Too Late For Tears (1949 )

Directed by Byron Haskin
Cinematography William C. Mellor
Through a fluke circumstance a ruthless woman stumbles across a suitcase filled with $60,000, and she is determined to hold onto it even it if means murder.

It could have been a classic

17 September 2004 | by pmcenea (New York, NY) – See all my reviews

This is a well-plotted movie with many twists and turns. Dan Duryea’s role was a notch below the demonic type he usually played in noirs, but he carried it brilliantly, especially the drunk scene. His delivery of the “don’t ever change, Tiger…” line alone was worth the price of admission.


Arthur Kennedy and Don DeFore were more than competent, although I felt DeFore didn’t fully extend himself, but I wouldn’t go to the wall with that opinion.

Kristine Miller didn’t have that much screen time but made the most of it, although had a few flat scenes.

Lizabeth Scott, in my opinion was pretty bad. The more tense the scene was the more low-keyed and withdrawn she seemed to become. It seemed that she didn’t have any feeling for this character at all…one can only imagine what Joan Crawford would have done with the role. Having said all this, I am going to lay most of the defects at the feet of the director, Byron Haskin. While the characters of Duryea and Kennedy were well defined, the rest seemed to be struggling to find their respective levels. At the end of the movie, I felt like I had been cheated. In a lot of senses the movie is almost unique and should enjoy a larger noir status, but it is a classic case of having all the elements and not having them put in their proper places.

My conclusion? Watch it, you’ll enjoy it, but it could have been so much better.


Lizabeth Scott tries her luck as unregenerate femme fatale in hard-boiled noir

Author:bmacvfrom Western New York
22 May 2003

Lizabeth Scott did her best remembered work in film noir (more than half of her only 21 screen credits fall within the noir cycle), and became one of its iconic faces. Rarely, however, was she called upon to play the fully-fledged femme fatale, and there’s probably a reason for this: She couldn’t bring off duplicity.

Her smile had no shadings into wry, or ironic, or smirky; it had but one setting – a fresh, guileless grin that lit up like a Christmas tree. F. Scott Fitzgerald (in his sad screenwriting days) observed of Joan Crawford that you couldn’t give her a simple stage direction like `telling a lie’ because then she’d give an impersonation of Benedict Arnold betraying West Point to the British. But Scott can’t manage even that, which results in confusingly mixed signals when her characters are motivated by malice, like Coral Chandler in Dead Reckoning: Her smile keeps convincing us that she’s on the up-and-up.


Her damn smile keeps switching on in Too Late For Tears, even though there’s no doubt that she’s one hard, cold case. She and husband Arthur Kennedy are bickering one night en route to a party in the Hollywood Hills when suddenly a suitcase crammed with cash lands in their roadster. He wants to turn it over to the police, but she persuades him to think it over, so they check the valise at Union Station. When she starts buying clothes and furs against the checked capital, it’s clear she has no intention of surrendering the windfall; we learn that her background was `white-collar poor, middle-class poor,’ and that she’d made a previous marriage solely for money.

Strange men start ringing her doorbell. First Dan Duryea shows up, a blackmailer for whom the payoff was intended. He slaps her around playfully (`What do they call you – besides stupid,’ she taunts him. `Stupid will do – if you don’t bruise easily,’ he purrs back). Quickly Scott maneuvers Duryea into helping him murder Kennedy but still won’t tell him where the money’s stashed.


Though wary, he falls for her, starts hitting the bottle, and grows careless. Meanwhile, Kennedy’s sister (Kristine Miller) harbors suspicions about his mysterious disappearance. When the next caller (Don DeFore) shows up, claiming to be an old Air Corps buddy of Kennedy’s, she makes an alliance with him to find out what’s really going on. And the claim ticket for the money keeps changing hands….

The plot is none too simple, and in consequence director Byron Haskin spends a lot of time trying to keep it clear rather than addressing some questions about character and logic that inevitably arise. Why did the avaricious, manipulative Scott marry Kennedy in the first (or second) place? Why does the sister live so conveniently close? How did Duryea, and for that matter DeFore, find Scott so easily? But few thriller plots are so tightly constructed that they survive rigorous analysis. Too Late For Tears passes muster as hard-boiled, late-40s noir and as one of Scott’s hardest, strongest performances, inappropriate smile and all.


Femme Fatale Favorite

Author: mstomaso from Vulcan
15 April 2007

Byron Haskin of Arsenic and Old Lace and War of the Worlds fame teamed up with Roy Huggins to create this solid film noir entry. Huggins writing is superb for the genre – neither pretentious nor overly manic. The pace is brisk but not painfully so. And the film is very well conceived, well directed, well edited and very well acted.

The remarkable Lizabeth Scott (Jane Palmer), married to a young Arthur Kennedy (Alan Palmer), is the focus of our attention. The coupled are driving to a friend’s house when a car flashes them and its occupant tosses a leather bag with 60,000 dollars into their car and drives off. Jane wants to keep it, Alan wants to turn it in. Soon, this windfall becomes a mixed blessing, as it reveals a rather frightening side of Jane’s personality. The plot intertwines noir twists and turns and incessant mystery and, frequently, winds up in unanticipated places.

Lizabeth Scott is PERFECT, and really MAKES this film as much as the intriguing story and successful directing. Don Defore also turns in a notable performance as does Kristine Miller. Dan Duryea was nicely cast in his role as the heavy, but his performance here was just a sliver below his usual par.

This is very nice bit of noir cinema and will satisfy most noir fans, as well as modern crime drama aficionados. Recommended!

Solid, Tension-Filled Crime Drama

Author: Snow Leopard from Ohio
29 August 2005

This is a solid and sometimes memorable crime drama, filled with tension, and featuring some pretty good performances from the cast. The noir atmosphere works well, and the story, while perhaps far-fetched at a couple of points, is quite involved and grabs your attention from the beginning.


Lizabeth Scott gets one of her best roles, as a hard-hearted woman who seizes her opportunity to play the male characters against each other so that she can get what she wants. Scott is slightly lacking in the glamour that would make her a really memorable femme fatale, but she has plenty of strength, and her voice works well for the character. Dan Duryea gives one of his many fine noir performances, taking good advantage of his many opportunities with his shady character. Arthur Kennedy and Kristine Miller are both sympathetic as the more innocent of the main characters. Don DeFore’s character sometimes seems a little out of place, but he is often crucial in advancing the plot.

The story starts with an unlikely coincidence, with a bag of money that gets tossed into the wrong car. But from there, most of the story developments follow naturally, and the tension is built up rather well as things get more complicated. It’s an entertaining movie that has most of the things that fans of film-noir and crime drama would want to see.


an ordinary woman (lizabeth scott) turns into a film noir femme fatale after she finds herself at the wrong place at the wrong time

Author: dougbrode from United States
16 March 2006

In the earliest days of TV, local channels used to fill up all their excess time with low-budget films from indie companies, as the ‘majors’ initially refused to sell or lease their product to what they considered (at the time) a mortal enemy – the small screen, which threatened to keep their regular customers at home. So for those of us who grew up during the fifties, much of our evening time was spent watching the cheaply made films from the thirties and forties, which – for all we knew at the time – were the important releases of that era. One of the most oft telecast films was Too Late For Tears, a turgid but in many ways fascinating B-budget noir that can’t compare to the classics of that genre (this is no Big Sleep, mind you) but never fails to interest a viewer. Perhaps that’s because the plot is so unique. Ordinarily, as in The Maltese Falcon and dozens of other noirs, the femme fatale is up to no good from the moment we meet here, and hails from a strange netherworld of dirty money and tawdry eroticism.


Here, Lizabeth Scott plays a normal everyday suburban style woman who likely has never even received a parking ticket. But when she an her husband (Arthur Kennedy) find themselves on a lonely stretch of highway at night, a car zips buy and throws a bag of money into theirs – the passerby was expecting someone else, and tossed the loot into the wrong car. The husband wants to turn the money over to the police, but something ignites in the woman – she literally explodes before our eyes into the most deadly femme fatale of all, made all the more alluring by Scott’s butch/androgynous sex appeal. The casting is all wrong – Don De Fore, who shows up as a tough guy, should’ve been the husband, with Arthur Kennedy in Don’s role – but there’s a great part for Dan Duryea as a sleazy character who falls under Liz’s hypnotic spell. A contrived ending hurts the impact, but for noir completists, this is one you have (despite its flaws) to see.


The Almost Perfect Film-Noir

Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
7 May 2016

In Los Angeles, Alan Palmer (Arthur Kennedy) and his wife Jane Palmer (Lizabeth Scott) are driving to a party when a suitcase is thrown in the back seat of their car. When they open the suitcase, they find a large amount but they are chased by another car and they flee. Alan decides to deliver the money to the police, but Jane opposes and wants to keep it. So Alan decides to keep the suitcase with the money in a locker at the Union Station to decide what to do. A couple of days later, Jane spends a large amount in furs and other gifts for her. Then a man called Danny Fuller (Dan Duryea) comes to their apartment and Jane believes he is a detective and let him in; but soon she learns that he is also seeking the money. When Alan returns from his work and finds the shopping, he becomes upset and Jane does not tell anything about Danny.


During the night, Alan and Jane go to a boat ride to make amends and she accidentally kills him with his pistol. Danny is forced to help her to dump the body in a lake and Jane reports to the police that her husband is missing. Her sister-in-law Kathy Palmer (Kristine Miller) that lives in the same floor snoops around Jane’s apartment and finds the receipt of the locker. When she is sneaking out, she meets the stranger Don Blake (Don DeFore) that tells that is Alan’s friend. Meanwhile Jane is seeking the receipt to get the money for her. Why the money was thrown to the backseat of the Palmer’s convertible? Who will keep the money? Who are Danny and Don Blake?

“Too Late for Tears” is a great film with all the elements of the film- noir: there is the sordid motive, the femme fatale and many twists. This movie is probably one of the best roles of the gorgeous Lizabeth Scott. The DVD release by “Dark City” has a poor video that needs restoration. But it is worthwhile watching since the story is excellent. My vote is eight.


Housewives can get awfully bored sometimes.

Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
5 January 2012

Too late for Tears is directed by Byron Haskin and written by Roy Huggins. It stars Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, Dan Duryea and Arthur Kennedy. Music is by Dale Butts and cinematography by William C. Mellor.

One night Alan and Jane Palmer (Kennedy & Scott) are driving to a party out Hollywood way, when all of a sudden someone in another car tosses a suitcase filled with cash into the back seat of their car. So begins a tale of greed, betrayal and murder…

Money is poison.


Low budget be damned, Too Late for Tears (AKA: Killer Bait) ends up being a film noir (in story terms) of some excellence. Banging the drum whilst singing that money be the root of all evil, Haskin (I Walk Alone) and Huggins (I Love Trouble) put Scott front and centre as one of the ultimate femme fatale bitches. Jane Palmer is a cunning cat, it’s perhaps not for nothing that Duryea’s Danny Fuller pet names her as Tiger, for Palmer knows exactly what she wants, and now that she has the financial means and sees a way of elevating herself to the richer playing field, she literally will stop at nothing to keep it that way. Be it murder or her sexuality as a weapon, Palmer is in control; even as she takes the knuckles from the hapless Danny. It’s a dynamite character and Scott has all the necessary requirements (sultry, blonde, angular bone structure) to make her work to maximum effect.


Around Scott there’s much to enjoy as well. Duryea is perhaps a given in the sort of film noir role we just love him for, but also Kennedy as the foolish husband makes a telling impact. DeFore, as the character is written, has to play his cards close to his chest for much of the time, this often gives the sense that he has wandered into the wrong movie. It’s a bit jarring at first, but once the plot ufurls in its entirety then it rounds out as a neat bit of performing. Bonus is Kristine Miller (Sorry, Wrong Number) as Alan Palmer’s sister, Kathy. A lovely straight backed character of some warmth, it gives the viewers someone to hang their hopes on, a barely visible beacon of hope in a world full of lies and deceit. A fine performance from Miller, she should have had a bigger career in film.


Although the Los Angeles locations are utilised well, especially impressive given the tiny budget afforded the picture, film does lack potency in its surroundings. If ever a femme fatale character, one with men slowly being wrapped around her fingers, called for some gritty, dank & suspicious places to work out of, then this is it. William Mellor (The Naked Spur) puts his photographic talents to use at a boating lake, and brings some shadows to the characters in the various well lighted rooms that the plot plays out from, but the mood is not set at uneasy, a sense of foreboding to match the machinations of Jane Palmer. It’s also 10 to 15 minutes too long, some flabby filler in the middle could have been trimmed, because the film begins to creak in the final third as we approach the sneaky finale.

But the story has the aces up its sleeve, it’s strong enough in substance and performed very well by the cast, to become a film noir easily recommended to fans of that persuasion. 7.5/10



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