I Never Sang for My Father is a 1970 American film, based on a play by the same name, which tells the story of a widowed college professor who wants to get out from under the thumb of his aging father yet still has regrets about his plan to leave him behind when he remarries and moves to California. It stars Melvyn Douglas, Gene Hackman, Dorothy Stickney, Estelle Parsons, Elizabeth Hubbard, Lovelady Powell and Conrad Bain.
The movie was adapted by Robert Anderson from his play and directed by Gilbert Cates.
It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Melvyn Douglas), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Gene Hackman) and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
The film opens with Gene Garrison (Gene Hackman) picking up his parents at the airport. He drives them home and spends the evening with them. The barbs of his father, Tom (Douglas), roll back in his mind as he drives home. Gene seeks solace in the arms of his mistress, who pines for a more serious relationship with him. Soon after, his mother suffers a heart attack and is hospitalized. Gene visits her at the hospital. He finds his father pacing in the waiting room. Tom asks Gene to go to the Rotary Club with him, though Gene was expecting not to leave his mother's side.
When Gene's mother dies, he helps his father shop for a casket. His sister Alice (Parsons) arrives without her husband and kids. She gradually explains to Gene that Tom's failing memory and health will require constant care either in a nursing home or with live-in assistance. She broaches the idea with their father who rejects it outright. The conversation brings up old tensions about his disinheritance of Alice over her choice of a spouse. Alice leaves Gene to deal with their father by himself.
Gene's girlfriend Peggy (Elizabeth Hubbard) arrives for a visit. She is charmed by Tom and offers to relocate to New York to live with Gene and his father. That night, Gene and his father reminisce together over old photographs. Tom's love for his son comes shining through in their conversation, and he asks about a tune that Gene used to sing for him as a boy. Gene confesses that he never sang the tune for his father, but Tom recalls otherwise.
Gene tells Tom that he is thinking about moving to California to be with Peggy, where she has a successful gynecological practice. Tom becomes irate at the notion, feeling abandoned. Gene leaves the house with Peggy and never comes back.Melvyn Douglas as Tom Garrison - Father
Gene Hackman as Gene Garrison - Son
Estelle Parsons as Alice - Sister
Dorothy Stickney as Margaret Garrison - Mother
Elizabeth Hubbard as Doctor Margaret 'Peggy' Thayer
Lovelady Powell as Norma
Daniel Keyes as Dr. Mayberry
Conrad Bain as Rev. Sam Pell
Jon Richards as Marvin Scott
Nikki Counselman as Waitress
Carol Peterson as Nurse #1
Sloane Shelton as Nurse #2
James Karen as Mr. Tucker (old age home director)
Gene Williams as Dr. Jensen (state hospital director)
Roger Ebert summarized the film in his review before concluding, "These bare bones of plot hardly give any hint of the power of this film. I've suggested something of what it's about, but almost nothing about the way the writing, the direction, and the performances come together to create one of the most unforgettably human films I can remember."