 

Whatever quibbles I may have with the film itself, there's a sense of faded majesty about this very sad portrait by Errol Flynn. Touchingly effective as Flynn is in this film, a viewer still feels, did it just have to come to this for the man who had once personified the romantic screen swashbuckler as no other actor ever had.

 

e46480dd-a460-4146-af59-53669bb6f355_zps

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have this film set it to record, only because I heard it was one of Errol's best performances.  I have to admit though, I'm a little nervous to see it, just because I've seen some pictures of him toward the end and the man looked haggard.  He doesn't look that bad in these pictures you posted (just an older Errol Flynn) so maybe he doesn't look as bad as people have made it out to be.

 

It's a shame he ravaged his body like he did, from what I've heard about Too Much Too Soon and The Sun Also Rises, both made at the end of his career, it looks like Flynn was headed toward a career revitalization.  Maybe if he'd been able to continue acting into the 1960s and beyond, he would have finally gained the respect for his work that he so sorely deserved.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't read any of Flynn's writing or biographies, so I wonder if any one knows if Errol Flynn ever voiced regret at the way he lived? and that he wished he hadn't done what he did?

From what I've read in his autobiography, My Wicked Wicked Ways, it sounds like at the beginning of the career, he kept himself in check.  He showed up to work on time and worked hard.  While he may have hit the clubs frequently (or had raging parties at his home), he didn't allow it to interfere with his work.  He was living the high life and enjoying the fruits of his labor.  It was after his trial when he started his steady decline.  He mentions the effect the trial had on his psyche and how he actually considered suicide a couple times, but couldn't bring himself to do it.  When he made his WWII films, he actually bounced back and was very dedicated to those films.  I believe he stated that since his health prevented him from being accepted into any branch of the armed forces, he figured that his war films were his contribution.  He seemed to keep up this work ethic until he received a bad review about his performance in, I believe, Escape Me Never, and he retreated back into the booze and never fully recovered.  Then the 1950s brought him major financial issues and his alcoholism worsened. 

 

I can't remember if he explicitly states regret of previous actions, but I feel like it's implied in the last third of the book when he's discussing his depression.  While the first two thirds of the book sound like he's almost bragging about the things he's done, the last third is very retrospective and sad.  The tone of the book changes as he discusses all the ways that his life is a shadow of what it once was.  He also doesn't sound optimistic about the future-- saying (in 1958, Errol was 49), "The second half-century looms up, but I don't feel the night coming on."

Link to post
Share on other sites

From what I've read in his autobiography, My Wicked Wicked Ways, it sounds like at the beginning of the career, he kept himself in check. He showed up to work on time and worked hard. While he may have hit the clubs frequently (or had raging parties at his home), he didn't allow it to interfere with his work. He was living the high life and enjoying the fruits of his labor. It was after his trial when he started his steady decline. He mentions the effect the trial had on his psyche and how he actually considered suicide a couple times, but couldn't bring himself to do it. When he made his WWII films, he actually bounced back and was very dedicated to those films. I believe he stated that since his health prevented him from being accepted into any branch of the armed forces, he figured that his war films were his contribution. He seemed to keep up this work ethic until he received a bad review about his performance in, I believe, Escape Me Never, and he retreated back into the booze and never fully recovered. Then the 1950s brought him major financial issues and his alcoholism worsened.

 

I can't remember if he explicitly states regret of previous actions, but I feel like it's implied in the last third of the book when he's discussing his depression. While the first two thirds of the book sound like he's almost bragging about the things he's done, the last third is very retrospective and sad. The tone of the book changes as he discusses all the ways that his life is a shadow of what it once was. He also doesn't sound optimistic about the future-- saying (in 1958, Errol was 49), "The second half-century looms up, but I don't feel the night coming on."

 

Sounds like a great book to read. I really enjoy autobiographies. I find it hard to believe he did what he was accused of. So the jury felt the same way.

Good luck with the house hunting.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sounds like a great book to read. I really enjoy autobiographies. I find it hard to believe he did what he was accused of. So the jury felt the same way.

Good luck with the house hunting.

It is a fascinating autobiography. Even if some of it is embellished, it is entertaining from beginning to end. Errol Flynn was a talented storyteller. I don't think he did what he was accused of either. In his book, he admits to having done some pretty awful things and he flat out denies it in his book. He even says that when rumors got out about him, he'd admit it if it were true, but he'd adamantly deny anything that wasn't and I believe he sued a few magazines for libel and won. Flynn says in his book (and his friend Buster Wiles corroborates Flynn's story in his book) that he thinks he was being used as a scapegoat by the police (I think, but I can't remember) to take responsibility for all the unsavory acts committed by Hollywood. Fortunately, jack Warner hired Flynn a high powered attorney that was able to destroy the plaintiffs' cases.

 

While the whole incident deeply embarrassed and angered Flynn, it made him even more popular at the box office. Other performers (eg Fatty Arbuckle), would have seen their careers ruined by such a sensationalized event, but not Flynn.

 

Re: house hunting, Thank you!

Link to post
Share on other sites

This movie has been on my wish list for years....I was so excited to see it in the line-up.

 

As many of you know, I'm a huge Flynn fan AND a huge John Barrymore fan, so this movie is right up my alley. When I jumped out of the chair seeing it in Now Playing, my Mom said, "I HATE that movie. It's terrible. Depressing." So at least I'm prepared for a disappointment.

 

Seems many focus on Flynn's loss of "joy of life" and losing his handsome looks, but I just don't see him that way. Sure, he was electric as a young buck in ROBIN HOOD, but I also really like him as he aged. Age takes the sparkle from your eyes and replaces them with lines around them-so what? Just like quiet wisdom replaces crazy vitality, it's just living life. Why would I expect Flynn to remain a boy forever?

 

I think I'm going to like seeing Flynn play Barrymore....there is no one better.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just a reminder that Too Much Too Soon starts at 11am(EST) today.

 

 

Wish I'd known this yesterday. :( Too late to record it now. I havent seen that film in many years. :(

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just a reminder that Too Much Too Soon starts at 11am(EST) today.

 

 

TCM has shown this one before. Extensive discussions about this film on the bds a couple of years ago. Looking forward to seeing it again, although not a very cheery movie. Thanks for the reminder, Tom.

Link to post
Share on other sites

TCM has shown this one before. Extensive discussions about this film on the bds a couple of years ago. Looking forward to seeing it again, although not a very cheery movie. Thanks for the reminder, Tom.

 

 

I missed it that time too. I had set it to record, but when I tried to watch it, i couldnt access it for some reason. Now I've missed it again. :(

Link to post
Share on other sites

TCM has shown this one before. Extensive discussions about this film on the bds a couple of years ago. Looking forward to seeing it again, although not a very cheery movie. Thanks for the reminder, Tom.

I agree, lavenderblue. It's anything but a cheery movie. There's a decided tabloid sensationalism about the film, in particular, the second half. It's Flynn's performance in the first half that makes the film worthwhile, in my opinion.

 

I can't think of any other film in which Errol looked quite so vulnerable, that vulnerability adding immeasurably to the impact of his performance.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't read any of Flynn's writing or biographies, so I wonder if any one knows if Errol Flynn ever voiced regret at the way he lived? and that he wished he hadn't done what he did?

 

Recommended reading:

Hollywood's Hellfire Club by Greg Wm Mank and Bohemian Rogue by Stephen Jordan.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought Flynn was only great in this film. From the stories and bios I've read over the years, I thought Flynn kind of down played the role of Jack Barrymore. Probably the studio's idea, You know how those movie bios are. But Errol was so darn good in this film, no matter how hokey the script. I ended up going out to shovel snow when Jack died. No need for more.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I just finished watching my recording of this film, first time that I've seen it. I found it very griping, intense.  For me its  hard watching Flynn doing this because of the obvious parallels of his own life and the man he is playing, its like Flynn's  looking in a mirror and mimicking himself.  I always give credit to Flynn for being a better actor than he usually  gets credit for .  But in this film how much is he  acting and how much is Errol being Errol?  Dorothy Malone gives  us a  very good performance here, her character really evolves as the story goes on and she is very convincing throughout. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I ended up going out to shovel snow when Jack died. No need for more.

 

Too bad no movie was made about Barrymore's time AFTER death.....the infamous story of Flynn taking Jack out drinking and the horrific story of his exhumation. I have tried for several years to pay my respects and contemplate over Jack's grave, but the cemetary is run by loonies and you can't visit him. "Alas, poor Yorick"

 

barrymorejohn.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

For me its  hard watching Flynn doing this because of the obvious parallels of his own life and the man he is playing, its like Flynn's  looking in a mirror and mimicking himself.  I always give credit to Flynn for being a better actor than he usually  gets credit for .  But in this film how much is he  acting and how much is Errol being Errol? 

I find Flynn to be highly effective in this role but that is a legitimate question that many would ask about his three character performances as alcoholics at the end of his life. I think it's safe to say that Flynn does channel a lot of himself into this characterization but that only adds to the power of the portrayal.

 

I feel that some of Flynn best moments in the film are among his final ones. In particular, that scene in which he phones his former wife (Diana's mother, "Michael" Strange) in a futile attempt to revive their old relationship. The scene is in closeup of Flynn's face, and it all registers in his eyes, his initial eager anticipation mixed with anxiety as the phone rings, his hopes mounting, then the look of dejection when there is no answer at the other end.

 

Equally powerful is that moment in which he lies on the couch, now filled with the courage of drink, finally talking to her on the phone, trying to coax her, at the end pleading for her to return, only to have her hang up the phone on him.

 

"She hung up," Flynn says slowly sitting up from the couch, shocked and in partial disbelieve.

 

"She hung up!" he now explodes as he angrily flings the phone across the floor.

 

This is an aged, vulnerable Errol Flynn that many people don't expect to see on screen, and it's disturbing, to say the least.

 

Flynn's final scene in the film is memorable: he sits in a chair with a bottle in his hand facing the camera, a reflection of the light of a fireplace playing on his heavily lined face, looking a hundred years old. He makes a final plea with his daughter for understanding.

 

"Baby, I am 59 years old, and not as drunk as you think. Won't you take what little I offer to offer and not make me jump through hoops?"

 

Flynn waits, holding his breath for a reply. The only sound he hears is that of the door shutting behind him as she departs from his home. Flynn sits in the chair, a look of dejection in his eyes, the bottle in his hand his sole companion.

 

I think it's a scene that is achingly sad.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I ended up going out to shovel snow when Jack died. No need for more.

 

Too bad no movie was made about Barrymore's time AFTER death.....the infamous story of Flynn taking Jack out drinking and the horrific story of his exhumation. I have tried for several years to pay my respects and contemplate over Jack's grave, but the cemetary is run by loonies and you can't visit him. "Alas, poor Yorick"

 

barrymorejohn.jpg

Actually, that's not quite the story, TikiSoo. The story is that Raoul Walsh took Barrymore's body from the mortuary and propped it up in Flynn's home as a bizarre joke on Errol. Flynn claimed that this was the case in his autobiography, as did Walsh when he later wrote his own.

 

However stuntman and Flynn pal Buster Wiles disputes the story and says it is just Hollywood legend. Wiles later wrote that he was with Walsh and Flynn at George Burns's home the night they received the news that Barrymore had died. Wiles himself came up with the joking suggestion of taking JB from the mortuary for a last night out drinking at Ciro's. Wiles says the idea, though, quickly died, after they considered the potential negative publicity plus the fact that rigor mortis would have already set in. But the story of it "happening" somehow got circulated. Another wild Hollywood legend, with both Flynn and Walsh actively promoting it.

 

Wiles later wrote about it, regarding Flynn's own funeral service:

 

After the service, I emerged from the church to see Raoul Walsh, surrounded by reporters. He loved Flynn like a son. "Hey Buster!" He waved me over. "Do you remember the time we stole Barrymore's body?"

 

"Ummmm, that's quite a tale, Raoul."

 

He launched into the details about the theft that never took place. Not wishing to embarrass him before the press, I merely listened. Boy, he could tell a great story. When the reporters moved on to someone else, Raoul and I reminisced in a more realistic vein about Errol. After awhile, I quietly said, "Raoul, you know we didn't steal Barrymore's body."

 

"We did too," he said emphatically. He had told the damn thing so many times, I guess he really believed it.

 

What did the man say? "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." Raoul Walsh and Errol Flynn certainly adhered to that philosophy.

Link to post
Share on other sites

studiowardrobetestphoto_zps0b0f96c2.jpg

 

I found this shot of Flynn on the internet, simply listed as "Studio Wardrobe Test."

 

I strongly suspect that it may have been a makeup test, as well, for the Barrymore role (though that is just speculation on my part). I'm rather glad that they didn't go with this look for him in the film. That would have made it even more depressing.

Link to post
Share on other sites

To think that Flynn is not even 50 years old, but he looks like he's in his 70's.  One has to wonder the condition of his internals (heart, lungs, liver, etc).  And just as important, his mental health and attitude, he looks like a man who isn't enjoying life at all, ready to give up,  its very sad.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
© 2022 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...