powered by AFI
Pregnant middle-aged women must be something of a ripe subject for Hollywood comedy. At the age of 56, Arlene Francis went through it in the Doris Day comedy The Thrill of It All (1963). Diane Keaton would do it at 49 in Father of the Bride II (1995). And 54-year-old Maureen O'Sullivan's predicament was the central plot line of Never Too Late, a 1965 comedy from director Bud Yorkin and writer Sumner Arthur Long, based on his hit play. To be fair to all three actresses, they looked younger than their years, and audiences seemed to have little trouble buying the premise.
Never Too Late was O'Sullivan's first appearance on the big screen in seven years. After the obscure Western Wild Heritage (1958, with co-stars Will Rogers, Jr. and poet-songwriter Rod McKuen!), she busied herself with a few television guest spots and a return to the stage, scoring well in stock and touring productions. Her long-time marriage to director John Farrow was virtually over, so she decided to stay away from Hollywood and take the lead in a new comedy called Cradle and All. The show toured so successfully on the summer circuit in 1962 that it was picked up by noted stage director George Abbott for a Broadway run under a new title, Never Too Late. The comedy opened on November 27, 1962, and became a smash critical and commercial hit. She stayed on happily in New York, moving her 17-year-old daughter Mia Farrow into her suite at the famed Algonquin Hotel. Her joyous time in the city with a long-running hit to her credit was marred only by John Farrow's death in January 1963. Maureen now found herself a widow with seven children to support.
O'Sullivan certainly understood something about her role as the middle-aged wife of a business man who discovers, after 25 years, that she is to become a mother for the second time. In real life, her youngest child was born when the actress was 40 years old. The story centers on the wife's joy and rejuvenation on learning of her pregnancy. Her husband, on the other hand, is less than enthusiastic. Their 25-year-old daughter and her husband are freeloading in their home, and the son-in-law is not much of an addition to dad's business. The conflict causes a strain in the marriage of the older couple, but this being a comedy, everything turns out well in the end.
The story was brought to the screen by producer Norman Lear and director Bud Yorkin, both better known for television work, particularly the sitcoms All in the Family, Sanford and Son, and Good Times. Balding, bulbous-nosed, curmudgeonly character actor Paul Ford recreated his stage success opposite O'Sullivan, but the younger married couple was recast with Connie Stevens and Jim Hutton, popular young performers far better known to screen audiences than the actors who played the roles on stage. TV mom Jane Wyatt of Father Knows Best had a supporting role.
Jim Hutton's son, Academy Award-winning actor Timothy Hutton, made his film debut in this picture at the age of five in an uncredited bit as a little boy running to his father.
Never Too Late was shot on location in Concord, Massachusetts, by Philip H. Lathrop, who had been Oscar®-nominated for his work on The Americanization of Emily (1964) and would be again for Earthquake (1974). Lathrop's career also included the comedy The Pink Panther (1963), the crime thriller Point Blank (1967), the drama They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969), and the box office bomb Moment by Moment (1978) with Lily Tomlin and John Travolta.
The music is by 1940s bandleader (and ex-husband of Judy Garland) David Rose. Vic Damone recorded Rose's title song with lyrics by Jay Livingstone and Ray Evans, who wrote Que Sera Sera, the song performed by Doris Day in Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956).
Never Too Late was a significant venture for Maureen O'Sullivan, coming at a time when her career and personal life needed it most. In addition to the two-year Broadway run and subsequent film, which brought her good reviews for her welcome return to the screen, she also toured with the play and even went to London to take over the role temporarily from an ailing Joan Bennett.
Director: Bud Yorkin
Producer: Norman Lear
Screenplay: Sumner Arthur Long, based on his play
Cinematography: Philip H. Lathrop
Editing: William H. Ziegler
Art Direction: Edward Carrere
Original Music: David Rose
Cast: Paul Ford (Harry Lambert), Maureen O'Sullivan (Edith Lambert), Connie Stevens (Kate Clinton), Jim Hutton (Charlie Clinton), Jane Wyatt (Grace Kimbrough), Henry Jones (Dr. Kimbrough).
by Rob Nixon