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Too Late For Tears (1949)

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Too Late For Tears (1949)

Postby moira finnie » March 17th, 2009, 12:39 pm

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Too Late For Tears (1949) aka Killer Bait was a clever if somewhat meagerly budgeted affair when it was first made, and is now in the public domain. The movie starred Lizabeth Scott, Dan Duryea, Arthur Kennedy and Don DeFore. Directed by Byron Haskin and based on a Roy Huggins story, the movie begins with a married couple (Scott & Kennedy) who are bickering while tooling down the road as night falls in their convertible.

Thanks to a wild coincidence (that could only happens in movies), the pair are soon the recipients of a valise full of dough. Scott, who has been whimpering that she didn't want to go to a social gathering at the home of Kennedy's boss and says that she couldn't take another evening of being condescended to by the boss' wife, latches on to the manna from heaven. She encourages the straight arrow hubby to hang onto the moolah..."at least for a week, while we think things over." Kennedy, who realized, after this bag fell into their car and they were chased by another car all over the Hollywood Hills that this money is tainted, reluctantly agrees to his steely, moneygrubbing honey's plan, even though he has seen a glint in her eye that he hadn't noticed before.

The next day, while Arthur Kennedy is out making a square living, Lizabeth goes out and buys "presents" as she puts it--even though they are all apparently presents for herself. Soon, Kennedy finds out about his wife's spree, a fellow who is seemingly impervious to all moral restraint, (Dan Duryea, who gives an excellent performance) is knocking on the door, and, suffice it to say, things get complicated from there.
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This seems to have been one of Lizabeth Scott's best tour de force performances, though her ideas of the freedom that money can give are decidedly lethal and ultimately rather conventional. Besides, any movie that has Don DeFore as a deus ex machina is on shaky ground.

Arthur Kennedy, an actor often asked to play an endearing dogsbody, has invisible letters on his innocent forehead that read" S-A-P" in this movie, though even he proves to be a bit sharper than he initially appears. There are some flaws in this enjoyable if outlandish romp, but, for a Scott aficionado, it's a must, even if it just to see Lizabeth shifting gears from manipulative victim to predator several times. While I find that part of the fascination for me with Lizabeth Scott is her often her curious lack of clear-cut expression, that stonefaced quality works for her here.For a Dan Duryea fan, the film is even better, as the actor creates a three dimensional figure with surprising depth out of a role that most other actors might just phone in. I'd put it next to Black Angel (1946) as one of this neglected actor's very best noir creations, as he becomes increasingly filled with wonder at the coldness of Scott's ruthless character.
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As Duryea says, "Don't ever change, Tiger. I don't think I'd like you with a heart."

Too Late for Tears is available in a pretty good print transferred to dvd, but you can also view it at the Internet Archive site for free here.

Duryea's career is reviewed in this Classic Images article:
Dan Duryea Charming Villain by Frank Dolven

I hope that you'll chime in with your thoughts on this movie.
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Re: Too Late For Tears (1949)

Postby MissGoddess » March 17th, 2009, 2:09 pm

I saw it last year for the first time and I was impressed with Duryea, it's a terrific performance. I think
this movie is a sort of morality tale about the temptations we can face with money. "What would YOU do
if you found a valise full of cash like that", seems to be the question impudently put to the audience. It's
interesting how many people one way or another get sucked into Lizbeth's web of intrigue before it's all over.
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Re: Too Late For Tears (1949)

Postby moira finnie » March 17th, 2009, 2:27 pm

MissGoddess wrote: I think this movie is a sort of morality tale about the temptations we can face with money. "What would YOU do if you found a valise full of cash like that", seems to be the question impudently put to the audience.


The first thing I'd do is pack Arthur Kennedy's bags and have him move in with his sister down the hall! Don't look back, Art. And whatever you do, don't go for a little ride in a boat with Lizabeth.
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Re: Too Late For Tears (1949)

Postby MissGoddess » March 17th, 2009, 2:40 pm

I'm a little fuzzy on my recollection...was this movie taking place in Los Angeles? Did they film
the row boat scene on location or was it a studio "lake"? What lake was that supposed to be? It
looked familiar, though when I saw it there were still homelss and drug addicts everywhere. It wasn't
pretty like in the movie.
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Re: Too Late For Tears (1949)

Postby moira finnie » March 17th, 2009, 3:03 pm

The story was set in Los Angeles. I believe that the lake sequence was/is in what is now MacArthur Park. It appeared to be an artificial lake with small outboard motors attached to slow moving boats rented out to the public for romantic canoodling around the lake.

On reflection, April, your remark about Scott's reflecting the moral dislocation caused by sudden wealth is interesting. I thought that her strange, affectless manner and mercurial character shifts seemed to reflect a woman who was an empty vessel, trying to fill up her hollowness by an avaricious pursuit of consumerism. She also seemed to be the personification of a Manichaeistic belief in women as snares of the devil, and as such, was unknowable and uncontrollable. This view seems to be backed up by the brutal but ultimately pitiable Duryea's blend of fear and awe as he is drawn toward her. If I were a hard-core feminist, I could probably argue that Lizabeth Scott's character is only trying to find what meaning/status she can in her society's values, though she uses what power she has at hand to arrive at a secure position without regard for others. I suppose this might be part of the post-war malaise of middle class society. It would be interesting to see what a real philosophical squirrel like Ayn Rand might have made out of this story. But, when I start to think that way, my head hurts.
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