Too Late for Tears

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Too Late for Tears
Too Late for Tears DVD.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Byron Haskin
Produced by Hunt Stromberg
Screenplay by Roy Huggins
Based on April 1947 serial in Saturday Evening Post
July 1947 novel
by Roy Huggins[1]
Starring Lizabeth Scott
Don DeFore
Dan Duryea
Arthur Kennedy
Music by R. Dale Butts
Cinematography William C. Mellor
Edited by Harry Keller
Hunt Stromberg Productions
Distributed by United Artists
Release date
  • August 13, 1949 (1949-08-13) (United States)
Running time
100 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Too Late for Tears is a 1949 film noir crime film directed by Byron Haskin and starring Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, Dan Duryea and Arthur Kennedy. It tells a story about a seductive woman and ruthless killer who steals a suitcase of $60,000. The screenplay was written by Roy Huggins, developed from a serial he wrote for the Saturday Evening Post.

The film was reissued as Killer Bait in 1955. Too Late for Tears has been in the public domain for many years and has since gained a cult following; there are several different edits of the film with different running times.[2] On January 25, 2014, a restored 35mm print was premiered by the Film Noir Foundation at Noir City 12 at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. The film was restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Film Noir Foundation, with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association providing some of the necessary funding. The restoration combined 35mm dupe negative elements from France with some material from surviving prints.


Don DeFore and Lizabeth Scott

Jane and Alan Palmer (Scott and Kennedy) are driving to a party in the Hollywood Hills one evening when someone in another car throws a suitcase into the back seat of their convertible. They open it and discover packs of cash. They are chased by yet another car for a short time but get away. Back at their upper-middle-class Hollywood apartment, they examine the cash. Jane wants to keep the money, but Alan wants to take it to the police. Alan places the suitcase and cash in a locker at Union Station, hoping he can sway Jane into surrendering it to the police.

A few days later while Alan is at work, Danny (Duryea) shows up at the Palmers' apartment, tells Jane he is a detective and quickly learns she has begun spending the money. Her husband Alan likewise becomes upset when he finds she has been running up bills, clearly planning to spend the money they had agreed to store and leave untouched. Jane makes a deal with Danny to split the money. Planning to kill him, she drives Danny up into the hills on the pretense they will retrieve the cash where it's been buried. He suspects her intentions and flees.

She and Alan plan a romantic evening together to make amends for their squabbling about the money. She asks Danny to meet her in the evening at Westlake Park near downtown Los Angeles, where she and Alan will be taking a boat ride. Jane has planned to kill her husband Alan in the boat but is stopped by a pang of guilt and begs him to take her to shore, then blurts out that she wants to send the claim check for the locker to the police. Unaware of why his wife is upset, Alan wants to continue with the boat ride. Hoping to find cigarettes, he picks up her bag and his own gun falls out. The startled look on his face tells Jane he knows straight off what she had in mind, she grabs the gun, they struggle and she shoots, killing him. When Danny sees the body he fears getting involved in a murder, but Jane threatens to tell the police he killed her husband unless he helps her. As she planned earlier, after dumping the body in the lake they leave the park together so as to mislead witnesses into thinking she left with her husband. She reports Alan to the police as a missing person.

Miller as Kathy Palmer

Don Blake (DeFore) appears at the Palmer apartment where he discovers Alan's sister Kathy (Kristine Miller) leaving surreptitiously. Don claims to be an old army buddy of Alan's on vacation in Los Angeles. While looking into what happened to Alan, Don falls in love with Kathy, who lives across the hall from her brother and sister-in-law and has grown worried about Jane. Jane finds out that Don never knew Alan and hits him over the head with a pistol. Having retrieved the cash out of the locker at Union Station, she meets a wholly drunken Danny at his apartment and says she needs him to help her run away. Danny tells Jane he knows he still can't trust her, but that he has fallen in love with her and that money was a "once in a lifetime" blackmail payoff from an insurance scam. She understands this means the money is unmarked and its disappearance won't be reported to the police. She kills Danny with a poisoned drink.

After finding Danny's body, the Los Angeles police tell Don that if he wants them to drag the small lake at Westlake Park in search of Jane's missing husband, he must pay thousands of dollars. Meanwhile Jane flees with all the money to Mexico City, where Don finds her at the posh Reforma Hotel living in a lavish penthouse. Thinking he is either after the money or with the police, Jane pleads with him to take half. Don tells her he is the brother of Jane's earlier, first husband Bob Blanchard and that he now understands how she could have driven him into killing himself. As Mexican police detectives rush into the room, Jane quickly backs away in tears onto a balcony, then screams as she falls over the railing to her death.



Critical response[edit]

When the film was released The New York Times wrote:

If proof be needed at this point that money is the root of all evil—a theme, incidentally, which has been the root of more than one motion picture—then Too Late for Tears, which came to the Mayfair on Saturday, is proof positive. For producer Hunt Stromberg, director Byron Haskin and scenarist Roy Huggins, who adapted his own Saturday Evening Post serial, herein have fashioned an effective melodramatic elaboration of that theme. Despite an involved plot and an occasional overabundance of palaver, not all of which is bright, this yarn about a cash-hungry dame who doesn't let men or conscience stand in her way, is an adult and generally suspenseful adventure.[3]

Film critic Dennis Schwartz also wrote a favorable review:

Byron Haskin's low-budget film noir makes good use of its Los Angeles locale and its lady bluebeard is fun to watch as she does her nasty gun thing with her nice guy hubby and rotten poison thing with her boyfriend (she took care of her first hubby off camera, so we're not sure how he got it!)...Though a minor film noir, it relates to the ambitions the middle-class had during the postwar period to better their life materially and socially. Jane's drive for wealth was so extreme that she will not stop at murder to rise above her impoverished middle-class circumstances, and her warped character is used to show how money can't buy one happiness. The husky-voiced winsome smiling Lizabeth Scott turns in a finely tuned performance as the femme fatale; while Dan Duryea is in his element as the alcoholic weak-kneed cad, who shows he doesn't have as much stomach for his criminal mischief as does his lady accomplice.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Too Late For Tears at the Internet Movie Database
  3. ^ The New York Times, film review, August 15, 1949. Last accessed: February 15, 2011.
  4. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, February 22, 2005. Last accessed: February 15, 2011.

External links[edit]