The best thing about the 1970 film “I Never Sang For My Dad” is a jaw-dropping performance from veteran actor Melvyn Douglas.
Douglas plays Tom Garrison (think garrison, like in the military), an explosive, charming, irascible retired businessman and alpha male, vintage 1970. Gene Hackman, early in his career here, plays the young adult son of Tom, a fiction writer and teacher, visiting his parents in the New York area from his home on the West Coast.
As usual, Hackman delivers an expert and understated performance.
The film is about family, estrangement, the search for love and death.
And it doesn’t quite work. Make no mistake: it’s an important film of its time, nominated for three Oscars; an incisive well-acted, well-directed and well-shot drama, and I recommend it. But the central relationship, the central troubled relationship, between Tom, the father, and Gene, the son, is missing something on screen.
At one point, Gene says he hates his father. But you know what? Until then, I did not feel this hatred, and I should have.
Show, don’t tell.
Nevertheless, it’s a damn good film, which lovers of good dramas will particularly appreciate.
It’s based on a 1968 Broadway play of the same name written by the same man who wrote the screenplay for the film, Robert Anderson, who was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay.
And there may be times in the movie where the dialogue gets a bit choppy, and it feels like watching a play.
Nonetheless, it’s a damn good movie.
A wonderful performance, in a rather small role, was given by veteran actress Dorothy Stickney, who played Margaret Garrison, Tom’s elderly wife and Gene’s mother. Stickney, whose long career on stage and screen included a role in the original Broadway production of “Pippin,” delivers an understated, naturalistic performance that’s sure to move you.
Along with the Oscar nomination for the screenplay, the film was also nominated for Best Performance by a Leading Actor (Douglas) and Best Performance by a Supporting Actor (Hackman).
I recently watched “I Never Sang for My Father” on YouTube, for about $4.