Too Late for Tears

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Too Late for Tears
Too Late for Tears DVD.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byByron Haskin
Produced byHunt Stromberg
Screenplay byRoy Huggins
Based onApril 1947 serial in Saturday Evening Post
July 1947 novel
by Roy Huggins[1]
StarringLizabeth Scott
Don DeFore
Dan Duryea
Arthur Kennedy
Kristine Miller
Music byR. Dale Butts
CinematographyWilliam C. Mellor
Edited byHarry Keller
Hunt Stromberg Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • August 13, 1949 (1949-08-13) (United States)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States

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 concerns a ruthless femme-fatale who steals a suitcase containing US$60,000 ($644,700 today). 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; 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 and 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 35mm and 16mm prints.[3]


Don DeFore and Lizabeth Scott

In the late 1940's, Jane and Alan Palmer are en route to a party in the Hollywood Hills when the driver of an oncoming car throws a bag of money in the backseat of their convertible. They are chased by another car and Alan deduces the driver must have been the intended recipient of the bag. They lose their pursuer but disagree on what to do with the money, estimated at $100,000 cash. Jane wants to keep it, but Alan believes the police should be notified. Jane convinces Alan to hide the cash for a week, after which she will agree with whatever he decides to do. They check the bag at the Union Station baggage claim. The claim ticket is in the lining of Alan's coat.

The next day, Jane goes on a shopping spree and hides her purchases from Alan, who is at work. Claiming to be a detective as a ruse to enter and search the Palmer's apartment, a man named "Danny" shows up, slaps Jane and demands to know the location of the money. She lies that the police have it. He promises to return if he discovers otherwise. Alan returns home and an argument with Jane ensues over her recent purchases. Alan brings up Jane's previous marriage to a man named Blanchard, who committed suicide. Although reluctant, Alan agrees to keep the money for the rest of the week before turning it over to the District Attorney. Alan tells Jane he'd like for them go out the next evening, perhaps on a boat outing.

Danny returns the next day. Jane tells him Alan has the money and is planning to give it to the authorities, but that she is determined to keep it. She and Danny decide to split the money, and Jane tells him to wait that night at the palm tree at the west end of Westlake Park, near downtown Los Angeles.

Alan and Jane rent a boat at the park. Unknown to Alan, Jane has packed his gun in her purse. Again, they begin to discuss the money bag. When Alan picks up Jane's purse in search for cigarettes, the gun falls out. A struggle ensues and Alan is shot dead. Jane takes the boat and meets Danny. Danny is reluctant to be involved in a murder, but Jane blackmails Danny into helping her by threatening to pin the murder on him if he refuses.

Alan's body is dumped in the lake and Danny assumes Alan's role by wearing his coat and hat. Jane allows Danny, as Alan, to be seen driving off in their car, and arranges to meet Danny later to supposedly retrieve the money which she says is "buried." Alan's sister, Kathy, lives across the hall from the Palmers and Jane invites her over for a drink. Jane tells Kathy that Alan is out buying liquor, but Kathy becomes suspicious. Jane tells Kathy they are having marital problems and Alan left. Kathy does not believe Jane and thinks Alan will be home soon.

Jane picks up Danny, but he concludes she plans to kill him. When a near-accident causes Jane to stop the car, Danny flees, still wearing Alan's coat which has the claim ticket inside. Jane abandons the car, locates Danny's residence and goes there asking for Alan's coat. Danny discovers a blank piece of paper in the lining and Jane realizes the ticket must be at home.

Meanwhile, Kathy, still suspicious, searches the Palmer place and finds the claim ticket in a dresser drawer. As she leaves, a man who introduces himself as Don Blake, an old Army Air Corps buddy of Alan's on vacation in Los Angeles. Kathy tells him that Alan is missing.

Later, while Jane is searching her home for the claim ticket, a police lieutenant comes to report that the Palmer vehicle was in a near-accident the previous night and implies Alan was in the vehicle with another woman. The vehicle has been located and the matter appears to be closed. Kathy, however, still has doubts about Jane. Don arrives and Jane doubts his prior relationship with Alan based on his answers to her questions. Danny makes another appearance; Jane tells him about Kathy and begs him to procure poison to kill her. Danny later delivers the poison to Jane.

Don and Kathy are attracted to each other, but Kathy wonders about Don's current interest in Alan when he barely mentions their past. She shows Don the claim ticket, and he suggests they go to Union Station immediately. Jane intercepts the couple and says Alan left a note that he is in Mexico and she is heading there to find him. Jane invites them to her apartment where one of Alan's army buddies confirms Don's lies about their friendship. Jane pulls a gun on Don, knocks him out and retrieves the ticket. Kathy runs to her place to call the police. The cops stake out Union Station. When Don revives, he confesses to Kathy he did not know Alan, but he will explain more later.

Jane pays a stranger to claim the bag, then she goes to Danny's. He is hungover and wary of her. She asks about the money's source and Danny says it's unmarked because it came from a blackmail payoff from an insurance scam. She uses the poison he gave her to kill him with a laced drink.

After finding Danny's body, the police tell Don it will cost thousands of dollars if he wants the lake at Westlake Park dragged for Alan's body. Jane flees with the money to the Reforma Hotel in Mexico City. Don turns up at her door. Concluding 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 first husband, Bob Blanchard. Don understands how she likely drove his brother to commit suicide. Mexican police rush into the room, and Jane, holding them at bay with her gun, backs away. She accidentally falls off the balcony to her death. Don meets Kathy in the lobby and it is revealed they have married and are shortening their honeymoon to return to the States.



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.[4]

Film critic Dennis Schwartz in 2005 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.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "» Archived Review: ROY HUGGINS – Too Late for Tears".
  2. ^ Too Late For Tears on IMDb
  3. ^ Jeremy Arnold, “Too Late for Tears (1949)”, (Retrieved 2018-12-25.)
  4. ^ A. W. (August 15, 1949). "The Screen In Review; 'Too Late for Tears,' Adult and Suspenseful Adventure Film, Is New Bill at Mayfair". The New York Times. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
  5. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, February 22, 2005. Last accessed: February 15, 2011.

External links[edit]