Film Noir

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.

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36 thoughts on “Too Late for Tears

  1. Ruth, thanks for getting our BEST HITCHCOCK MOVIES (THAT HITCHCOCK NEVER MADE) off to a terrific running start! I’ll admit I haven’t actually had a chance to see TOO LATE FOR TEARS yet, but Lizabeth Scott can change from a wounded waif to an ice-cold killer in the proverbial twinkling of an eye, and she’s surrounded by a great supporting cast, including the Man We Love to Hate, Dan Duryea. Now I’m looking forward to seeing the film from start to finish, too! Great post, Ruth, and thanks again for kicking our Blogathon off in film noir style!

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  2. I love this film and Lizabeth gives such an amazing performance!
    I must disagree without about the grain, though. Usually I’m all for a little grain (especially for noir/crime films – it can add so much to the atmosphere!), but it was a dark cloud over this viewing experience for me. I’m not sure if it was just the copy I had or maybe even my DVD player’s settings, but the quality was so poor that it was hard to distinguish what was happening in some scenes. I would like to see it touched up a bit, though I do agree that any restoration of it shouldn’t go so far as to be described as “slick.”

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    1. Oh no – sounds like you had access to a really bad version! That is too bad. 😦 The one I have has been retouched, but it’s certainly not Blu-Ray quality. But thanks for dropping by!

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  3. Very well-written review, Ruth! You give us a nice taste of the twisty plot strands and whet the appetite for this movie without giving anything away. I haven’t seen this film either but plan to after your post. The cast sounds perfectly chosen for this sort of down-and-dirty crime picture.

    Nice start to the blogathon!

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  4. Saw this film some years ago and really need a refresher to comment. However, Elizabeth Scott is alway a cool dame in these type of films especially if she’s evil. And Dan Duryea is always a great sleazebag. Good stuff here!

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  5. A favorite of mine. One of the all time best noirs with a female lead. And there aren’t many of them! Lizabeth Scott is not a favorite of mine in most of the films I’ve seen her in, but this is surely the finest performance of her entire career. She nails this difficult role and shows she really had the ability to be a real actress not another glamour girl. Must’ve been real luck with the director or the cast or something.

    You don’t talk about the writer who is problaby the most fascinating person involved in this moive. Roy Huggins adapted his own novel for the screen. This I think was his second solo screenplay. He had a varied and rich career in Hollywood from story writer to screenwriter to director and producer both on the big and little screens. It was in TV he achieved his fame when he created “77 Sunset Strip” and very shortly after “The Fugitive” – two of the best crime TV series ever. He also wrote and directed one of the most intelligent, original and suspenseful westerns of the 1950s: HANGMAN’S KNOT. Randolph Scott, Donna Reed, Jeanette Nolan, Lee Marvin, Frank Faylen (fantastic performance!) and Claude Jarman, Jr are all exceptional. I highly recommend it for real movie fans. And if you ever see Huggins name in a list of credits you can bet the movie is worth watching no matter what its genre.

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  6. Lizabeth Scott was a great actress, but unfortunately a little forgotten. She was great in Hitchcock’s Lifeboat (1944) and it really sounds like an amazing Noir.
    Gretings,
    Le

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  7. Well, first off, just listening to Lizabeth’s voice is reason enough to watch a film. She always excelled in parts like this, too. If memory serves, there’s a scene with train or bus station locker near the beginning of MARNIE, too. Screenwriter Roy Huggins went on to become a powerful TV executive, creating such shows as THE FUGITIVE. Great pick for the blogathon!

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  8. like this movie a lot, excellent noir and all around thriller, and a really good pick for this blogathon! To me Liz Scott was fun, enjoy most of her stuff, agree with the comments about this one being probably her best, always kind of reminds me of a proto-sharon stone, and seemed so perfectly suited for this era and for crime movies especially! and I always say, Dan Duryea makes every movie better! what a great actor, so rock n roll. Thanks for the cool post

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