STREAMING SATURDAYS! Lizabeth Scott and Dan Duryea Find It’s TOO LATE FOR TEARS
Welcome to another edition of Streaming Saturdays, where we embed a free, fabulous movie for you to watch right here! This week it’s Byron Haskin’s noir thriller Too Late for Tears.
The film opens with a startling sight: an almost timid Lizabeth Scott.
When first we meet Jane Palmer (Scott), she and her husband Alan (Arthur Kennedy) are on their way to a party, but she’s begging him to turn the car around—fearing she’ll be the brunt of condescending comments from the hostess, “looking down her nose at me like a big, ugly house up there looks down its nose on Hollywood.”
When Alan finally relents and pulls over, a driver heading in the other direction mistakes him for a blackmailer he was due to meet, and tosses a bag of hot money into the back seat of their car. Alan is troubled, but Jane is practically vibrating with excitement—grabbing the wheel and going from zero to moll in 1.5 seconds, screeching and careening down the highway like Bonnie Parker’s blonder sister. When a cop stops them for speeding, she’s already going for the gun in the glove box until she realizes he’s not a threat. (And God help anyone who is.)
But if she’s a little fast, hubby’s a little slow. She wants to keep the cash, he wants to turn it over to the cops.
“What is it, Jane? I just don’t understand you,” he understates wildly. “I’ve tried to give you everything… everything I could.”
“You’ve given me a dozen down payments and installments for the rest of our lives,” she spits back.
But he still tries to pull her over to the side of the angels: “The only thing worth having is peace of mind, and money can’t buy that.” Hey buddy, have you actually met your wife?
The next day, while Alan’s at work, the actual blackmailer, Danny Fuller, drops by in the person of—who else?—Dan Duryea. He sizes her up as a schemer right away, but knows he needs her help to get the money. What he doesn’t know is how far she’ll go to keep it.
Danny threatens Jane (“I hope for your sake, beautiful, you’re not trying to soft-soap me—I wouldn’t take kindly to it.”) and even roughs her up a little, but it’s clear she’s calling the shots—and not just because she’s got the cash. She’s also got the stomach for just about anything, and he hasn’t. (You know you’re wicked when Dan Duryea is the voice of moderation.)
Danny’s shocked at just how venal Jane is—and just how much he wants her. (“Don’t ever change, tiger. I don’t think I’d like you with a heart.”) When she drags him down into her moral sewer, his self-loathing and self-awareness meet somewhere in the middle. And it’s actually pretty heartbreaking.
Even Jane is a bit taken aback by the dirty deeds she has to pull off—Why do people keep making me kill them?—but she gets over it in a hurry.
When Alan disappears, though, she has some explaining to do. Hot, or maybe lukewarm, on her trail are Alan’s doting sister Kathy (Kristine Miller)—a mother-in-law wannabe who lives across the hall—and Don Blake (Don Defore), who claims to be Alan’s old war buddy. When these human speed bumps sidled onto the screen during the film’s original run, I’m guessing they caused a stampede to the concession stands, much as when Alan Jones started warbling arias in A Night at the Opera.
Soon we discover that Don may or may not be all he seemzzzzzzz… Oops sorry, I’m back now. Kathy and Don are just about the worst argument ever for staying on the straight and narrow. Crime may not pay, but at least it keeps you awake. And when these two bundle into their little love scene, it’s just… sad. Especially after we’ve seen Dan Duryea pretty much swallow the lower half of Lizabeth Scott’s face. (That thudding sound you hear is a woozy Breen Office censor hitting the floor.)
I won’t give anything else away; enjoy it for yourself!
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Great review of a film noir gem. Moral of the story: Don’t ever throw a bunch of money into Lizabeth Scott’s car.
Thank you Steve! Yes I always try to live by that edict… 🙂
HA! Great stuff. I really like this film. Saw it at a makeshift cinema in a bar in East London last year, after not having watched it for about ten years. Lizabeth Scott is something else! Although the opening scene did make my FB list of Ridiculous Things That Have Happened in Film Noir haha