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Byron Haskin of Arsenic and Old Lace and War of the Worlds fame teamed
up with Roy Huggins to create this solid film noir entry. Huggins
writing is superb for the genre - neither pretentious nor overly manic.
The pace is brisk but not painfully so. And the film is very well
conceived, well directed, well edited and very well acted.
The remarkable Lizabeth Scott (Jane Palmer), married to a young Arthur Kennedy (Alan Palmer), is the focus of our attention. The coupled are driving to a friend's house when a car flashes them and its occupant tosses a leather bag with 60,000 dollars into their car and drives off. Jane wants to keep it, Alan wants to turn it in. Soon, this windfall becomes a mixed blessing, as it reveals a rather frightening side of Jane's personality. The plot intertwines noir twists and turns and incessant mystery and, frequently, winds up in unanticipated places.
Lizabeth Scott is PERFECT, and really MAKES this film as much as the intriguing story and successful directing. Don Defore also turns in a notable performance as does Kristine Miller. Dan Duryea was nicely cast in his role as the heavy, but his performance here was just a sliver below his usual par.
This is very nice bit of noir cinema and will satisfy most noir fans, as well as modern crime drama aficionados. Recommended!
This movie is worth searching for. It features great performances from Lizabeth Scott and Dan Duryea. This may be Scott's finest role. As the story progresses, she becomes more motivated and corrupted by greed. They sure don't write stories like this anymore! Too bad the production was so low budget and the film quality has deteriorated. This one will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Lizabeth Scott did her best remembered work in film noir (more than half of
her only 21 screen credits fall within the noir cycle), and became one of
its iconic faces. Rarely, however, was she called upon to play the
fully-fledged femme fatale, and there's probably a reason for this: She
couldn't bring off duplicity.
Her smile had no shadings into wry, or ironic, or smirky; it had but one setting a fresh, guileless grin that lit up like a Christmas tree. F. Scott Fitzgerald (in his sad screenwriting days) observed of Joan Crawford that you couldn't give her a simple stage direction like `telling a lie' because then she'd give an impersonation of Benedict Arnold betraying West Point to the British. But Scott can't manage even that, which results in confusingly mixed signals when her characters are motivated by malice, like Coral Chandler in Dead Reckoning: Her smile keeps convincing us that she's on the up-and-up.
Her damn smile keeps switching on in Too Late For Tears, even though there's no doubt that she's one hard, cold case. She and husband Arthur Kennedy are bickering one night en route to a party in the Hollywood Hills when suddenly a suitcase crammed with cash lands in their roadster. He wants to turn it over to the police, but she persuades him to think it over, so they check the valise at Union Station. When she starts buying clothes and furs against the checked capital, it's clear she has no intention of surrendering the windfall; we learn that her background was `white-collar poor, middle-class poor,' and that she'd made a previous marriage solely for money.
Strange men start ringing her doorbell. First Dan Duryea shows up, a blackmailer for whom the payoff was intended. He slaps her around playfully (`What do they call you besides stupid,' she taunts him. `Stupid will do if you don't bruise easily,' he purrs back). Quickly Scott maneuvers Duryea into helping him murder Kennedy but still won't tell him where the money's stashed. Though wary, he falls for her, starts hitting the bottle, and grows careless. Meanwhile, Kennedy's sister (Kristine Miller) harbors suspicions about his mysterious disappearance. When the next caller (Don DeFore) shows up, claiming to be an old Air Corps buddy of Kennedy's, she makes an alliance with him to find out what's really going on. And the claim ticket for the money keeps changing hands....
The plot is none too simple, and in consequence director Byron Haskin spends a lot of time trying to keep it clear rather than addressing some questions about character and logic that inevitably arise. Why did the avaricious, manipulative Scott marry Kennedy in the first (or second) place? Why does the sister live so conveniently close? How did Duryea, and for that matter DeFore, find Scott so easily? But few thriller plots are so tightly constructed that they survive rigorous analysis. Too Late For Tears passes muster as hard-boiled, late-40s noir and as one of Scott's hardest, strongest performances, inappropriate smile and all.
This is a solid and sometimes memorable crime drama, filled with
tension, and featuring some pretty good performances from the cast. The
noir atmosphere works well, and the story, while perhaps far-fetched at
a couple of points, is quite involved and grabs your attention from the
Lizabeth Scott gets one of her best roles, as a hard-hearted woman who seizes her opportunity to play the male characters against each other so that she can get what she wants. Scott is slightly lacking in the glamour that would make her a really memorable femme fatale, but she has plenty of strength, and her voice works well for the character. Dan Duryea gives one of his many fine noir performances, taking good advantage of his many opportunities with his shady character. Arthur Kennedy and Kristine Miller are both sympathetic as the more innocent of the main characters. Don DeFore's character sometimes seems a little out of place, but he is often crucial in advancing the plot.
The story starts with an unlikely coincidence, with a bag of money that gets tossed into the wrong car. But from there, most of the story developments follow naturally, and the tension is built up rather well as things get more complicated. It's an entertaining movie that has most of the things that fans of film-noir and crime drama would want to see.
One of the definitive marks of a film noir for me has always been the
presence of a morally vacuous, poisonously stupid, pathologically
lying, cold blooded murderess who sucks (or attempts to suck) all
associated with her(esp. men) into a whirling abyss of nothingness.
This one fits the bill, as noir as they come. Fools you, too: at first
I was turned off by the film because Scott and the Plott just seemed
stupid and uninteresting...boy does she get interesting...film ramps up
in quality quite remarkably after the first twenty minutes or so...from
then on a nice toxic mix which kept me suspended until the end. Then
again maybe I'm not bright.
I wish the film quality were better on this, hovers around the barely tolerable.
This film noir was turning out to be a big disappointment but picked up
the pace nicely with some interesting twists when Don DeFore's
character "Don Blake" entered the story
Meanwhile, Lizabeth Scott ("Jane Palmer") was convincing as the femme fatale and Dan Duryea ("Danny Fuller") was his normal entertaining character complete with some good, wisecracking lines. However, DeFore is the guy who rally snaps this film out of the doldrums.
This is a story of greed and what it can do to people, particularly if they aren't that moral to begin with!
It's nice to see this out on DVD, although, from what I have read elsewhere, I don't believe a decent print of this movie has been made available.
Jane and Alan Palmer accidently receive a satchel containing sixty thousand
dollars that was intended as a blackmail payoff. Alan wants to turn the
money over to the police, but money loving Jane wants to keep it. Meanwhile
the blackmailer confronts Jane about his absconded payment. Greedy Jane
murders her husband and then pretends to make a deal with the blackmailer.
However, a ghost from Janes past returns to be her undoing.
Considering that Byron (WAR OF THE WORLDS) Haskin was never a really good director of actors, this film is very well acted. The cast turns in first rate performances, so good in fact that the performers almost make the viewer not notice that this film has a very far fetched, convoluted plot.
I have seen a lot of these "film noirs" and of all of them, TOO LATE FOR TEARS is probably one of the most cynical. Few other films I have seen have this thick air fatalism hanging over it.
Kristine Miller who plays Alan's sister Kathy, is one of the most beautiful women to grace the screen. This the first time I noticed her, and it's a shame her film career was rather short, and rarely had large roles as she had here.
One note: If you pay close attention, you will see former "Dead End" Kid leader Billy Halop in small role as a boat attendant.
In the earliest days of TV, local channels used to fill up all their excess time with low-budget films from indie companies, as the 'majors' initially refused to sell or lease their product to what they considered (at the time) a mortal enemy - the small screen, which threatened to keep their regular customers at home. So for those of us who grew up during the fifties, much of our evening time was spent watching the cheaply made films from the thirties and forties, which - for all we knew at the time - were the important releases of that era. One of the most oft telecast films was Too Late For Tears, a turgid but in many ways fascinating B-budget noir that can't compare to the classics of that genre (this is no Big Sleep, mind you) but never fails to interest a viewer. Perhaps that's because the plot is so unique. Ordinarily, as in The Maltese Falcon and dozens of other noirs, the femme fatale is up to no good from the moment we meet here, and hails from a strange netherworld of dirty money and tawdry eroticism. Here, Lizabeth Scott plays a normal everyday suburban style woman who likely has never even received a parking ticket. But when she an her husband (Arthur Kennedy) find themselves on a lonely stretch of highway at night, a car zips buy and throws a bag of money into theirs - the passerby was expecting someone else, and tossed the loot into the wrong car. The husband wants to turn the money over to the police, but something ignites in the woman - she literally explodes before our eyes into the most deadly femme fatale of all, made all the more alluring by Scott's butch/androgynous sex appeal. The casting is all wrong - Don De Fore, who shows up as a tough guy, should've been the husband, with Arthur Kennedy in Don's role - but there's a great part for Dan Duryea as a sleazy character who falls under Liz's hypnotic spell. A contrived ending hurts the impact, but for noir completists, this is one you have (despite its flaws) to see.
This is a well-plotted movie with many twists and turns. Dan Duryea's
role was a notch below the demonic type he usually played in noirs, but
he carried it brilliantly, especially the drunk scene. His delivery of
the "don't ever change, Tiger..." line alone was worth the price of
Arthur Kennedy and Don DeFore were more than competent, although I felt DeFore didn't fully extend himself, but I wouldn't go to the wall with that opinion.
Kristine Miller didn't have that much screen time but made the most of it, although had a few flat scenes.
Lizabeth Scott, in my opinion was pretty bad. The more tense the scene was the more low-keyed and withdrawn she seemed to become. It seemed that she didn't have any feeling for this character at all...one can only imagine what Joan Crawford would have done with the role. Having said all this, I am going to lay most of the defects at the feet of the director, Byron Haskin. While the characters of Duryea and Kennedy were well defined, the rest seemed to be struggling to find their respective levels. At the end of the movie, I felt like I had been cheated. In a lot of senses the movie is almost unique and should enjoy a larger noir status, but it is a classic case of having all the elements and not having them put in their proper places.
My conclusion? Watch it, you'll enjoy it, but it could have been so much better.
Too Late for Tears (1949)
This is an amazing movie. It's fast, dramatic, filled with great characters and odd twists, and is edited and filmed with great film noir energy. The fact that it's still only available in a terrible transfer from 16mm copies missing many frames is testament to how well it holds up in even the worst circumstances.
Key here is not only Lizabeth Scott as the key figure in nearly every scene, but her husband Van Heflin (an underrated actor if there ever was one). And then Dan Duryea, who plays the same kind of role in every film but it's a role with few equals.
Don't be fooled. This is pure low brow entertainment--or at least not high brow, the intentions being the usual crime related stuff like greed and deception. And murder. Scott is always a quirky actress, but she is her best here, and she gets better as the film goes on.
You also have to admire the basic plot, and the idea that we would all be tempted if a bag of money dropped in our laps, as it does here.
Now the problem is getting a DVD version that's actually watchable. The Film Noir Foundation is supposedly making a quality transfer from a recently found 35mm print, so we'll see (their web site is no help). This might be one movie to watch on a smaller t.v. so that quality doesn't bother you as much. Even so, it will work you over. Great stuff. I hate to admit I've probably seen this six or seven times, but that's how much it just grabs me and makes me sit every time it gets started.
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