Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Darkness #22: It's in the Bag (Opening Scene of Too Late for Tears)

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Cool scene, I got a real No Country For Old Men vibe from it. Without TCM I guess I'll be watching this one via one of those less-than-perfect public domain copies. 

 

Another dark road, another car driving down it. The crookedness of the road implies the general crookedness of the characters, which I believe extends to the 'innocent' husband and wife. It's telling that they're introduced bickering, that the wife is the instigator in everything; she tries to run the car off the road, she decides to take the money, she drives the getaway car. I'm interested to see where her character goes, because it's great to see a competent woman in one of these pictures that immediately knows what to do. But it's also disconcerting that the film seems to be setting her up as the instigator of all the bad to follow.

 

In the opening scenes of Kiss Me Deadly or the Hitch-Hiker, the threat appeared suddenly to actually innocent people. Here, the two main characters may not be bad people, but it's telling that they willingly continue down the wrong path instead of just dumping the money and getting the hell out of there. Their complicity in the danger that will be stalking them is apparent from the get-go, giving the title, Too Late For Tears, a bit of an ironic 'told you so' connotation.

 

The unexpected incident theme plays into what I was speaking of in the weekly lecture thread(more people need to join in over there, hint hint). In pre-war noir the threat was either The Other, or the film was set in a criminal underworld where the threat was primarily contained to that culture. In postwar noir the threat became Us, became our vices or our weaknesses. Our friends, neighbors, family. People who made mistakes(once), people who were trying to hide from their pasts, people who were trying to become new people. We'd vanquished the foreign threat, but needed to be vigilant about the one lurking under our own skin.

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Compare the opening of this film with other Daily Doses that began with a similar set-up on a deserted highway at night. How does this film's fateful twist differ from other film scenes we have investigated?


 


In this particular clip the character's seem to be choosing their fate more than fate dictating.  Our femme fatale is calling the shots and her husband is going along for the ride. 


 


Why do you think unexpected incidents involving innocent people (such as today's couple) was such a popular postwar theme? What was changing in society and history that made this a popular film story for audiences at the time?


 


My guess would be cold war was placing paranoia on the public's consciousness and the product of the era was taking more sinister tones (involvement through association) including seedy exchanges like the mysterious car dropping off a bag of money.  The unknown presence holds a form of power over these common folks.  That power or representation of power is unknown, taboo, and holds a dangerous aura.


 


Discuss this scene in terms of the style and substance of film noir. What do you see in this opening scene that confirms Eddie Muller's observation that this film is "'the best unknown American film noir of the classic era."


 


I'd say all the film noir components in Too Late For Tears fit my opinion of possessing both substance and style for film noir. 1949 film, black and white, low key lighting, dark tones, unknowns, fatal-female character that can sway the male character's actions.  It has representation of crime that seems to be getting further and further away from positive moralistic outcomes. It also manages to bend truths or skew truth which I find a common connecting thread in Film Noir. I guess the access to this film was compromised for the longest time being in public domain actually rendered it un-sellable for distribution.


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This dark road with a couple innocently travelling down it, not knowing that fate is lying around the corner. This sulky, spoiled wife trying to get her own way so that she doesn't have endure an evening with a rich, superior woman.  Keep going on Jane...he'll give in...he always does.  What's this?  Something getting thrown into the car?  What could it be?  MONEY!  Our femme fatale emerges in that instant with the greedy little smile of Lizabeth Scott.  She's definitely one of the queen's of the B's.  With great support from Arthur Kennedy as the dutiful, yet irritated husband.  The escape begins, and this woman is now in charge of their fate, with the fearful chagrin of Alan. You can see it in her eyes the whole time they're being chased...just let him try to get this money back from me!  The new woman of America post war? I'm sure not the norm, but a woman finding herself on that fateful night.

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I replied to this movie yesterday, actually, on the General Noir Films site, however, there's still plenty to say.

 

I'm amazed at the chutzpah exhibited by Jane...by how quickly she "jumps ship" to whatever man or event or stage of morality serves her purpose.

 

She's worried at the beginning about her insecurity...she has ever reason to worry...she's got more than her share!

 

Interesting twist at the end...I thought perhaps Don was the man Dan was blackmailing.

 

I also thought it interesting that Dan and Don kept their actual names!

 

You just knew Jane was going to get it in the end.

 

Excellent movie, although I agree that the Public Domain copy leaves a lot to be desired.  At the point where they get the bag and then when she murders Alan in the boat...the scenes were so dark, it was hard to see what was going on.

 

 

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We are lured into this Noir universe by a portrait of an unhappy married couple. The wife doesn't want to go to a party because she feels like she'll be looked down upon by their friend's "diamond-studded wife." Just as the husband gives in and turns the car around, a suitcase is thrown into their car--and it's full of money. The look of greed on Lisbeth Scott's is unmistakable and we already see that is planning to take the money and run (literally). I also thought of No Country for Old Men and I gather this is going in the same direction? Fine by me!

 

I like Sir David's observation that this tale seems to be about conformity in the 1950s consumer culture. It shows a darker side of how this need to fit in but to also stand out in terms of superiority can lead us to do desperate, even dangerous, things.

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We are lured into this Noir universe by a portrait of an unhappy married couple. The wife doesn't want to go to a party because she feels like she'll be looked down upon by their friend's "diamond-studded wife." Just as the husband gives in and turns the car around, a suitcase is thrown into their car--and it's full of money. The look of greed on Lisbeth Scott's is unmistakable and we already see that is planning to take the money and run (literally). I also thought of No Country for Old Men and I gather this is going in the same direction? Fine by me!

 

I like Sir David's observation that this tale seems to be about conformity in the 1950s consumer culture. It shows a darker side of how this need to fit in but to also stand out in terms of superiority can lead us to do desperate, even dangerous, things.

Good observation about consumerism. Should have picked that up big time. Also enjoyed 'No Country For Old Men'

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Compare the opening of this film with other Daily Doses that began with a similar set-up on a deserted highway at night. How does this film's fateful twist differ from other film scenes we have investigated?

  • Last week's scenes involved two men picking up third a man supposedly needing help (The Hitch-Hiker) and a man picking up a desperate woman (Kiss Me Deadly). However, where those protagonists initiated the action, our couple today have the involvement thrust upon them when the bag is tossed into the car. Sure, the flashing of lights caused by the struggle to control the car predicated the drop-off man's actions, but I still see that as more of an accidental kickoff to their involvement (like the touching of shoes in Stranger On A Train - there was no predetermination to the situation that turns out to be the catalyst, yet the dominoes all fall from there.)

 

Why do you think unexpected incidents involving innocent people (such as today's couple) was such a popular postwar theme? What was changing in society and history that made this a popular film story for audiences at the time?

  • Socially, America was at a point where we did not understand the reasoning behind many events, and what was promised as a "good and simple life" was now complicated by vulnerability and fear - Communism, nuclear war - and the evolution of women into the workplace and their subsequent independence. I would imagine that many people saw themselves as a bit lost with forces beyond their control impacting their lives, much like these characters were.
  • And culturally, it probably didn't hurt that women were more than eye candy in films that represented such role reversals and a transfer of power. Not happy with her request to turn the car around being denied, she first tries to literally take control of the car and later makes the decision to drive off without asking or caring what her husband's opinion is. As one of my favorite songs is titled, "Money Changes Everything"...
  • Also, people were starting to realize that the world was not black or white but really a large palette of gray shades (more than 50, ladies!). Americans were incredulous that anyone would attack our country and/or not see us as the infallible benevolent power we had positioned ourselves as...and we were yet to find out just how thorough and pervasive corruption could be. Television was new, most people didn't travel, let alone move far from home; our innocence and naiveté would soon get even bigger wake up calls as we engaged more directly on the world stage.

 

Discuss this scene in terms of the style and substance of film noir. What do you see in this opening scene that confirms Eddie Muller's observation that this film is "'the best unknown American film noir of the classic era.

  • I see the noir elements of people crossing paths with temptation, making a choice and that choice starting them down a path they might have avoided (although if I deduced that the follow car knew I had the money, I would probably peel out from fear of being eliminated for knowing too much - not certain our couple had any options here!). Liz Scott's whole personality changes when that bag is opened, from her facial expression to commanding the getaway with an absolute grin of lunacy as she hurtles down Mulholland Drive.
  • I can't confirm Eddie Muller's observation as I've never seen the film. But if he's that excited about it, I'm all in.
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This opening differs from The Hitch Hikers and Kiss Me Deadly in that in those two films noir danger is directly interjected into the film by bad characters, characters outside the law. In Too Late for Tears an opportunity (a sudden chance for security) suddenly appears. Although the money is surely tied to no good in some way, Alan and Jane have control over their fate, initially at least,  because they could have thrown the money out of the car, or given it to the rightful  "owners" who follow them. Jane seems to particularly want to challenge the person following her as indicated by her synical smile and smirking look as she challenges death with her wreckless driving.If they surrendered the money or simply threw the bag out, this would of course result in no story at all. The opening is quite unusual and attention getting.

 

We see the usual night shots, with shadows and light contrasts, the usual time piece (this time a watch), close ups of faces, and dialogue that immediately sets up tension between Jane, the femme fatale, and Alan her husband. The camera shooting through the windshield into the faces of the characters is a contract with the shot in Kiss Me Deadly. In Kiss Me the shot is also into the front seat of a similarly moving converable automobile. But in Kiss Me some  shots are from behind, which at best allows only partial views of the faces, as the actor's heads turn towards each as they talk. In No Tears the two characters talk without actually looking at each other.  

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In pre-war noir the threat was either The Other, or the film was set in a criminal underworld where the threat was primarily contained to that culture. In postwar noir the threat became Us, became our vices or our weaknesses. Our friends, neighbors, family. People who made mistakes(once), people who were trying to hide from their pasts, people who were trying to become new people. We'd vanquished the foreign threat, but needed to be vigilant about the one lurking under our own skin.

 

You nailed it, TWD!

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What has happened to Jane?  How has she suddenly turned from whining about how the hostess makes her feel insecure to this take-charge and get-it-done woman?  It's the money in the bag.  In the few seconds that she had it in sight, Jane felt that she was equal to the patronizing hostess.  She too could be a "diamond-studded wife" and no longer feel insignificant.  This reflects the struggle of women in post-WWII America to balance what their role had been during the war with what it would be after the men came home.  Women wanted to retain the feeling of empowerment.  And men were just along for the wild ride.

 

Spot on, as our Jane reveals how powerful she is in her reactions after Alan discovers the money in the bag.  I have to wonder if she's switched techniques rather than changed.  

 

At the beginning of the clip, Alan asks her why she's so quiet, as if she's been implementing a friendly silent treatment to convey her unhappiness at their pending destination--and likely not the first time she's expressed unhappiness stemming from their middle class destination in life.  When she subsequently grabs the keys from the ignition in response to Alan's refusal to turn the car around, she exhibits a pretty self-centered and adamant move--not to mention dangerous, as Alan acknowledges to her and to us.  She's not above putting their lives in jeopardy to get her way.  All of this is done in the name of her insistence that they avoid this gathering where she has to confront her financial insecurities.  Alan finally agreeing to turn around, just before the bag of loot hits the back seat and this catalyst allows Jane's power to erupt in all its glory.  I tend to think she's been resorting to some pretty emphatic and even reckless techniques for some time in controlling what they do as a couple, and as you stated, he's along for the ride.

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Well this opening scene on an empty highway is different than other noir films that open on a deserted highway in that it is more peaceful with a seemingly happy couple driving to a dinner party.  Where as in other films that open on a deserted highway someone usually is running or hitchhiking down the road which we automatically know spells disaster.  Since this film was almost a lost film I definitely plan on watching this one. 

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The scene we watched from Too Late For Tears sees in many ways like the normal noir, yet there is a quality to it, a quality to cinematography that is rare in these films. It is crisp, though still on a back road, dark with shadows throughout, headlights following the “white line” of the road, beyond the road you can look out on the “city” lights bright, crystalline in the night.

 

Two cars on the lonely road a man hidden from us in the sedan, only seeing his car with the large white-walls, his flashlight and the Gruen watch on his wrist as he checks the time 8:30 p.m. We never see his face which remains in shadows.

 

The other car, light colored convertible with a young couple in it. The woman dull faced, almost the perfect face for the Valium filled housewife of the post war era. She quiet, then wanting to turn around, not wanting to go to the engagement because Ralph's “...diamond studded wife...” is patronizing towards her. Alec saying how Alice likes her, then Jane grabs for the keys a struggle with the car weaving. The other car seeing that as a signal drives towards them, almost hitting them, but throws a valise into their car.

 

A valise that seems to be full of paper, when they open it, that paper is money, piles of money. Suddenly another convertible dark, turning lights on and off approaches them, Jane tells Alin to get in, and she takes off, Alan barely in, falling into the back seat. Alan saying the bag must be for him, you know Alan wants to stop, ready to get rid of what ever is in the car.

 

Jane is driving fast, there is a change that has come over her. She is different than what she has been, she is excited, she has come alive. She seems to be turning into the “femme fatale” you know she will not want to give the money to anyone, you even wonder if she will turn over and allow Alan to take over. Jane is now in charge of where the action will be going from this point on.

 

As in The Hitch-Hiker, when Roy decides to head south to fish, instead of going to the mountains as they told their wives. Or when they get to Mexicali and Gilbert feigns being asleep, while Roy is almost drooling over the clubs with the booze and dames in them. Just think, had they stopped and Roy picked up a prostitute, no Emmitt and no movie.

 

Had Alan immediately tried to turn around when Jane wanted, or no struggle for the key, they might never have the valise.

 

In that short three minute and 33 second scene, the whole movie seems to have been given to us, (I do not recall ever seeing this movie). This is a couple who are getting by, they have most things, a home, a nice convertible, but probably much has been purchased on credit. And despite the bracelet on Jane's wrist, they obviously are not in a class with Ralph and Alice, whose home they are heading to. A home out of the city, Alice who likes to show off her diamonds.

 

Jane started out in this scene as a boring woman, the “good” next door girl like Ann in Out of the Past. Then suddenly she changes, you can see it in her face, in the way she drives, she is now more like Kathie.

 

This is Jane's opportunity and you can tell she is going to take it, and Alan can either come along or get lost.  

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Too late for tears is an excellent film noir... like so many other films, - such as have seen those us in the daily presentations - begins with vertigo, and speed, a car on a lonely road, waiting... another advancing, led by a married couple who discusses... Signals that something is going to happen... and quickly, everything happens. In the 1950s, with the climate of prevailing paranoia, anyone could be a victim, or, especially in a film noir, anyone could be a criminal, we see it from the beginning in the great performance of Lizabeth Scott, with his eyes to see the contents of the Briefcase, and its fast and impulsive actions.   A casualty, being in a given moment in a particular place, will change forever the lives of the protagonists.

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When Too Late for Tears was made, the American society was still dealing with the consequences that the war had brought to its population: little consequences that influenced the mentalities and the daily life of specially common and innocent people. Citizens had lost faith in society and institutions; only fate could bring any change, good or bad, to their lives. As we had the opportunity to investigate, films noir depict situations from the later type.

 
While in other film scenes previously analysed, a fateful twist happens usually by pure chance and randomness, perturbing the balance of the narrative world without the need of any specific action from the characters to justify what happens to them, in Too Late For Tears I would say that tension and instability are already evident in the opening of the film, and only changes its nature with the "help" of fate. 
 
From the begining we see the couple arguing in the car, and the woman's attempt to change the direction, putting them in danger, prepares what happens next. It is because of this incident provoked by the woman that they cross the other man's path and that their car is mistaken for his. They're not responsible if the bag of money ends in the wrong hands, but the fact is that that happens because of the woman's transgressive behavior. The woman is here depicted as the source of evil, by accident and on purpose, since her next move - running away with the money - is the result of an hasty decision that takes no account of the possible consequences, and for what they will probably be punished. Instead of running away from danger, she plunges into it and takes her husband with her. 
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 In postwar noir the threat became Us, became our vices or our weaknesses. Our friends, neighbors, family. People who made mistakes(once), people who were trying to hide from their pasts, people who were trying to become new people. We'd vanquished the foreign threat, but needed to be vigilant about the one lurking under our own skin.

 

Exactly--this is a shift that moves us from outside antagonists to the communists hiding under the beds.

 

There's a part in Pickup on South Street where the main woman finds out that there might be communist spies involved in the plot and all of a sudden she gets really defensive about her role in things. As if it isn't so bad to be connected to a thief/murderer, but it is a big deal to be involved with communists.

 

I also have to wonder if an increasing interest in true crime stories played a role. In the absence of a wartime threat, there's suddenly more to hear about home-grown killers. Going back to yesterday's discussion about Hitchcock, one of the more notable things about many of his movies is that his villains all manage to go for a lot of the running time while appearing to be normal, law-abiding citizens. Ray Milland in Dial M for Murder seems like a respectable gentleman (from the outside) from start to finish (that is not a spoiler, by the way, as the viewer is aware of his villainy from the beginning).

 

The most frightening thing about evil is the notion that we would not be able to spot it even if it were right in front of us. That's not a purely post-war theme (movies like Gaslight exploit that same fear), but I think there's a different level of paranoia about just how safe you are, even if you're respectable. Without having to do anything proactive, the agent of your destruction (like a big bag of money) might literally fall into your lap. And then we destroy ourselves.

 

You might also wonder if the theme of people destroying themselves from the inside aligns with the fear of the atomic age and the potential destruction caused by atomic weaponry.

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We open on a dark car driving on a winding road.  It's shot day for night so we see more of the environment and that we're within sight of city lights.

 

The dark car pulls off the road next to an up-thrusting obelisk telling us we're 3.5 miles from somewhere.  Cut to a close up of the car.  There's a man at the wheel and his face is obscured by a window mounted searchlight is in the foreground.  Is this guy a cop?  He checks his Gruen.  It's 8:30.

 

Cut to a light colored top-down convertible coming down the road.  A medium closeup shows a man driving and a woman in the passenger seat.  Alan and Janie. Her face is fixed and stony.  The man mentions she's being quiet.  We learn (as she speaks with a voice polished with two packs of Chesterfields a day) she doesn't want to go to the party.  The host is an okay guy, but his wife is dripping with diamonds and looks down on her like someone in a big house looks down on Hollywood.  This hints at Post-War male anxiety as it speaks to her frustrations as well as Alan's failure to be an ice-maker.

 

Janie tries to take matters into her own hands by pulling the key from the steering column. The car swerves but Alan rights it and reluctantly agrees to turn around.  She's taken charge and gotten her way.  Even before it's Too Late for Tears it's too late to turn as the driver of the dark car, now on the road, throws something in the back seat of Janie and Alan's car.

 

They stop to look.  It's a leather case.  Alan looks confused.  Janie urges him to open the case.  Alan opens the case we see it's full of money. Alan looks confused.  Janie looks alive.  Cut to a shot of another car coming down the road.  Alan looks confused.  Janie takes charge urging him to get in the car as she floors it.  He's not in the passenger seat he's in back where the children sit.

 

Janie drives like a maniac.  Smiling all the while.  She's LOVING it.  Driving at high speeds, suitcase full of money.  She may not even know she's driving.  She's watching her dreams come true in the theater of her mind.

 

They lose the pursuer and Alan says he'll take over driving when she slows down. I don't think Alan's going to get to do too much more of Janie's driving.

 

 

 

-- Compare the opening of this film with other Daily Doses that began with a similar set-up on a deserted highway at night. How does this film's fateful twist differ from other film scenes we have investigated?

 

Like Too Late for Tears, Kiss Me... and Hitch Hiker both start off at night on an open road.  Those two are night for night.  Tears is day for night.  In Kiss Me...fate takes the form of an imperiled woman helped by a powerful man.  In Hitch-Hiker two men are dis-empowered by a fateful encounter with psychotic man.  In Tears fate empowers an ambitious woman.

 

-- Why do you think unexpected incidents involving innocent people (such as today's couple) was such a popular postwar theme? What was changing in society and history that made this a popular film story for audiences at the time?

By 1948 American's had experienced a number of life changing incidents beyond their control.  The Depression, WWII and The Bomb pretty clearly demonstrated that, do what you will, events can arise where you're completely undone.

On the other had randomness and illogical destructive fate weren't exactly new so it's hard for me to imagine it was such a revelation to the Post War generation.  Maybe it was just the willingness of the studios to take the lid off denial

Maybe I can give a better answer when I've done the assigned reading.

-- Discuss this scene in terms of the style and substance of film noir. What do you see in this opening scene that confirms Eddie Muller's observation that this film is "'the best unknown American film noir of the classic era."

 

We have wonderful use of night and expressive lighting in this scene.  We have Freudian hints of potency and impotence.  Up to now our Femme Fatales used manipulation to get their way. In these three minutes our Femme Fatale grabbed the power and put herself in the drivers seat.  This is the most unambiguous vision of male anxiety I've seen.

Someone with Eddie Muller's knowledge is more qualified to say this is the best unknown American noir of the classic era.  Its unknowness was unknown to me.  

 

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But I pose this:  Was her mediocrity also her brilliance?  Perhaps I'm over-thinking!

 

She was, IMO, about what I'd expect from B pictures - she was "good enough".  But "brilliant"?  Umm, I'd say yeah - you're over-thinking.  ;)

 

(No offense to any Scott fans ...just my humble opinion.)

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TOO LATE FOR TEARS ... wow. First saw it 10 years ago in one of those PD copies in a DVD collection. Struck me as quality right from the start. And about that start: we find some of the post-World War II issues come to light in the striking highway sequence. One, the availability of cars and travel opening up social possibilities for the middle-class couple of Alan (Arthur Kennedy) and Jane (Lizabeth Scott). But those opportunities only anger Jane, who yearns for better things. Had she hung in with Alan and the satchel full of money not been mistakenly tossed into their car, they would have made the transition from the city to the suburbs. Or would they? Alan hangs on to the man of the house attitude, which persisted after the war despite the rise of such strong-willed women as Jane, and never mind the Kinsey report on U.S. males and females. Clearly dissatisfied with married life and its restrictions, Jane is a perfect example of the noir woman who chooses to drive off with the bag and elevate her status to at least that of the couple she doesn't want to visit and Alan does. The restrictions of what her role is perceived to be have taken her to this desperate act, and as we later see, triggers Alan's sad fate.

 

Visually, the opening of TOO LATE FOR TEARS tells us that a dangerous time is ahead. We have a treacherous, lonely stretch of road, a car awaiting some kind of suspect rendezvous and a rash act (Jane's trying to shut off the motor of their car) delivering our lead characters into the hands of fate. Well-conceived and suspenseful, this road opening points us to the rest of the film.

 

I will try to check out the restored version of TOO LATE FOR TEARS this week. The copy I have and which can be found on streaming is okay but used, so a clearer print, which the clip indicates, is more than welcome. With noir icons Scott, Kennedy and Dan Duryea on board, it can't miss and it doesn't. Interesting, too, for providing light supporting player Don DeFore with a good strong role as the stranger who knew Alan in the war, and for fans of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW and DUKES OF HAZZARD, check out Denver Pyle as the guy on the make in the train station that Jane entices into her scheme to keep the money.

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Here we have cars driving down a dark, isolated road again.  The first car is in the dark, the driver's face is in darkness.  A mystery man. The couple are on their way to a party the wife does not want to attend.  He seems like a regular guy but she is much more class conscious.  She feels looked down on by her hostess.  Her rash actions in getting her husband to take her back home almost cause an accident.  When they find all of that money, they are stunned.  But when they realize there is another driver approaching, she makes another impulsive, rash decision and off they go!!  You can see by the look on her face that she is determined to keep that money.  The wife is in control but is making bad choices that will have bad consequenses for her and her husband!!  Her first rash action literally almost caused them to go over a cliff.  Her second rash action is now hurtling them figurately towards another cliff. 

 

During post war America, people were feeling vulnerable, like they had no control over so many aspects of their lives.  Social norms were disintegrating.  It was impossible to know when a simple choice or decision would sour the future or lead to chaos.  Sometimes people innocently were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  But sometimes people made rash choices, seized opportunities without thinking things through, considering consequences for themselves and others.  This could lead to danger, even death.  We know the wife feels like a second class citizen from her comments about her hostess.  Changing morality was shown by the wife's attitude that it was okay to make off with the money.  Does she think this "found money" will somehow elevate her status?  It doesn't seem to occur to her in this opening scene that the pursuers aren't going to just let things go!!  The scene is infused with impending doom....

 

The night on night shooting, the low key lighting, the shadows are all noir style.  The loneliness and isolation of the road allude to the feelings of loneliness and isolation many people were feeling at the time.  Who are the people in darkness and where did all that money come from?  We'll have to watch the movie to find out!!

 

I found the story of this film's rescue to be fascinating.  I am so grateful it was able to be restored and am looking forward to seeing it on Friday!!  Another piece of film history to savor!!

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There are a number of comments today discussing the rapid transition of Jane in this scene. She quickly shifts from being so insecure of her social and economic standing, she risks a crash rather than to attend a party with the judgmental wife of a friend to "taking charge" after seeing the money and racing away. It is not curious behavior but rather a brilliant statement of the period.

 

I would assert that this behavior is consistent with the insecurities of her character. The moment they open the bag she sees the immediate opportunity to erase her insecurities by having the status and the better life she craves.

 

Jane's behavior also illustrates the post war to cold war transition of the middle class. Post war, people wanted to return to normalcy but despite that desire, the ravages of war for the soldiers in the fighting and the families left to struggle at home made the "norm" no longer satisfying. They wanted more, and the war period which resulted in a degraded morality across America coupled with the realization in the Atomic age that everything could end any second added desperation to this drive to have more and have it now. There was a growing fear that there may be no tomorrow.

 

Jane's shift shows not only her desire to escape her status and vault it forward but also her degraded morality in her complete disregard for the consequences of her actions. She is not simply living for "today", she is living in the "instant" that could change her life right now as the future is an ominous unknown.

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While each of these car-on-the-road opening scenes are unique in their own way, this one really stood out in my eyes. While the danger seems to come from the outside in those prior scenes, I think the danger is already in the car when the film begins, and it's Jane. Once she discovers money in the bag, her expression changes and she begins to recklessly drive down the road trying to escape. The question of why these things were happening to innocent people during this era is a good one. The war had just ended four years prior to this film's release, and the cold war was underway. I think the traumatization of previous events had made American society more cynical, and that may be why this type of storyline came to be. I think Jane taking control in the car sets her up as a femme fatale-type character, overcoming the perception of male dominance. Apart from what already appears to be a captivating storyline, I think it's too early for me to see why Eddie Muller considers this the best unknown Noir of this era. 

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You see this black sedan coming up the hill toward the left.  It stops at the 3.5 MI marker where the driver checks his watch.  It is 8:30 p.m.  From the other direction we see a light colored convertible with a man and woman.  She wants her husband to turn around to avoid visiting a couple with a wife that looks down her nose at others.  As the husband drives to find a place to turn around. the sedan passes them with the driver holding a valise in his upraised arm.  He tosses the bag in the back seat of the convertible.  The husband says "that guy almost hit us."  The woman says "he threw something in the seat."  They stop and examine the bag.  Just as they see it is money, another car appears on the road.  The wife tells her husband to get in and practically drives off with him half in and out.  Then she drives like a maniac.  They finally lose the other car.

 

Right off the bat you wonder why she is so anxious to get away.  Maybe she wants to become the woman with diamonds.  It is already established she is concerned about what others think of her.  The husband seems to be someone just going for a ride.  There is the criss-cross of the cars, the atmospheric darkness, the lonely stretch of road, and the characters who are drawn together by a set of circumstances.  It is an interesting opening.

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Just another thought on TOO LATE FOR TEARS. Ostensibly an A production, or close to it in budget range, producer Hunt Stromberg utilized the facilities of Republic Pictures in making the film, according to Michael H. Price and John Wooley in their excellent FORGOTTEN HORRORS surveys. Considered the top in Hollywood's B movies and serials, especially when it came to westerns, Republic was moving toward better-grade product, and like other studios, rented space to independently-made films. TOO LATE FOR TEARS was distributed by United Artists, as it had his earlier efforts such as LADY OF BURLESQUE (1943) and THE STRANGE WOMAN (1946).

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<Start Commentary>

“We lost him.  Slow down.  I’ll take the wheel.”

 

Are you kidding me?  That woman raced down a windy road at high speeds and lost what was probably an expert driver.  Sit down, Alan.  Geez.

</End Commentary>

 

The visual difference comes in the lighting.  Unlike the clips from last week, I can see the hills and the road.  It isn’t complete pitch black – only twilight-ish, which gives the scene a whole different feel.  Twilight is magical, where anything can happen (like a big bag of money falling into the back seat of your car; remind me to purchase a convertible soon).  Also, the “mystery” is solved rather quickly.  Why did that crazy person throw a back of money into the back of our car?  Oh, it wasn’t meant for that other convertible driving down this deserted road.  Imagine that.  Two convertibles.  Shuck darn.

 

My parents were born in 1925.  By the time my parents were four, the Great Depression started with the market crash of 1929.  For the next ten years, from four until fourteen, my parents lived a harder life than their parents.  Until they day they died, they saved used aluminum foil, nails, and twist ties.  They grew a garden every year.  I grew up with vegetables in the root cellar and canned goods in the fruit cellar.  In the 1990, when I married, my mother taught me how to cut up a whole chicken and proper wrap hamburger for the freezer, “in case it ever happened again.”

 

My dad served in the Navy in WWII and my mother ran away to Florida to be near where he was stationed.  Their twenties happened during the war, at a time of frugal spending and conservation.  By the time they had kids, my dad was out of the war, working in a factory and going to college.  They lived in a one bedroom flat with four kids.

 

Their formative years were spent with nothing but fateful twists, random acts and unexpected circumstances.  They grew up in a world where they had very little control.  They were survivors, not heroes of their own story.  And they weren’t alone – they were part of a large generation that grew up the same way.  Why wouldn’t they want to see the themes of their lives played out in a movie?

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She was, IMO, about what I'd expect from B pictures - she was "good enough".  But "brilliant"?  Umm, I'd say yeah - you're over-thinking.   ;)

 

(No offense to any Scott fans ...just my humble opinion.)

Thanks for keepin' me honest!  (LOL)

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