Some thoughts on a noir classic.
Noir fans everywhere are grateful to the UCLA Film and Television Archive and the Film Noir Foundation for restoring TOO LATE FOR TEARS (and WOMAN ON THE RUN).
Having had to to sit through public domain copies of Too Late For Tears for many years, it’s a real treat to see it as it should be seen, as it would have been seen back in 1949 when independent producer ,Hunt Stromberg brought Roy Huggins’ novel to the screen.
There’s an expression – ” money is the root of all evil” – and the driving force in the film is indeed money, but only because the main character, Jane Palmer (LIZABETH SCOTT) is obsessed with it. She has only one goal – to keep and enjoy the money that has unexpectedly come into her life. And nothing and no one is going to get in her way. Not her husband Alan (ARTHUR KENNEDY), nor the police , nor Danny Fuller ( DAN DURYEA) whom the money,all $60,000, ‘belongs’ to.
You know characters are well written when you want to talk about them and try and understand them.
Roy Huggins gives us Jane Palmer and Danny Fuller (DAN DURYEA), two people who become adversaries, but there is little doubt who will come out the winner.
What a twist to have Dan Duryea ,at his usual high standard of menacing villainy, come up against someone who is twice as cold -blooded and ruthless as he is.
Incidentally, is Too Late For Tears the best title for this film. It had a re-release under the title Killer Bait,but I’d prefer something like RUTHLESS ( if that title wasn’t already taken!). That word describes precisely what Jane Palmer is all about. ( And what an innocuous name ‘Jane’ is).
We watch as Danny Fuller is drawn into Jane’s web, realising how bad she is but unable to stop himself from falling for her. Realising too that his level of villainy falls far short of hers. We see his deterioration through drink until he cannot read her at all and ends up dead at her hand.
The skilful writing of Roy Huggins lets us know in the first few minutes of the movie that Jane is a very unhappy and envious woman. Her husband Alan’s income is not nearly enough for the kind of life she thinks she is entitled to. But she conceals most of her feelings from Alan who is her second husband. We learn her first husband committed suicide but that’s a whole other story we can only imagine.
Jane only sees what the money will bring. Alan points out it doesn’t belong to them. To pacify the censors, Alan’s death is shown as almost accidental .
A reviewer on IMDB made a point which I totally agree with – Arthur Kennedy would have been better cast as the stranger,Don Blake who says he is an old army buddy of Alan’s. To have as good an actor as Kennedy killed off a third of the way through the film was a waste.
Far better if Don De Fore, who played Don, had been the husband.
For Jane, everything is a side show. Nobody is going to stop her. There’s a gleam in her eye every time she looks at the money. You just know she has spent a lot of her free time thinking what she would do if she was rich.
One wonders if the money hadn’t turned up, would Jane have finally left Alan . You are also left wondering why she married Alan – her first husband was rich.
Jane has the ability to come up with a plausible explanation at the drop of a hat, whether it is telling the police that her husband has disappeared , or running rings round Danny Fuller regarding the whereabouts of the money.
The film is 100 minutes , and as someone who prefers NOIRS to be very lean, and as much as I liked Kristine Miller as Alan’s sister, I think her character could have been eliminated. (Go on, disagree with me!). And why does the sister live in an apartment across the corridor from Alan and Jane!
The ending. It’s not Double Indemnity. We knew Jane wouldn’t succeed. She has a brief time in Mexico,spending lavishly before Don De Fore catches up with her.
The ending is sudden and dramatic, but imagine if we had seen the bundle of money being taken away from her and the film ending with just a shot of Lizabeth Scott’s face. She wouldn’t be thinking of a lifetime in jail or even the electric chair. Just her future , which she had killed for, being taken away from her.
p.s. Didn’t anybody hear the gun shot in the lake?!
It’s Lizabeth Scott’s film and she is well nigh perfect .
A foreign poster with a good title.