Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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Stylistically, I feel like this may be the most sophisticated opening we have seen yet to any film noir. I say that because as I watched it, I couldn't help but admire how modern it felt. The orchestral score is prevalent, adding another layer of thrills and suspense to the early car chase. It was like a modern action film. There was also a couple of shots that looked as if they were actually crane shots on location as opposed to obvious rear projection shots done at a studio. Of course, there are rear projection shots but the mixing of real and fakery felt modern. Maybe that is why it is seen as the best unknown noir by many. You tend to admire studio system films that seem like they could have been made today and not lose anything.

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This may be “the best unknown American film noir of the classic era”.  The clip has deep Noir substance unlike what I have seen prior. 

 

The lighting in the scene is neither daylight nor dark, but dusk - that in-between, transitional period of light that harkens a new night … a new darkness …a new eve.  The looming car stops at the 3.5 Mile marker, at 8:32 pm – just past the half hour.  The symbolism seems to convey that our innocents, Jane and Alan, are approaching a midway point – a transitionary post.  

 

Jane instinctively seeks to 'turn around and go back', perhaps back to pre-war times.  Nonetheless, they are on the eve of new times. They even decide to turn around, but cannot – destiny of the times intervenes.  As they drive towards a party of class conscious, ‘diamond-studded’ society, high on the hill, they are forced to confront the new times when a car throws a bag of cash at them.  “Maybe it fell at them?” No, Janes insists “It was thrown” at them.  This is a foreshadowing of the new consumerism that will be thrown at society, and literally forced upon it.   The moment they view the cash – warning comes – in the form of the approaching car, flashing its lights on and off, on and off.  Jane now takes the wheel and off they go.

 

This clip of Too Late for Tears seems to indicate a style, substance, and essence … an unknown “caught us by surprise” essence.  This essence captures both the very elements leading to the end of Film Noir, and the accompanying feeling to that end, namely that it is now ‘Too Late for Tears’.

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Flashing eyes and slight smile--not a dull evening

Too Late for Tears is similar to other films noir in its use of classic noir motifs:  a dark winding road, a mysterious man in a car, richly velvet shadows with punctuated spots of light.  All these common elements establish the mood of intrigue, the feeling that something is about to happen.  It is important to note that not only does the road curve but the driving of the couple car mimics the winding of the road through its swerving motion.  When the couple struggles in the car, the husband asks,"What are you trying to do? Send us off the edge?" This question is the essence of the plot: this couple will soon be sent off the edge.

The couple may seem innocent until we hear their conversation,  This man and woman are not at a happy point in their marriage.The wife does not want to be patronized; at first, we think the husband does the patronizing, but we learn it is "the diamond-studded wife" they that are driving to see in the house that overlooks Hollywood.  The wife wants to turn around to go home, and she attempts to turn off the ignition to get her way.  The postwar theme of the unexpected happening to innocent people may be an avenue of exposing that no people's lives are simple; all persons have their issues.

It is so surprising but also engaging to see the wife with slight, constrained smile and flashing with delight eyes when she sees the bills in the suitcase which is tossed into the back seat of their convertible.  By her face, we sense that this discovery brings possibilities of one-upping the rich wife and well as adding adventure to this couple's dull lives.  The wife takes control of the car and drives off to outdistance the car with the blinking headlights.  Again we see that smile of pleasure from the wife; she is loving the chase and driving wildly back and forth across both lanes of the road.

Too Late for Tears is "'the best unknown American film noir of the classic era" given that the main personalities are regular people, not hard-boiled detective, outcasts of middle class society.  We as viewers can imagine without much difficulty that we could experience this situation.

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I love the opening for Too Late for Tears. It's Day-for-Night shots, it's L.A. Mulholland scenery (and even mention of the Hollywood Hills), it's windy road of obscurity, all leading us down a new road of film noir.

The female is now in the forefront. Noir does not merely showcase a femme fatale, but now she is ALSO the wife here. Lizabeth's character mentions her dislike for the social engagement they are about to attend, and the next minute, she is violently grabbing at the car to change directions. She is certainly dangerous under that surface-y polite tone. In the films noir of the previous era, you would have the femme fatale and the wifey as two opposing forces. A decade later, they are one in the same. But wait, it gets better.

 

The loot accidentally thrown into their car makes her hungry for more. She subtly, yet criminally smirks at the dough, and as she's trying to speed away, yells at her husband to "Get In!". She repeats this again and then just takes off, not completely knowing if Allen is safely in the car or not. Truth---She doesn't care. She is in charge. She is now behind the wheel, not him. She has taken over. Who would have thought that the wife would want a criminal life, would want to escape, would even want control in the American so-called super-dream. Very telling of the changing time period and the growing role of the female plight exhibited through films during this time. 

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Too Late for Tears presents us with another innocent pair of individuals, unsuspecting and completely unaware. Fate, chance and the absurd are about to be flung into the back of their car and their lives will be forever changed. This isn't a totally desolate road like in Kiss Me Deadly or Hitch-hiker, but instead you are on Mulholland above Hollywood. The subversive and underground activity that normally happens in the dark shadows of the city are now having to make their covert exchanges on the outskirts of town in the hills. 

 

In terms of tone, it has a nice balance between Kiss Me Deadly or Hitch-hiker in the sense that initially things are kind of calm. His wife is quiet but it wasn't hard for her to begin to unload the issue she was having with the evening they thought they were going to have. So it is a slow build, but there is conflict between the husband and wife, unlike the other films. The personal conflict becomes compounded by the moral and ethical question that is begged of them as they view the money. Clearly she wants to keep it from the look on her face. This empty road on the outskirts of town really represents an "end of the line" in the film as a whole, but to her this money immediately represents the opposite. She has a way out. She is literally looking to turn her car around, even if it means just her car. 

 

Before the money, we understand the social class conflict. The husband's friend with the "diamond studded wife" will patronize her once again. She has a sense of desperation and desire not to be subjected to inhuman treatment. So much so that she nearly kills them as she reaches for the keys to the car and they swerve about the highway. She wants to be treated better and wants to live better, so while she hates the treatment she gets from the friends wife, she is also jealous. 

 

This unexpected surprise is seen as a blessing by the wife and a real problem by the husband. Postwar women were left out of the jobs they had done better than men all during the war and circumstantially force and resigned to return to the stereotype. To add to this, the concept of money and consumerism was something that took over American society as advertising and brand name lead to a "keeping -up-with the Jones'" mentality. Urban sprawl in tract housing lead to a homogenized sort of life that, while peaceful and happy on the outside was becoming utterly mundane and unbearable on the other. So it is inevitable that one would pray for something out of the ordinary or absurd to come and change their lives, and add spontaneity and unpredictability to it. Basically add something absurd. There was an unhappiness brewing in the stereotypical nuclear family. Just because things looked good on the outside, consumerism, and working hard to afford all those material things secured the fact that the typical family would rarely see each other, rarely engage or eat together, all because they were working. Moreover, children were left unattended with lack of parenting. In the end is breakdown and higher divorce rates. If you don't interact with your family or your spouse, you forget who they are to you. What is desired is escape and an excuse for that escape. To Lizbeth Scott's character, this money was her escape. 

 

I think Muller is correct in his statement because this noir, 1. was almost lost, 2. represents an event happening in Hollywood itself. 3. Represents very specifically the plight of women's roles, 4. Represents the social and economic dynamic that was happening in terms of men's roles, women's roles, and consumerism and the "american dream'.

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I am so glad this film was restored. There can never be enough films. Too many have been lost already.

 

The music is dramatic, but not as frantic as other films. The mile marker looks like something out of a crypt, in my opinion. I notice as the couple is driving they don't seem to be that close. He doesn't have his arm around her and she isn't leaning into him. It is clear to me that if these two are married, the marriage isn't a happy one. He wants to make an impression on someone, and his wife clearly doesn't enjoy the company of these people. He refuses at first to turn the car around, but eventually gives in.

 

The suitcase being thrown into the car shows how random things are in this world. Everything can depend on a turn that is or isn't made. I did find it of particular interest that she is behind the wheel during the chase. I'm sure the proper owners of the suitcase want their property back. I have a feeling this could have been a ransom drop, but i might be wrong. This shows the assertiveness that women were now free to display and ties into the changing role of women we have been discussing.

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A domestic quarrel drenched in a suspense mood by the music and darkness. The headlights of the mystery car announces that something is going to happen and then the action kicks in. The "ordinary" wife with a social hangup takes the minimal window of opportunity and transforms in to a riveting "femme fatale". Not by a seductive attitude but by dangeorus action, with a cunning smirk, no less. I like this opening! A post war abandoning of social values, take any chance you get, the life is hort and you do not know what happens next. Opportunities are to be taken. Freedom instead of responsibility.

No hardboiled main role man, yet, but several noir elements in play. The music, the usage of light/darkness contrasts, the fatalistic action, build your own moral, which could lead to doom.

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This segment opens with the darkened winding highway, like so many others. The dark, lonely highway with dangerous drop-offs and suspenseful music shows a dark sedan pull to the side of the road. You see the lights of the city nearby and with the aid of a flashlight, we see the mile marker showing that the city is only 3.5 miles away on this dark lonely stretch of road. We cannot see the driver's face. It is obscured by the car's doorframe and shadow. The camera angle is from below, so we know there is something off about this man in the car.

We see the couple coming in their car - a light colored, open convertible, fully bathed in what is meant to be moonlight. They are fully exposed, innocent. The camera angle shows them clearly from the front and straight on, but she is unhappy and expresses that she doesn't want to go to meet another couple because the wife looks at her the way "a big ugly house looks down on Hollywood." She is feeling alienated and paranoid and when the husband refuses to turn back - the road is dangerous to turn around on - she starts to struggle with him, grabbing the wheel and the controls. The car careens and the lights turn on and off as the camera shows them from afar. She fights and means business. They could be killed over this feeling of hers!

The other car starts forward and almost hits them as he drops a bag in the backseat. The couple pull off, look in the bag. At first the man hesitates and it is hard for him to open, increasing the suspense as we wait to see what is in it. It also gives us a clue that whatever is in it will be trouble for them. He finds it is filled with money just as another convertible, a dark colored one, comes blinking its lights. The husband realizes that it was a signal and that the money was intended for this second car, but he is not sure what to do.

The wife is suddenly empowered. She yells for him to get in and she drives off madly, smiling as she drives swerving and trying to lose the other car. They are almost hit at an intersection and the other car spins out and they lose it.

A change has come over her. She is happy, strong. No longer the subservient wife having to depend on the husband to drive and decide her fate. She was willing to fight earlier, but now she is in control and the satisfaction of that is evident. She is calm and sure.

The opening of this and the others show a person, who is at the mercy of someone else, feeling alienated and disconnected and willing to risk everything to fight it. They are in the struggle of their life at that moment and some random act delivers a solution - maybe not a good one, but a solution just the same. It also puts them on the wrong side of something. They have stolen money most likely and they are now in danger. You can tell she wants it and will hide from police - like the others in our past movie clips. They are now being hunted and the police are not their friends.

This clip differs a bit from the others we have seen because it is not as obviously formalistic and is more realistic. It has the motifs and camera angles and lighting, but is not so heavy on the visual manipulation. It is more subtle and natural.

This was a popular theme because people felt so out of control in the post-war era. They became paranoid that terrible things could happen to you at the drop of a hat. It was random. There was a sense that the world was broken and that bad people were out there to get you and that the police were not there to protect. Most of them were crooked or just ineffective. You had to take care of yourself. Good did not conquer evil. You had to make your own rules to survive.

This film is one of the great film noir of the era because it embodies the themes and style of film noir so well. The woman in this movie obviously thinks that this money is the answer to her feelings of inferiority. It will solve all her problems. She thinks it will help her fit in and make her more dominant. She does not care where the money came from or that it might cost her dearly. There is no plan. She becomes wildly out of control, but is empowered by the feeling that she is doing something, anything to get out of the situation she is in. This random accident of fate has set them in motion and now the chase is on, but to what end?

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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 film, we also have the darkness of a deserted highway. We know the car that stops at the 3.5 mile marker is there to complete some transaction with another person, as he looks at his watch to check the time of the meeting. The score is menacing, suggesting something bad is coming. We saw a deserted highway in Kiss Me Deadly and the Hitch-hiker and in both cases there was a sense of dread that came from the darkness and the loneliness of the highway. In Kiss Me Deadly and in this film, there is the stress and shock of a near accident, in Kiss Me Deadly with the woman almost hit and in this film, with the wife throwing the car out of control by grabbing the wheel, and the two cars almost colliding. In this opening, there is also darkness and loneliness, and the first unexpected event that throws the situation out of control is Lizabeth Scott’s character grabbing the wheel of the car. The next unexpected event  happens when the other car almost hits theirs and the suitcase is thrown into the backseat of their car. In the other films, we thought we knew what was happening fairly quickly, but here, the suitcase is unknown until, at the end of the clip, it is opened – now we know the contents, but the reason for its existence is still unknown – reminds me a little of The Maltese Falcon and some of the comments in the reading about the role of the bird as the Holy Grail.  

-- 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? As mentioned in your intro and in the readings, World War II was a time that separated people from their moorings and turned their world upside down, as happens in the opening of this film – a normal situation between a husband and wife turns in an unexpected and unknown direction with the wife grabbing the wheel and trying to take control (women gained much more of a sense of control of their lives during WWII), and the suitcase thrown in the back of the car. The Cold War only added to the fear and paranoia we see represented in the opening.

-- 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." The darkness and the emptiness of the road, where we aren’t sure where we are going, are both in the style of film noir. The narrative appears to be one of crime and unexpected twists and turns, which are characteristic of the substance of film noir.

 

 

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I'm appreciating the responses to the question posed: Why do you think unexpected incidents involving innocent people (such as today's couple) was such a popular postwar theme? This class is giving me a new perspective on the cold war period. I've often chafed against the label of the returning GIs as "The Greatest Generation"  -- I think it has a tendency to make those folks feel very smug about their heroics, when in fact it's more complex, as this week's discussion of paranoia, crisis of masculinity, and existential angst suggests (to say nothing of the social funding like the GI bill that poured lots of money their way.) To put it another way, I'm not sure that post-war Americans thought of themselves as the Greatest Generation...  but might they not have thought of themselves as The Luckiest Generation? The flipside to the terrible role of random and accidental occurences in films noir is the good luck of winning the war, ruling the world,  hitting the lottery, being the one to come home, take advantage of easy credit, and so forth. The "progress" made by the next generation was incredible -- horses to airplanes in a single generation. And so the lure of quick easy money dropped into your car. Sure, you know you didn't earn it, but what else about 50's prosperity did you really earn? Stories of luck must have confirmed the impression that things really could turn around instantly, for no apparent reason, which seemed to fit into the arbitrariness of the world generally. Porfirio talked about the Jungian archetype of the female in Sartre's idea of nature, and in the film noir City-- to this I would add that the ultimate femme fatale is Dame Fortune, Lady Luck, herself.. 

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Like many other scenes featured on a deserted highway, the audience finds themselves right in the middle of something. In this case, it is spousal quarrel, and the status quo is established. Alan and Jane are an "average" upper-middle class couple, the man is driving and the woman is complaining about the perceived judgments from a fellow female member of the class. It isn't a P.I. and his secretary pursuing their vaguely-labeled relationship or two criminals or working class folk. However, like Mike Hammer meeting Christina or Emmett Myers stalking the highways, it involves the upheaval of an otherwise normal if amoral life in one fateful meeting, this being the mix-up with the pay-off bag.

 

The easiest event to point to that may have resulted in the common film occurrence of bad things happening to good people is the war. Here was a moment in history where time was fleeting, where any one you know might never return home, particularly young couples and newlyweds. Also, the Cold War period and its resulting paranoia meant that people you had also known your whole life would come under suspicion. This paranoia often meant the destruction of innocent lives and careers.

 

Specifically, when it comes to the role of roads and highways in noir, it also poses interesting questions. Is it a coincidence that postwar America with its thriving economy and packaged American dream (look at any 1950s ad) in combination with a giant push for new infrastructure would result in films where terrible things happen in big cities and comfortable suburbs and the dark roads that connect them.

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I was born in 1950 and I completely related to what rajmct01 said.  When it's been previously mentioned how paranoid etc. the fifties were, I was completely surprised.  I always thought that we were protected from the harsh realities in the 50s. Yes we were taught "duck and cover" but it never really sunk in.   "Leave It to Beaver", "Father Knows Best", "Ozzie and Harriet", "The Donna Reed Show", The Real McCoys and "The Andy Griffith Show" all showed idyllic small town life which was in fact my experience.  Eisenhower was the great  father-figure protecting us from the "Big Bad".  It wasn't until the 60s when an entire generation of "baby boomers" went through their teen-age years, that we realized everything wasn't as perfect.  We went into a turbulent decade of fighting for civil rights, women's rights, protesting against the war and discovering sex, drugs and rock & roll.  "Teen-agers" before then were a demographic without a name.  Suddenly a huge block of human beings were going through the same angst-ridden times from adolescence to young adult.

I was born in 1951.  My childhood experiences were different due to a very strict upbringing (and a rapid rebellion) but I agree with these comments.  There was a reason the Sixties happened -- it was the Fifties.  It was Vietnam. It was the draft.  It was college women realizing there was more to life than being a Stepford Wife. Hippies and the antiestablishment culture did not just sprout out of the ground from nowhere. There were so many facets to the Sixties and only one or two of those facets ever get mentioned (and usually in a derogatory manner) nowadays.  All that does is warp what actually happened and what people were trying to do.  Perhaps a future generation will understand it better.  Do you think that is why we relate so much today to film noir?  For myself, I realized that my early life was closer in essence to film noir themes than to "Father Knows Best" or any of those other shows.  I relate to it.  Not flattering, but there you are.

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I was born in 1951. My childhood experiences were different due to a very strict upbringing (and a rapid rebellion) but I agree with these comments. There was a reason the Sixties happened -- it was the Fifties. It was Vietnam. It was the draft. It was college women realizing there was more to life than being a Stepford Wife. Hippies and the antiestablishment culture did not just sprout out of the ground from nowhere. There were so many facets to the Sixties and only one or two of those facets ever get mentioned (and usually in a derogatory manner) nowadays. All that does is warp what actually happened and what people were trying to do. Perhaps a future generation will understand it better. Do you think that is why we relate so much today to film noir? For myself, I realized that my early life was closer in essence to film noir themes than to "Father Knows Best" or any of those other shows. I relate to it. Not flattering, but there you are.

The subject matter is dark so film noir doesn't show rainbows and lollipops such as in children's programming. I find children grow out of the facade of their programming when they are exposed to truths about humanity. You can articulate kindness and positivity but truth is people are not always kind. Film noir exists to reflect on darkness but also in doing so helps cathartically dispel the heinous crap we all deal with no matter the age (this is also true of any art forms). I'd venture to say our latest forms of art do the same thing or attempt at it. We strive to place a spot light on certain conditions and culture that we do not always see so clearly. This opens our eyes and our minds to different ways of seeing things. The creators are going through a form of analysis throughout the process. To create art is to communicate our subconscious and to reflect the times and our experiences. Even if the art is avoiding any such classification or clear direction it will always shed perspective on us as people. It will not just be a pretty picture. It will be so much more...

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I just watched this movie on You Tube a couple of weeks ago.  Eddie Mueller was right, this is one of the great undiscovered noirs.

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I love the noir narrative that begins with ordinary everyday people getting sling-shot into the noir world.  However, I can't think of one which I've seen as a daily dose or otherwise which begins with a noir Santa Clause doing a flyby to deliver Jane a package full of cabbage, not 2 minutes after she complaining about some haughty rich dame. Talk about wish-fulfillment of course in the noir you better be careful what you wish for.

 

We get a warning about just who psycho Jane is when she tries to turn off a moving car, but when Allen opens that bag of dough the lights go out and we're off to the races careening down the road deeper into the darkness of the noir landscape.

 

A great quick opening which puts the viewer right where the director wanted him.  I haven't seen this film yet so I'm holding on tightly to see where Jane and Allan take me!!

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With everything they've presented to us this week about the delusion of the "American way of life," after WWII, it's fitting that 99 River St. and Too Late For Tears are prime examples of characters in movies who think money will be the solution to their problems.

The washed-up boxer who does "one last job," or the bickering couple having money literally thrown at them are terrific examples of wish-fulfillment fantasies, and maybe that's what drew audiences to these types of films at the time.

Come to think of it, that's still happening today. We buy lottery tickets and dream of what we'll do with the money; and the "just one last heist" film is as strong an audience draw as ever!

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose...

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I was born in 1951.  My childhood experiences were different due to a very strict upbringing (and a rapid rebellion) but I agree with these comments.  There was a reason the Sixties happened -- it was the Fifties.  It was Vietnam. It was the draft.  It was college women realizing there was more to life than being a Stepford Wife. Hippies and the antiestablishment culture did not just sprout out of the ground from nowhere. There were so many facets to the Sixties and only one or two of those facets ever get mentioned (and usually in a derogatory manner) nowadays.  All that does is warp what actually happened and what people were trying to do.  Perhaps a future generation will understand it better.  Do you think that is why we relate so much today to film noir?  For myself, I realized that my early life was closer in essence to film noir themes than to "Father Knows Best" or any of those other shows.  I relate to it.  Not flattering, but there you are.

  I was born in '59, late boomer. Some popular arts I always loved that are similar to noir that have received little mention: radio drama (Arch Obler's "Lights Out," for instance; Obler also directed some great short films); and the old pre-comic book code EC comics- very noir-like! I certainly do not connect to today's computer generated graphics. Give me well developed characters, believable dialogue, and a great story. I don't need special effects. Noir special effects were the subtleties of light and shadow, camera angles and implied violence and sexuality. These themes were understood by each audience member as a collective experience and as individuals bringing our own experiences to the theater. Even "Father Knows Best" had an occasional disturbing theme: remember the episode when Betty (Eleanor Donahue) is having an existential crisis, hearing a voice calling her "Betty Person?" It was creepy and great! Then Bud in real life was caught with a tiny amount of marijuana which, in the day, resulted in him being blacklisted from work. And then there's always Buffy (Anissa Jones) from "Family Affair" who died of a drugs overdose when she was 18. The happy family of television belied the troubled real life of all of us. Now they peddle so-called reality garbage as entertainment. 

Give me the fertile imagination, inventive direction and dark story lines of noir filmmaking any day.

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Maybe this couple was innocent when the bag of money landed in their car, but the innocence evaporated when Jane takes the wheel and drives away. She has to know them money is ill-gotten gains. Those gains must be returned to the owner or terrible things would happen. Jane steals the money. She could have had Allen through the bag out on the street so the oncoming car could pick it up. They could have gotten away and been safe, but this is noir. You don't do the safe thing.

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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?

 

To me, this opening is very different from the other films in the Daily Doses that began with a similar set-up on a deserted highway at night.

 

I believe that this opening differs from the others because it is based on a bag of money being tossed into the back of a couple’s car not a woman who escaped from a mental hospital or a killer hitchhiker. I believe this creates a different type of plot from the other films.

 

 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?

 

To me, I believe that a sense of lost for the American values they believed in or their ideas about what was considered a wholesome America was being taken away so they believed that crime was everywhere. So innocent people like the couple or anybody could accidently become involved in a nefarious situation.

 

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."

 

To me, I believe that it has a great set-up because it makes you wonder what you would do if someone threw a bag of money into the backseat of your car. I also believe that it plays on the notion of how fair would innocent people go to protect their chance at living the “American Dream”.

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This golden girl creates trouble right from the start.  Like Christina in Kiss Me Deadly, who was also a blonde, Jane almost causes a car crash but then takes over to drive like a bat out of hell.  The lighting accentuates the golden tones in Jane's hair unlike the key lighting on Christina.

At first I thought the "thing" tossed into the back seat might have been a bomb.  Undoubtedly that is exactly what the director wanted the audiences at that time to be thinking to enhance the tension.  First scare: possible bomb; second scare: threat from unknown assailants.  This is life played out on the large scale of the silver screen.  And Jane, the female, will take charge and fix things also like real life because the women who had to go to work when the men went to war now must stay home and be in charge of the family.

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Like other recent Daily Doses, "No Time for Tears" starts in motion.  As the night city sparkles below them, a husband and his wife their wind way along a lonely mountain road to a party at the home of better-off friends.  This late noir's themes of inablity to "keep up with the Jones's," and the relative powerlessness of women, culminate in the unhappy wife urging her husband to drive back home.  Failing this, she tries to take the wheel, flashing the lights and nearly causing an accident.  As they resume their drive a car approaches from the opposite direction and tosses a suitcase in their back seat.  

 

The husband examines the bag, which is filled with cash.  A car approaches, the wife orders the husband back into the car.  She is now at the wheel.  Her eyes lit up when she saw the money, and now she smiles with subtle satisfaction as they abscond with it.  She's in charge; literally in the driver's seat.

 

"Too Late for Tears" presents the main characters not as the expected thug and femme fatale, but a middle class, law-abiding wife and husband. The film also differs from the previous clips in that, at least for the moment, the random event that happened to the couple seems to be in their favor.  The hard economic times of the period, similar to the zeitgeist of the early 1930s (though not as deperate), bred wish fulfillment fantasies.  In the 1930s screwball comedy embodied the daydream of wealth and ease.  The postwar period linked the fantasy of luck falling in one's lap with a hard-edged realism that said any golden apple is bound to have a nasty, disgusting worm.

 

Following the noir playbook, the clip uses underlit night scenes, deep shadows and location shooting.  The director calls for close-ups to quickly establish the two main characters.  These law-abiding citizens care for each other, but a tension, an anxiety lies beneath.  This quick clip sets up a noir ambiance and then adds plot and character twists that surprise and intrigue, even after all the films we've been saturated with during the last six weeks.

 

Afterthought:  Seems like a precursor to "A Simple Plan."

 

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Eddie and his team get a big thumbs up from me for the restored version of this film. I've only seen a "meat grinder" version previously and was amazed at just how good the film looks. Notably, the striping from the venetian blinds on Don Defore when he's posing as an old war buddy of the dead husband seems to alert us that he's "camoflaged". Also, there's a film break at the point where Liz and Dan engage in their second kiss so I've never seen the part where SHE initiates the follow up smooch....making her MORE aggressive and predatory than even I thought...just awesome.

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Doghouse Reilly,,  that's a funny kind of name!    Note I'm a nut when it comes to Martha Vickers.   I have many still photos of her from the 40s.    She only was in a 4 or so films during her Warner Brothers days,  but she looked very cute in all of them.     No one wears a tennis outfit like Martha (even Liz Scott, who does come close in The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers).

I wish there was a pre release cut of the Big Sleep available today that kept all Martha's best scenes before they hacked the film to pieces so Lauren wouldn't look too bad in it. Would be great to see for comparison's sake.

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Mueller was right in the sense that this film is not very stylistic in the aesthetics.  However, the femme fatale, the idea of fate changing the course of human events, revealing the dark side of man, etc.  The reason post-WWII films were so enamored with fate was because of the WAR.  Men and women saw and watched as loved ones went off to war and died.  Some made it and some did not.  Lives were changed in an instant.  People felt the need to "live now" because there were no assurances of the future. The fact that life could be reduced to such trivial proportions by the atomic bomb also had to resonate in the backs of viewer's minds as they watched the fate of characters unfold before their very eyes. 

 

Dark and lonely roads always seem to lead to dark and lonely places in our characters' lives.  Great beginning for a film that gets rather dark and ugly.  You wonder if the twist of fate can really open up our dark side.

 

Scott is an unbelievable femme fatale.  Sexy, smart, the deep voice, and those eyes all combine to give her the allure, the swagger, but also the panic necessary for the roles she plays.  She is at her darkest best in this one.

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I really enjoyed Too Late For Tears. I wish the summary description that popped up on DirecTV didn't tip off a key plot point, though.

 

So to not repeat their offense...SPOILER ALERT regarding the commentary below.

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Good film, despite a couple of plot points that required suspension of belief. For example, no way Danny gets the license plate from the Palmer's car in order to track them down. His only encounter is a high speed chase through the Hollywood Hills where the road is rarely straight for more than 20 yards and there are no lights. He's never close enough to the car and in those days I do not believe that license plates were even lit like they are today. He probably couldn't even tell what kind of car it was.

 

I also got to thinking about how Alan's "male domination" impacted his life. Had he listened to the concerns of his obviously stressed-out wife, he first would have averted the situation and then later his own murder. (Of course, we would have a short dull movie had he done that...).

  • Jane repeatedly pleads with him to turn the car around and not go to the party - had he done so earlier they would never have reached the payoff location.
  • And when trying to insist that his wife stay on the boat ride rather than turn around and head back, he turned a situation where her guilt might have led to her agreeing with him (to unburden themselves of the money) to his death and her now even more desperate actions.

Love that Alan distrusted his wife enough to tell the porter to add a note to call the police if a woman picked up the bag. Also got a kick out of Jane hiding the furs and other gifts in the kitchen cabinet (!) - apparently men did not venture into the "woman's place".

 

Scott was very good, but I thought Dan Duryea and (to a larger extent) Don DeFore stole the show. Duryea's cocky smarm was only matched by the bevy of nicknames he was tossing around, although he folded like a cheap suit over time. And DeFore had me going - at first I believed he was the war buddy (often an unseen person or thing that mucks up the perfect plans), then I thought he was a cop and after being "unmasked" even thought he was the guy who tossed the bag into the car. Did not see the reveal coming, but it at least explains how he would know where Alan was stationed (research!).

 

I'm so thankful that Muller and the Film Noir Society and UCLA Archive were able to salvage this gem.

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