Femme Fatale-ly Attractive
When the independently made, United Artists-distributed film noir Too Late for Tears opened in mid-August 1949, no one could foresee that a movie full of deliciously bad behavior and attitude to burn – supplied by co-starring genre icons Lizabeth Scott and Dan Duryea – would itself nearly be reduced to ashes in public-domain neglect, a sad fate that has befallen many “orphan” films over the years. But a conspiracy of usual suspects, the UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Film Noir Foundation, aided by the financial support of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, saved this tightly wound, cool-as-ice gem from a tear-stained oblivion. In a succession of roles in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Dead Reckoning, Desert Fury and I Walk Alone that earned comparisons with Barbara Stanwyck and Lauren Bacall, the steely blonde beauty Scott went full-bore femme fatale in Too Late for Tears, playing a restless Los Angeles wife who goes haywire with greed when she and her husband (Arthur Kennedy) are mistakenly tossed a $60,000 bag of cash from a passing car when they’re pulled over to the side of the road after a marital spat. In an obsessive effort to clinch the windfall, she slips into an unholy alliance with the shady gumshoe (Duryea) linked to the money who intuits her current secret – and another from her past as well. Director Byron Haskin and screenwriter Roy Huggins (adapting his own Saturday Evening Post serial) tighten the screws as her calculating evil comes to full flower. Bodies will fall because, in the view of Film Noir: The Encyclopedia co-editor Robert Porfirio, Scott’s character “Jane Palmer…is, like Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity, ‘rotten to the core.’ Jane is an extreme example of middle-class malaise, which in a moment of real self-pity, she uses to justify her actions: ‘We were white collar poor. Middle class poor. The kind of people who can’t quite keep up with the Joneses and die a little every day because they can’t.’” Thanks to the detective work of film preservationists sleuthing through repositories and archives, Too Late for Tears is no longer dying, but living and breathing to assert its preeminence as a noir touchstone. Available here at www.twilighttimemovies.com, Flicker Alley’s terrific Blu-ray/DVD combo pack presents this fabulous restoration in all its black-and-white glory, complete with an Audio Commentary by film noir specialist Alan K. Rode and retrospective documentaries detailing the film’s recovery and original production. Appearing in one segment, Chance of a Lifetime: The Making of Too Late for Tears, is another authoritative femme, TT’s resident essayist/historian Julie Kirgo, whose depth of knowledge is as fatally attractive as it comes.