Too Late for Tears (1949): Byron Haskin’s Film Noir, Starring Lizabeth Scott as Femme Fatale

Byron Haskin directed Too Late for Tears, a well structured film noir, centering on a ruthless femme fatale, one of the genre’s iconic characters, well played by Lizabeth Scott.

Grade: B (***1/2* out of *****)

Too Late for Tears
Too Late for Tears DVD.jpg

Theatrical release poster

Roy Huggins’ screenplay was developed from a serial he had written for the “Saturday Evening Post.”

There are several edits of the film (which in 1955 was reissued as Killer Bait), with different running times.

In 2014, a restored 35mm print, which combined 35mm dupe negative elements found in France with material from other versions, premiered at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre.

 Photo: Don DeFore and Lizabeth Scott

While Jane and Alan Palmer (Lizabeth Scott and Arthur Kennedy) are driving to a party in Hollywood, someone in another car throws a suitcase into their convertible, which contains a lot of cash. They are chased by yet another car, but manage to get away.

Back at their apartment, Jane wants to keep the money, while Alan suggests to call the police.  However, when pulled over by the police for failing to use his turn signal, he can’t do it. The couple then decide to place the suitcase in a locker at Union Station.

Days later, Danny (Dan Duryea) shows up claiming to be a detective. Under questioning, Jane confesses to Danny that she has the money, and makes a deal with him to split the money.

She asks Danny to meet her in downtown L.A., where she plans to kill her husband Alan on a boat. Alan picks up her bag, and when his own gun falls out, she grabs it and she shoots him dead.

Jane threatens to tell the police Danny killed her husband, unless he helps her. They dumped the body in the lake, and leave the park together, pretending to b a married couple. She reports Alan to the police as a missing person. Planning to kill Danny, she drives him up into the hills, but he suspects her intentions and flees.

Don Blake (Don DeFore) appears at the Palmer apartment, meeting Alan’s sister Kathy (Kristine Miller).  Living across the hall, she is worried about her missing brother; she knows that Jane’s former husband had died mysteriously.
Retrieving the cash at Union Station, Jane asks Danny to help her run away. She realizes that the money is unmarked and won’t be reported to the police, so she kills Danny with poisoned drink.

The L.A. police tell Don that it’ll cost  a lot of money to drag the lake at Westlake Park in search of Jane’s missing husband. Jane flees with the money to Mexico City, renting a lush penthouse at a posh hotel.  When Don turns up at her place, Jane offers half of the money. Don turns out to be the brother of Jane’s irst husband, Bob Blanchard.

In the end, Mexican police detectives arrive and Jane, hysterically backing away onto a balcony, falls over the railing to her death.

As the ultimate femme fatale, Lizabeth Scott, who is at ease as both innocent and ruthless omen, renders her most fully realized performance.

The film is well mounted by producer Hunt Stromberg, with polished cinematography by William C. Mellor.

Despite its merits, But, the film was a box-office failure when it was released, forcing Stromberg into bankruptcy.

Over the years, Too Late for Tears has gained a more appreciative evaluation from critics, and its repeated showings have made it a popular noir item.

Lizabeth Scott as Jane Palmer
Don DeFore as Don Blake/Blanchard
Dan Duryea as Danny Fuller
Arthur Kennedy as Alan Palmer
Kristine Miller as Kathy Palmer
Barry Kelley as Lt. Breach


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
Music by R. Dale Butts
Cinematography William C. Mellor
Edited by Harry Keller

Production company: Hunt Stromberg Productions

Distributed by United Artists

Release date: August 13, 1949

Running time: 100 Minutes

End Note:

I am grateful to TCM for showing the restored version on December 8, 2018, as part of their popular series, Noir Alley.