I Never Sang for My Father (1970): Gilbert Cates Oscar-Nominated Family Melodrama, Starring Melvyn Douglas and Gene Hackman in Oscar Nominated Roles

Modestly directed by Gilbert Cates, and based on the play by Robert Anderson, “I Never Sang for My Father” is a two-generational family
melodrama, well acted by Melvyn Douglas and Gene Hackman (both Oscar nominated).

A tense relationship prevailed between the aged Tom Garrison (Melvyn Douglas) and his mature son Gene (Gene Hackman). A college professor who feels that he has never been fully accepted and truly respected by his self-made father, Gene decides to move out of New York and to marry a
California divorcee.

Gene’s mother (Dorothy Stickney) approves of the union, but she is concerned that Gene’s move will have a negative effect on Tom.  Indeed, when his mother dies, just before the wedding, Gene is forced to help his father through his last, dark days.

Gene’s sister, Alice (the always superb Estelle Parsons) urges her brother to break the ties—for his own good–or else he’ll wind up as bitter and withdrawn as their father.  Gene realizes the biting wisdom of these words when he tries to reach out to his father during a vulnerable moment, only to have the crabby Tom humiliate and reject him.

The tone of the feature, which is still a play, is bitter and downbeat, but the text is well written by Anderson (better known for the controversial 1950s play and movie, “Tea and Sympathy,” by Minnelli, which deal with homosexuality in a boarding school).

The entire ensemble, not just Douglas and Hackman, is superb.

Oscar Nominations: 3

Actor: Melvyn Douglas

Supporting Actor: Gene Hackman

Screenplay (Adapted): Robert Anderson

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Best Actor was George C. Scott for the biopic “Patton.”   British actor John Mills won the Supporting Actor Oscar for David Lean’s “Ryan’s Daughter.”

The Adapted Screenplay went to Ring Lardner, Jr. for Robert Altman’s satire, “M.A.S.H.”

Credits

MPAA Rating: PG.

Running time: 90 Minutes.

Directed by: Gilbert Cates.

Written by Robert Anderson, based on his play.

Released: October 18, 1970.

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