Wednesday 8 November 2023

Prime Time: Too Late For Tears (1949)

Another slightly lighter film noir, but not any worse for it, Too Late For Tears is a very enjoyable film that I have since discovered already has a decent fanbase already. I am, once again, late to the party, but I would argue that this remains a lesser-known title, partially due to the lack of many immediately recognizable names attached to it.

Lizabeth Scott plays Jane Palmer, a woman who sees a great opportunity to become temporarily wealthy when a bag full of money ends up in the car being driven by her husband, Alan (Arthur Kennedy). It’s the kind of monetary amount that must be needed by someone though, and those people will want to get it back. Danny Fuller (Dan Duryea) thinks he can handle the situation, seeking to intimidate Jane before realising that she may be tougher than she looks, and there’s also a man named Don Blake (Don DeFore) asking questions. Jane has to fend off these men, as well as questions from her sister-in-law, Kathy (Kristine Miller), and she soon shows that she’ll do whatever it takes to keep that money for herself.

While he does have a couple of great movies in his filmography, director Byron Haskin isn’t someone too familiar to me. The same can be said of writer Roy Huggins (despite me enjoying Pushover, also written by him, last week, and noticing that he helped to create a couple of iconic TV properties). Regardless of my own familiarity with their names, both me work together well to serve up an entertaining noir that keeps us in close proximity to an enjoyably devious central character who keeps getting cornered in ways that make them increasingly dangerous to those doing the cornering. While the runtime is just a bit longer than the average you’d expect for this type of thing, it never feels slow or plodding.

Scott is a formidable presence onscreen, her head turned so quickly by the money that you just know she had already spent a long time looking to pounce on any slight chance to change her life. She’s convincingly manipulative and tough, becoming bolder with each success. Duryea is a typical tough guy, but less typically worried when he realises exactly who he is dealing with, and his menacing turn becomes a bit more nuanced as the plot continues to twist and unfold. DeFore is a bit more pleasant, and gets to share a number of scenes with Miller, a ray of light in the murky noir haze, that show both of them hoping to find out exactly what has gone on between Jane and Alan (who is AWOL for most of the movie, leaving Kennedy only required for a few scenes in the opening act).

Making great use of the tropes, with a particularly memorable femme fatale at the heart of everything, Too Late For Tears is a gripping thriller that manages to sustain an impressive amount of tension for most of the runtime. Absolutely recommended to fans of noir.


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