“Too Late for Tears” Is a Femme Fatale Favorite

Things I have learned from watching film noir movies:

1. Never trust a woman.
2. If you meet a woman stranded on the side of the road, never trust a woman.
3. If you see a woman across a crowded room, never trust a woman.
4. If you are selling life insurance, never trust a woman.
5. Even if you are married to her and think the marriage is a happy one, never trust a woman.
6. And especially if that woman is Lizabeth Scott, never trust a woman.

Unfortunately for Alan Palmer (Arthur Kennedy), he failed on the last two. He’s married to Jane (Lizabeth Scott) who already has one dead husband, and she’s about to have her second.

Too Late For Tears (1949):

Married couple Jane (Lizabeth Scott) and Alan Palmer (Arthur Kennedy) are traveling down to the road on their way to a get together with another couple. But Jane really, really, really doesn’t want to go. She implores Alan to turn back and go home. She doesn’t like the other couple, especially the wife, whom she feels looks down on her because of her class as a poorer financial status. Alan finally concedes even though he thinks she is overreacting.

When they turn around a car coming the other way swerves towards them. Although Alan avoids a collision, his convertible is the recipient of a package that the passing car flung into their convertible. When they check out the package they discover that it contains bundles of cash. Not only that but another car gives chase to the Palmers. They manage to elude the other car, but now have another dilemma.

While Alan wants to turn the money, which is possibly illicit, over to the police, Jane thinks they should hold on to it for a while. She eventually talks Alan into stashing it in a locker at Union Station for a week while they decide what to do. But Jane has dollar signs already in her eyes. Unbeknownst to Alan, she purchases some rather extravagant items behind his back.

When a police detective shows up at her door asking questions, she allows him in the apartment, whereupon the ruse is exposed. Danny (Dan Duryea) is not really a detective. He is the driver of the car that gave chase to the pair after the inadvertent transfer. See, Danny is a blackmailer who had been the intended recipient of the payoff, and now he wants his money. When he demands the money, Jane lies, telling him they turned it over to the police.

Of course, Danny finds out about the lie and returns to be even more forceful in his demands. Jane then makes plans to get the claim ticket from Alan, but only if Danny agrees to split the loot with her. Figuring, apparently that half is better than nothing he agrees. Unfortunately for Alan, who has decided to turn the money over to the police after all. Because Jane arranges a situation where she kills Alan and dumps his body in the lake, with Danny around to pose as Alan so no one gets the wiser when she comes back.

Jane’s neighbor, who is also Alan’s sister, Cathy (Kristine Miller) becomes suspicious and starts to investigate. She is assisted by a newly arrived former army buddy of Alan’s, Don Blake (Don DeFore). They try to discover what has happened to Alan, whom Jane has claimed has run off. It doesn’t hinder Jane’s story when the family car is stolen and found near the Mexico border.

In true film noir fashion, nothing is really what it seems. There are enough twists in the plot of this one to open a bakery shop. Just one word of advice, should you choose to wade in; take nothing at face value. Except for the fact that Lizabeth Scott is the most duplicitous woman this side of Phyllis Dietrichson.

Jim Brymer, AKA Quiggy, runs the movie blog The Midnite Drive-In, check it out for more insights on other classic films.

  • Tom Johnson

    I LOVE this movie! I loved it so much I had to buy my own copy. She is such a horrible person – which, naturally, adds to he enjoyment. All the cast is great.
    The end (which I can never reveal) is so poetic!