© 1949 Hunt Stromberg Productions

Too Late for Tears (1949)

Director: Byron Haskin
Starring: Lizabeth Scott
Don DeFore
Dan Duryea
Costume design: Adele Palmer
Year: 1949

Having seen the beautiful Lizabeth Scott for the first time the other day in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, I was anxious to see her in something else. Anything else, really. Luckily, another one of her films, Too Late for Tears,  is in the public domain, and available at the Internet Archive (www.archive.org).

At the beginning of her career, Paramont publicity dubbed Scott “The Threat,” due to her femme fatal persona, sultry looks recalling Veronica Lake, and Lauren Bacall husky voice. Scott excels as a femme fatal in Too Late for Tears, a low-budget noir on money and greed set in L.A. She plays Jane Palmer, a head-strong housewife who domineers her husband. In the opening scene, the couple are on their way to a friend’s party. Jane doesn’t want to go, insisting the hostess dislikes her. “I don’t like the way she looks down her nose at me, the way her house looks down on Hollywood,” she snaps in the first of many lines of classic noir dialogue that pepper this film. When her husband Alan doesn’t relent, she grabs the wheel and takes control of the car. When she forces the car off the road, a stranger drives by and throws a suitcase in their back seat. It is full of money. Alan immediately proclaims the bag to be “full of dynamite,” probably a blackmail payoff, and urges his wife to agree to immediately turn it over to the police, she of course has other ideas.

The couple decide to keep the money for a week while they wait and see what happens. In a plot resembling Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan (1998), Jane’s life is soon embroiled in deceit, paranoia, and murder. When Danny Fuller, the man who the money was actually intended for turns up, claiming to be a private detective, Jane decides not to flee but to stay and play ball, entangling him in her web of lies and double crosses. “You know, tiger, I didn’t know they made them as beautiful as you,” Fuller tells Jane, “or as smart, or as hard.”  Homicide police, Jane’s sister-in-law, and a man who may or may not have flown in the air force with Jane’s husband, played by Don DeFore, are all on Jane’s trail, and she flees to a high-class hotel in Mexico where she meets her inevitable end.

While Lizabeth Scott sizzles throughout, the weak link is Don DeFore, best known as the father from TV’s “Hazel,” who has to carry the duties of lead man in the second half of the film, after all the other males have been killed and disposed of. This film has been in the public domain for years, and as a result there are many edits of various lengths available.

The free download available at The Internet Archive is marred by a crackling  soundtrack and many clipped lines of dialogue, due to a repeatedly patched print. Nevertheless, it is worth viewing.

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