Byron Haskin

Too Late for Tears

This post is part of the Best Hitchcock Films Hitchcock Never Made Blogathon, hosted by Tales of the Easily Distracted and Classic Becky’s Brain Food. It runs from July 7-13.

Don't make me use this designer scarf on you

Lizabeth Scott as a woman in a Perpetually Bad Mood.

Have you ever rented a locker at the bus station to hide stolen money?

On second thought, don’t tell us. We’d rather plead ignorance if it ever came to a trial.

We’ve been musing about loot in bus station lockers ever since we saw the 1949 film noir Too Late for Tears. This Hitchockian-type movie has all the ingredients of a top-notch film noir: a grumpy dame, a desperate situation – and dough that’s gotta be stashed until things cool down.

Lizabeth Scott is Jane, a woman whose meanness is surpassed only by her selfishness. One night, as she and her husband (Arthur Kennedy) are driving on an isolated highway, a vehicle approaches and a bag is tossed into the back of their car. When they stop, the couple opens the bag and discovers it is full of money! $60,000! Sixty Grand is nothing to sneeze at now, never mind the spending power it had in 1949.

Scott insists they keep it. After all, the money was thrown into their car and because she wants it she should have it. Kennedy, however, says he’s going to turn it over to the police. But he doesn’t follow through, not even when he is pulled over moments later for a routine traffic violation.

Too Late for Tears is a finely-tuned movie with tension that builds and never lets up. It is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s work in the 1940s and early 1950s, but director Byron Haskin establishes his own style right at the start. Haskin is grittier than Hitchcock, but also treats us to plenty of funny lines.

In one scene, a man claiming to be Kennedy’s long-lost army buddy (Don DeFore) goes with Scott’s sister-in-law (Kristine Miller) to the lake where Kennedy was last seen alive. DeFore questions the Boat Rental Man (BRM) about Kennedy:

BRM: Are you a cop?

DeFore: Do I look like one?

BRM: I never seen any that did.

In another scene, DeFore shows up at Scott’s apartment and runs into Miller. When they hear Scott approaching, Miller practically throws DeFore into her apartment. DeFore remarks, with slight awe, “Mother told me there’d be times like this.”

Oh right – you’re probably wondering about the money! When Scott and Kennedy first “receive” the money, they put it in a locker at Union Station. Now here’s a neat effect that Haskin gives us: Even though the money does not make another appearance until near the end of the movie, it is an ever-present focal point. Everything revolves around the money: How long to hide the money? When can we spend the money? Why can’t we keep the money?

Things get interesting when a stranger in a polka-dot bow tie (Dan Duryea) appears at Scott’s apartment, claiming to be a police detective. He is very interested in the money, but Scott is no dummy. She decides to use this stranger for her own purposes, one of which ends in murder.

Too Late for Tears is a delicious film noir that has a lot of plot twists – too many to detail here – plus there is some interesting footage of the 1940s Hollywood area. (Note that 1940s Hollywood looks remarkably like present-day Hollywood.)

The best thing about Too Late For Tears is that it has not, as far as we know, had a slick digital remastering. This slightly grainy quality makes the movie especially edgy and unnerving. Not only that, it has a highly satisfying ending. It’s everything a film noir should be.

Too Late for Tears: starring Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, Dan Duryea, and Arthur Kennedy. Written by Roy Huggins. Directed by Byron Haskin. Republic Pictures Corp., B&W, 1949, 100 mins.