Too Late For Tears, 1949. 9/10

The only downside of Too Late For Tears is the title. Sounds like we’re going to have soap opera instead of tightly-drawn film noir. Lizabeth Scott is suitably reptilian as the conniving Jane; Dan Duryea is her in-over-his-head accomplice.

Like other good noirs, there’s a decent couple, Don LaFore (Don) and Kristine Miller (Kathy, Scott’s sister-in-law), to balance the moral travesty of Jane’s murder of her husband Alan (Arthur Kennedy). Strangely, Duryea’s Danny, a career criminal, is out of his depth with Jane.

She doesn’t think twice about killing; he won’t go that far. Still, they’re more or less inseparable. They don’t trust each other, and excite each other without any real affection “I don’t think I’d like you with a heart” Duryea admits. It’s very hard, then, to see what Alan saw in her.

The Kathy and Don relationship, on the other hand, starts out very tentatively, but grows steadily better. That’s despite the fact that he poses as Alan’s war buddy; but his motives turn out to be justifiable. Danny also poses to insinuate himself into Jane’s life. Obviously, though, he’s only interested in the money that Alan and Jane lucked into.

All the attention focused on the claim check seems overplayed, but it definitely adds tension and keeps the pacing brisk. Another bit of chance is more ominous: the accidental poisoning of Danny could only have happened with Jane’s plan to poison Kathy. Things unravel for Jane from then on.

The premise is based on another chance act; nothing at all would’ve happened without the initial mistaken toss of the money into Alan and Jane’s car. Chance seems to play two roles. There’s things that happen for no reason, like the money drop, and the things that happen as unintended consequences of a bad decision, that is, Danny poisoned because of Jane’s murder plans.

She can’t understand that Don really doesn’t care about the money; his “vendetta” results from his brother’s (her ex-husband’s) death. Like other opportunistic noir villains, she uses people like they were money.Because Alan certainly wasn’t flashy, he’s worthless to Jane.

Most of the performances here were convincing, and most scenes had appropriately snappy dialogue. No low points in Too Late For Tears. A wild bumper car ride. 9/10.

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