Lost: The performances of Errol Flynn and Dorothy Malone as John and Diana Barrymore in Art Napoleon's biopic, "Too Much, Too Soon" (1958)There are actresses about whom a little bit too much has been said and written. Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis fall into this camp. Enough already. Isn't it fascinating how both the public and the media have traditionally served as enablers to shameless narcissists?
Then there are those women, every bit as good and accomplished, who go through their lives with precious little acknowledgement.
An excellent case in point is the fabulous Dorothy Malone, a staple of the 1950s who glided effortlessly through such titles as Gordon Douglas' "Young at Heart" (1954), Raoul Walsh's "Battle Cry" (1955), Frank Tashlin's "Artists and Models" (1955), Charles Marquis Warren's "Tension at Table Rock" (1956), Douglas Sirk's "Written on the Wind" (1956) and "The Tarnished Angels" (1958), Joseph Pevney's "Man of a Thousand Faces' (1957), Richard Thorpe's "Tip on a Dead Jockey" (1957) and Robert Aldrich's "The Last Sunset" (1961).
"Tension at Table Rock." "Tip on a Dead Jockey." What great titles.
And, of course, for the sheer fun of it, Malone also did William Asher's highly disposable "Beach Party" (1963), paired with an also-slumming Robert Cumming. But her best role was in Art Napoleon's missing "Too Much, Too Soon" (1958), a steamy biopic in which Malone played the rebellious Daine Barrymore to Errol Flynn's John. Naturally sensual, Malone specialized in characters who had an "itch" - an itch for men, an itch for sex, an itch for highs and an itch for risks and adventure. "Too Much, Too Soon" presented Malone with material that she knew best - and which only she could pull off. You can't imagine anyone else in the role. Not Elizabeth Taylor. Not Joanne Woodward. Not Piper Laurie.
This is the only film that truly showcased Malone - in which she was The Star - and she rewards her director and the viewer to an intricate, multi-faceted performance that is at once exhilarating, scary and sad.
And she is ably abetted by Flynn, who is very moving as Diana's father, and by Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Ray Danton and Martin Milner as the assorted men who flit in and out of Diana's life - and bed.
The maker of "Too Much, Too Soon," one Art Napoleon, is a curiosity. He made only three films in his lifetime, the other two being "Man on the Prowl" (1957), his debut feature starring Mala Powers and James Best, and "The Activist" (1969) which, to the best of my knowledge, was never released. All three films were written by Napoleon's wife, Jo, who also worked with him on several TV shows ("Whirlybirds," among them).
Art Napoleon died in 2003; Joe Napoleon passed in 1999.
Dorothy Malone is still with us.