“Too Late for Tears” (1949) starring Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, Dan Duryea, & Arthur Kennedy

She Got What She Wanted… With Lies… With Kisses… With Murder! -A tagline for the movie

One night on an empty LA highway, a man in a speeding car tosses a bag into Jane (Lizabeth Scott) and Alan Palmer’s (Arthur Kennedy) convertible, as they’re heading down a mountain road to a party. When they open the satchel, they find $60,000 inside! Alan wants to turn it over to the police; Jane (w/ a life of luxury now w/in reach) persuades him to hang onto it “for a while.” Soon, the Palmers are tracked down by Danny Fuller (Dan Duryea), a shady character who claims the money belongs to him. To hang on to the cash, Jane relies on her feminine wiles, even if it leads her to danger!

Alan: What is it, Jane? I just don’t understand you! I’ve tried to give you everything you wanted, everything I could.

Jane: Yes, you’ve given me a dozen down payments and installments for the rest of our lives.

This is a B-movie (w/ a small budget), BUT packs a big punch when it comes to entertainment. It was independently produced and released via United Artists, so it wasn’t a studio picture. The director is Byron Haskin and the screenwriter is Roy Huggins (perhaps more known for his TV work, incl. Maverick). I always liked the work of older James Garner, so have been watching some eps of this Western series in the pandemic. In this story, the femme fatale is a housewife (rare for noir) married to a decent man!

Scott and Duryea play up the melodrama (which suits this story), as opposed to the more naturalistic Kennedy (who took this role in order to play Biff on Broadway in Death of a Salesman). Kennedy also had many character roles in Westerns. Kathy Palmer (Kristine Miller) does a good job as Alan’s caring/working gal younger sis. Miller had a supporting role in I Walk Alone w/ Scott. The character played by Don DeFore brings mystery when he enters the story; this actor worked in the theater, small movies, and eventually found success in TV.

Danny [to Jane]: You know, tiger, I didn’t know they made ’em as beautiful as you are, and as smart. Or as hard.

This movie shows us (yet again) that you don’t need famous actors, elaborate sets, or glam locations to make something effective (and enjoyable). The “bad girl” here is SO bad that she even scares a career criminal- whoa! FYI: Adjusted for inflation, $60,000 would be equal to about $663,000 (2021). The Film Noir Foundation provided the funds to restore this movie; the process took 5 yrs (after the print was discovered in France). TCM aired the fully restored version in 2015; you can also see it free on YouTube.


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