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Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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-- 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?

 

We read this week how families, in the post-war 50s scrambled for material goods in order to “keep up with the Joneses.” It became necessary for these families to seek overtime and for many mothers to seek employment themselves in order to “maintain a standard of living they were accustomed to or expected to maintain.” Other issues like increased unemployment among women as a result of returning servicemen and a high crime rate was affecting American families as well.

 

For some of these families, a trip to the local movie house would have been an ideal way to relieve some of the stresses they were experiencing day-to-day. A movie about unexpected incidents involving innocent people such as Too Late for Tears may have provided such escapism. The characters in these films, may have provided answers to existing societal problems. Who has never wondered what it would be like to  come across a bag full of money? Would we behave as Jane does in this clip: reckless driving to avoid returning it. I can see audiences getting fully involved with these post-war-themed noirs and, if for only a few hours, put behind their troubles.

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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.

 

I was born in 1952.  I do not remember any paranoia.  I remember they had us do the duck and cover drill at school.  But my childhood was happy.  It was not until the Cuban missile crisis that I felt fear, because my parents were acting strangely.  My dad was in SAC in the Air Force at the time, so he knew things.  The most violent TV show (in my opinion) was running - The Untouchables.  I was focused on Walt Disney.  Maybe adults knew these things, but as a child it was a wonderful time.

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The aspect that fascinates me the most about this clip for Too Late for Tears is the transformation of Lizabeth Scott’s character.  In the beginning, Jane and Alex appear to be an ordinary married couple with ordinary problems.  Jane has insecurity issues, and the way she struggles with Alan to turn the car around indicates that she is struggling for power in their marriage.  When the bag of money drops into the car, it is like she comes to life.  When the other car approaches, Jane immediately takes control and drives away.  Alan is stuck in the backseat, and Jane completely ignores his comments.  There is a look on her face that suggests this is an opportunity she has been waiting for.  It illustrates what we read last week about femme fatales straining against the gender roles men have forced on them.  Jane did not want to go to the party and hates being patronized by Alex’s friend’s wife, but it’s obvious Alan has little regard for her opinion too.  Getting the bag of money and being chased give Jane a chance to rebel from her confining life.

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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 Too Late For Tears, Kiss Me Deadly, and The Hitch-Hiker, cruel fate is encountered people who are simply driving along the highway. Too Late For Tears differs in that the driver/occupant did not stop to give a ride to anybody, thus inviting the “problem/bad luck” into the vehicle and their lives, but cruel fate (disguised as a windfall) was literally thrown into their vehicle while they driving along “minding their own business.”


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?

- During WWII people both in the service and on the home-front may have had an expectation or at least knowledge of the potential for difficulties/danger/disappointments in their lives or of loved ones and friends.  After the war, people may have liked pleasant surprises in their post-war lives and expected surprise in their entertainment.  Also, after years of combat and/or an uncertain future, perhaps the unexpected was the minimum requirement to interest people in a story.  An unexpected incident could happen to any “regular Joe”, which makes the story more relatable to the audience.

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 opening is packed with noir iconography and fateful possibilities in only 3 ½ minutes.
               Even though the action takes place on country road, we are shown the road is relatively close to (presumably) Los Angeles.  High contrast lighting is used to highlight the mile marker.  The driver making the money drop is hidden behind the angled roof post of the car, the shadow of his hat; later only his eyes and face are only briefly and partially illuminated.  The chase features a black car (bad guy) chasing the white car (good guy).  They emerge from the country and into the city—and danger.
               Random fate selects this couple, leading them toward trouble, and revealing their character.  Jane immediately shows herself unhappy going to visit their friends and not to be a “good wife” by the standards of the time period.  Alan, the husband, is a good, easy-going fellow and right off the bat we are presented with a good versus evil situation.  Once they possess ill-gotten cash, Jane seems happier and even smiles as the chase is on (the Femme Fatale).  We don’t know who the drivers of the other cars are, but they absolutely signify trouble and danger.

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I haven't seen this film before. If the scene shown in this Daily Dose is any indication, I'm in for a treat. Lizabeth Scott initially comes on as a June Cleaver type, but then goes just about cuckoo crazy by the end of this short clip. First she changes her mind about attending the social event with the diamond-studded wife, despite the apparent fact that she's agreed to go earlier. So far we might write her off as just a little bit moody and unpredictable, but still a wholesome, loving wife. But when a bagful of cash lands in the back seat of her car (why does this never happen to me?), she's suddenly glassy-eyed and in the mood for a thrill ride on a winding road while being chased by some unknown person in another car. I'm looking forward to seeing what is behind her transformation and how this is going to play out. Who's money is this and who's going to end up with it and at what costs?

 

The intervention of some chance event that throws the character's life off of it's expected course is a theme we've seen before. This certainly shows the influence of existential philosophy as discussed in last week's lecture. There is no overall God-given reason for a sequence of events. This clip also shows a sense of paranoia that emerged in post-WWII era films. I don't yet know where the bag of money came from of how badly the owner wants the money back, but the general idea is that there are evil doers lurking out there where you least expect to find them. The bad guys may be communist sympathizers or just a gang of crooks, but they are out there. And try as you might, you are never completely safe from them.

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it's nice to hear from someone who lived during this time. Is any one else on the message board that lived during this time period that can reflect on what life was like during 40s and 50s

I was born in 1952.  I do not remember any paranoia.  I remember they had us do the duck and cover drill at school.  But my childhood was happy.  It was not until the Cuban missile crisis that I felt fear, because my parents were acting strangely.  My dad was in SAC in the Air Force at the time, so he knew things.  The most violent TV show (in my opinion) was running - The Untouchables.  I was focused on Walt Disney.  Maybe adults knew these things, but as a child it was a wonderful time.

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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 both Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker the driver of the car made a conscious decision to stop and invite someone in trouble into his car.  In Too Late for Tears Alan and Jane Palmer are moving down the road when the fateful satchel of cash is thrown into the back seat of their convertible from a passing car like manna from heaven.  Or is it another Pandora’s box?  Depending on how you look at it, they were either in the right place at the right time or in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It becomes clear to them quickly when they realize another convertible automobile is chasing them that the money was not intended for them.  The look of satisfaction on Jane’s face as she takes the wheel and succeeds in evading the car chasing them suggests that she is thinking the money represents a serendipitous windfall that will put her in a position where she will no longer be patronized by her wealthy acquaintance Alice.  The car that chased them appeared right after Jane had urged Alan to open the satchel.  We suspect that the trouble that began after the satchel was opened will not stop here, even though Jane has succeeded in losing their pursuer for now.

 

It is not entirely clear what Jane is doing inside the car when she is trying to force Alan to turn around and return home, but she appears to be trying to grab the car key and perhaps turn off the engine.  The next shot shows the Palmers’ car weaving a bit on the road as Alan and Jane struggle and then passing through a dark shadow cast over their lane of the highway.  (An advantage of day-for-night shooting seems to be that one can have shadows even at night!  Is that supposed to be a moon shadow?)  Although it does not seem logical, when the car passes through the shadow, the headlights disappear briefly.  The next shot cuts to the man waiting at mile 3.5.  He reaches down to release his parking brake and start his engine, apparently interpreting the momentary dimming of the Palmers’ headlights as a signal he has been waiting for.  It is after this that the two vehicles pass and the unidentified driver tosses the satchel into the back seat of the Palmers’ car.  As Alan and Jane are examining the satchel of money in their back seat and notice the second car approaching, we see the second car cut off and turn on its headlights three times as it passes the same stretch of road where their car’s headlights disappeared briefly when passing through the shadow.  This confirms for the viewer that a signal was originally intended and the driver who tossed the satchel had misinterpreted a chance outage of the Palmers’ headlights as the awaited signal.

 

– 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?

 

Let me say at the outset that this response involves a fair amount of sociological speculation on my part.

 

The war years had meant sacrifice and privation for most Americans on the home front.  They had lived with constant uncertainty about whether their loved ones would return from the war, and if they did return, whether they would be changed either physically or psychically.  After the victory, the U.S. had to deal with serious dislocations in business and the labor force in readjusting to a peacetime economy.  There were problems with unemployment and a rise in crime.  There were resentments against some who had profited from the war while others had to sacrifice and were now having difficulty assimilating back into society.  Planning for the future could be difficult and unpredictable.  There were long waiting lists for people who wanted to buy a new car, and there was resentment against cheaters who either paid or took bribes to get a better place on the list.  Dealing with the unexpected was an aspect of many people’s lives.  HUAC was turning up Communists in all walks of life.  People might wonder whether they were living next door to a Communist.  And in Orson Welles’s The Stranger (1946), sweet Mary Longstreet (Loretta Young) had to discover she was married to a Nazi war criminal!  It makes sense to me that moviegoers in the late 1940s would have a natural interest in seeing depictions of how characters representing average people on the big screen dealt with the unexpected, whether it meant opportunity or calamity.

 

I think Arthur Miller may have captured the malaise and moral issues of the time in his 1947 play All My Sons, which filmed by Universal in 1948.  The story involves the family of self-made American businessman Joe Keller, who knowingly sold damaged parts to the Air Force during the war and kept the profits for the good of his family.  The damaged parts resulted in the deaths of U.S. servicemen, and Joe’s partner was convicted and sent to prison, but Joe successfully laid the blame on his partner and was exonerated.  After the war the truth comes out and Joe finally commits suicide rather than turn himself in and confess his guilt.  Miller was called before the HUAC in the 1950s, in part due to his unmasking of the American Dream in All My Sons.

 

Turning now to today’s clip from Too Late for Tears, I think it is clear that the unconventional way in which the money-laden satchel is exchanged between cars is an indication that it represents the gains from some illegal enterprise.  Hence it represents danger to the Palmers if the criminals try to retrieve it and moral/legal issues for the Palmers if they keep the money for their own use.  Yet the look on Jane’s face tells me that is exactly what she plans to do with the money so she will never have to be patronized by Ralph’s “diamond-studded wife” again.  So here we have crime flying unexpectedly right out of the dark night and into the back seat of an innocent couple on their way (or not) to a dinner party.  At this point it looks as if Lizabeth Scott will again play the femme fatale as a modern-day Pandora who will unleash trouble for herself and her husband by opening that satchel filled with “paper.”  I’m looking forward to seeing the full restored version of Too Late for Tears on Friday.

 

– 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."

 

See above.

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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?

The opening clip from Too Late For Tears is along the same lines as The Hitch Hiker and Kiss me Deadly in that a car is driving at night along a deserted road. In each film, something happens that changes everything. In Too Late For Tears, a young couple that originally were in route to have dinner with another couple, but then they change their mind with the wife's incessant desire to go back home. At that point another car that is waiting to exchange money loot mistakes the couple's car for the one to receive the loot and drops a large bag of cash in the car. Here we may and only may have a positive outcome compared to The Hitch Hiker and Kiss Me Deadly

 

-- 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?

The unexpected incident involving innocent people was popular because the audience could relate to these people. "Hey, there're just like us", could have been a discussion point. In the postwar era, more people had automobiles, they could go on trips, see the country, experience new places and ideas. More women were in the workplace and had more say in family discussions.

 

-- 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 style and substance of Too Late For Tears uses many of the same film noir concepts as the other films.There is a car driving at night on a dark and deserted road, the only lights are from the car's headlights and from a beam of light from a flashlight at Mile 3.5. Perhaps the most important thing the viewer sees, is that the wife becomes in charge and takes over. She jumps in the drivers seat and the husband becomes the passenger in the backseat on a high speed get away.

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Once again opening on a dark deserted highway (maybe the Hollywood Hills) a car mysteriously pulls off to the side of the road and the driver, a stranger, checking his watch and is obviously on a schedule.  Enter a second car traveling up the road with a normal, married, bickering couple, when they are mistaken for “the contact vehicle” to receive a bag containing a large sum of cash.  This was more of an opening with a calm early evening drive and maybe with a little mystery thrown in.  Unlike Kiss Me Deadly or The Hitch-Hiker, Too Late For Tears starts off without the desperation and fear factor at least in the beginning.  Eventually Jane Palmer (Lizabeth Scott) sets in motion a dark fate with her reckless attitude first by nearly wrecking their car trying to force her husband to turn the vehicle around which inadvertently signals a stranger to drop a stash of cash in their backseat and secondly for her decision to go for the instant material gain and escape from the domestic doldrums and status quo in spite of the obvious consequences which could cost them their lives.

 

 Possibly a popular post-war theme due to everyday people breaking out of their routine existence, money for nothing, potential to gain power and influence, instant wealth and popularity.  Themes just as popular today with reality TV shows and contests, the lottery, who doesn’t want to experience wealth and supposedly a better life-style?  Isn’t a better life what both Farley Granger and Robert Walker’s characters were looking for in Strangers On A Train?  It’s just a matter of how far are you willing to go to achieve your goals.  From this opening scene in Too Late For Tears, Lizabeth Scott is in the fast lane to oblivion!  Fasten your seatbelts (again)!

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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.)

 

Agree completely. Scott is definitely "B" list whereas Bacall is "A" list. What Scott lacks is the wittiness that Bacall gave her characters. It's that wit that I enjoy most.

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Daily Dose of Darkness #22: It’s in the Bag

(Scene from Too Late for Tears)

 

—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?

We actually see the guy making the drop first in this clip. He’s in the first car waiting. When he sees Jane and Alan Palmer driving toward him, he assumes that the only car on a lonely road has to be his intended target. This clip is bit different because we see, almost right away, two cars involved in a trade of sorts, and then a high-speed chase with a woman driving the lead car! The expression on Jane’s face makes me think she has finally found her element, and she is loving every minute of it.

—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?

I don’t think anyone knew what to expect immediately after World War II. Once the celebrations about the end of the fighting were over, the world had to figure out what to do about the new world order. Note that in The Third Man, which was released in 1949 (four years after the end of the war), the four Allied powers were still in control of an occupied and devastated Europe. The dislocation from the war would last decades, and the United States was thrust almost immediately into a terrifying cold war.

          By the way, what the heck is so innocent about Jane Palmer?! The bag of money just allowed her to blossom, so to speak. She’s the one who can’t stand to be poorer relative to her neighbors, she’s the one who grabs Alan’s car keys and almost causes an accident, she’s the one who makes a successful getaway in their car, she’s the one who always dreamed of being rich, she’s the one who convinces Alan that they should keep the money . . . I could go on, but I would give even more away about this fantastic movie.

—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 have seen the whole movie so I may be reading more into the clip than is intended, but there is nothing about Too Late for Tears that is not noir, so to speak. I was riveted from the opening credits to the end. I think Eddie Muller’s observation is all about the prints that were nearly gone forever because no one thought about preserving such a great noir story. Jane Palmer is the lead role and she is in almost complete control from start to finish. Could such a strong female lead have been a factor in the lack of interest in preserving this film at the beginning? I wonder.

          An aside: Was Too Late for Tears ever shown on television in the New York City area? I couldn’t help thinking that I had seen the movie before—once upon a distant time in the land of my childhood, that is!

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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?


 


Too Late For Tears begins with a typical married couple, driving in a convertible, on their way to some friends' house for dinner (8:30 is a little late for dinner nowadays). They are having a mundane argument about whether to turn back and go home because Jane feels disrespected by the hostess, who is wealthier than Alan and Jane and lords it over them. Prior to this exchange between Jane and her husband, an enclosed sedan pulls up to the 3.5 mile marker and beams a flashlight on it so the audience can see that is the milepost the car is looking for. The sedan stops to wait.


 


Meanwhile we are introduced to Alan and Jane having a marital spat over their dinner companions. The subject of the tiff tells the audience that Jane feels socially and economically inferior to their friends. We further find out that Jane is somewhat unhinged when she tries to bring the car to a screeching halt while her husband is driving. It is during the car's stop that a black satchel is thrown into their backseat. The bag is stuffed with cold hard cash - something Jane wants.


 


She takes the opportunity to drive off with the dough eluding a following car whose occupants are the rightful (or wrongful) owners of the cash. Jane, driving like a stunt driver, loses the following car.


 


As in The Hitchhiker, the director packs the opening scene with lots of information, shown in an engaging manner which hooks the audience's attention and makes them want to see more. Unlike Kiss Me Deadly, which was stiltedly directed, and woodenly acted, and did not make me want to see more, I did watch the movie, but only because it was on the syllabus. (I thought it was boorish and gimmicky.) I anticipate that Too Late For Tears will be an interesting character study of just how far greed will drive two ordinary people who have enough, but not all they want.


 


The opening  is also unlike the other two highway scenes in that a person in each case was the invading force in each vehicle. There was clear menace in The Hitchhiker, in that the audience already knew that a homicidal hitchhiker was on the loose, so the director had to build lots of tension into his entry to the film.


 


In Kiss Me Deadly, the person appears to be the victim of foul play such that a tough detective softens enough to help her. She invades his car barefoot, mostly undressed, and pretty helpless, even though she has escaped from a mental asylum. She has something in common with Jane there. Jane is slightly mad too.


 


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?


 


Well, the instructor has stressed repeatedly that the Cold War nuclear threat was weighing heavily on folks' minds.


 


Certainly, for anyone who read newspapers at the time, atomic spies were in the news of the day, and McCarthyism brought the Soviet threat to the forefront of people's thinking. So from that standpoint, regular Americans could feel that they were more or less hostages to threatening forces beyond their control. That would account for the theme of unexpected incidents beyond one's control being a popular Cold War theme.


 


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.


 


In terms of style, the audience is given several noirish clues. First, we are clearly told what time it is for a couple of reasons. First, it explains the type of ordinary evening Alan and Jane are out for. Second, it tells the audience that something significant is supposed to happen at this hour. That something turns out to be a package drop.


 


The audience also sees the driver of the sedan shine a bright light on the milepost sign, further signaling that something is supposed to happen at this place at this time. The single light source emphasizes the significance about what is to happen.


 


In Alan and Jane's car, the lighting making their faces look like masks is apparent, and the light source is unexplained. Of course the fact that the whole opening takes place in the dark is a key to noir. Also, Jane's erratic driving, which involves crisscrossing highway lines and borders is significant to demonstrate the confused nature of her thinking. If she has decided on the spur of the moment to steal ill-gotten gains from experienced criminals she is very confused and wrong-headed. Her driving pattern is evidence of this.


 


Although I am not a fan of Lizbeth Scott, she does serve as the femme fatale - she is leading her nice, average-Joe husband on a very dark journey - for money.


 


 


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In Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker the protagonists invite strangers into their cars voluntarily. In Too Late For Tears trouble finds Alan and Jane involuntarily when a satchel is thrown into their car.

 

Prior to this twist of fate, we learn Jane has become disillusioned with her life and her strong dislike of the "diamond studded wife". (perhaps she was building B-29 bombers in Detroit or doing other wartime work before she married Alan and enjoyed her independence)  The satchel of cash seems to get the gears going in Jane's head.

 

Jane taking over the wheel and successfully losing the other car shows she wants some independence from being just a housewife and wants to do things HER way. Even if it means hurting people, including her husband.

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I'm a big fan of Lizabeth ("The Threat") Scott and this is, dare I say, her best film. She usually plays a meely-mouthed, skinny dame singing in a nightclub while being threatened by some tough guy ala Dead Reckoning. In Too Late for Tears she takes things into her own hands.

 

As the couple drives towards dinner, SHE decides to go home because SHE doesn't like being "patronized" by the wealthy wife of a friend. SHE almost runs them off the road and SHE decides to keep them money thrown in the back seat by speeding off. Right away the femme fatale is calling the shots and it will continue that way throughout the film.

 

I have only seen this film in bits and pieces and really bad copies (missed its release at The Castro). I'm really looking forward to seeing the restored version, and yes, Eddie Muller did a great job resurrecting this phoenix.

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This film clip definitely shows postwar paranoia: Anything can happen to anyone at any time, so keep looking over your shoulder.

 

Maybe it's just me, but I think this theme of average-joe-gets-thrown-into-the-mix is still going strong.  Not only in thrillers, but it has also kind of morphed into a lot of comedy films over the decades: It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World with the group of strangers on a quest for "the big W" (or what's buried under it); What's Up, Doc? with the four identical suitcases; Innerspace where an average grocery store clerk gets inadvertently involved in a plot to steal a top-secret military project.  Sorry but that's what came to mind.

 

I'm intrigued by this movie for the simple reason that it was almost lost to oblivion.  Thank you, Mr. Muller, for your hard work in restoring it.  I'm looking forward to watching it! 

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We(the viewers) are definitely going down a winding road in "Too Late for Tears". It appears to be a

typical couple heading out for a dinner with "friends" when the wife expresses her dislike for the host's wife (His diamond studded wife). She is complaining, wanting to go back home when a sudden hurtling bag lands in the backseat of the couple's car. That mere act was like a switch that turned things around. Lisbeth Scott's face(her whole demeanor) physically changed before our eyes when the contents of the bag was revealed. Greed now becomes her mission. No longer is she going to be the wife that goes along with what her husband wants. It becomes a role reversal. She is in charge now and it seems that her husband (Arthur Kennedy)is going to go along with what ever plan she comes up with to please her. Though he knows it is wrong, her feminine charm manipulates the situation. We are

hooked down this long dark winding road.

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We(the viewers) are definitely going down a winding road in "Too Late for Tears". It appears to be a

typical couple heading out for a dinner with "friends" when the wife expresses her dislike for the host's wife (His diamond studded wife). She is complaining, wanting to go back home when a sudden hurtling bag lands in the backseat of the couple's car. That mere act was like a switch that turned things around. Lisbeth Scott's face(her whole demeanor) physically changed before our eyes when the contents of the bag was revealed. Greed now becomes her mission. No longer is she going to be the wife that goes along with what her husband wants. It becomes a role reversal. She is in charge now and it seems that her husband (Arthur Kennedy)is going to go along with what ever plan she comes up with to please her. Though he knows it is wrong, her feminine charm manipulates the situation. We are

hooked down this long dark winding road.

 

Good Analysis! I love how Lisbeth Scott's face changed -- like she was suddenly animated by a new personality entirely. No longer the quarreling wife, she becomes something darker, something more noir.

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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 Kiss Me Deadly for example, a victim is identified immediately. A woman has escaped from an asylum and is running for her life on foot when suddenly a car that almost hits her stops and she is “rescued” by P.I. Hammer.

 

In the opening from Too Late For Tears, we have a couple driving at night dressed for a gathering perhaps, when suddenly a bag filled with cash is tossed onto their car. Without hesitation she speeds away as if it was a heist. Fortune has come to her but she runs like a criminal.

 

We find irony, sometimes in film noir.

 

A woman under-dressed runs away from her misfortunes.

A woman well dressed, rides in a car when a small fortune is tossed her way, and she runs away.

 

These Daily Dose are heaven. I can not wait to see these films on Friday.

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I’ve not seen this film, but I like the set-up. Yep, a lonely road at night is always a great start for a noir film.

I think that one of the biggest distinctions between pre-war and post-war films is the portrayal of the wealthy. In the 30’s you see a lot of people who either aspire to be wealthy or would at least like to work for the wealthy. In the early 40’s, the average guy, Sam Spade for example, became the hero. But the beginning of this film hints at what will be the 50’s suburban middle class. The central character now resents the wealthy and is willing to compromise his or her ethics and morals to get their share. Jane resents the wealthy and is just the sort of person who will seize the opportunity to get what she thinks is coming to her.

I’m guessing that Jane will turn out to be more like Lady Macbeth than a typical femme fatale. Rather than seduce a man to his demise, she is ambitious and will drag her weak-kneed husband along by shaming him for being a milquetoast.

You see the same sort of thing the following year (1950) with Peggy Cummins and John Dall in “Gun Crazy.” He desperately wants to stop their crime spree but she is destined for destruction.

Proper story structure requires that things return to some sort of stability at the end. Jane will surely suffer for her greed and if Alan isn’t dragged down with her, the will at least walk away wiser.

Two trivial things struck me while watching the clip. Jane’s hair doesn’t flutter in the least despite traveling at a pretty good pace in a convertible. We can also see how the editor saved the day; with the luxury of playing the video several times, I could see that the bag likely bounced back out of the car.  I imagine that this was actually a rather difficult shot to get.

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I'm a big fan of Lizabeth ("The Threat") Scott and this is, dare I say, her best film. She usually plays a meely-mouthed, skinny dame singing in a nightclub while being threatened by some tough guy ala Dead Reckoning. In Too Late for Tears she takes things into her own hands.

 

As the couple drives towards dinner, SHE decides to go home because SHE doesn't like being "patronized" by the wealthy wife of a friend. SHE almost runs them off the road and SHE decides to keep them money thrown in the back seat by speeding off. Right away the femme fatale is calling the shots and it will continue that way throughout the film.

 

I have only seen this film in bits and pieces and really bad copies (missed its release at The Castro). I'm really looking forward to seeing the restored version, and yes, Eddie Muller did a great job resurrecting this phoenix.

 

Did you watch Dead Reckoning?    The femme fatale was clearly in charge.   She just lied and acted like she was a victim.  As her husband said,  it was all an act, right from the start and right up to the end.     All the men in the film,  including Bogie,  were sucked into her web.   Bogie just got lucky at the end.

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This week, video lecture #5 examines Opportunity in film noir.

 

According to Pillsbury, "nothing says lovin' like something from the oven."

 

I say "nothing says opportunity like a satchel of cash tossed into the backseat of one's convertible!"

 

The transformation of Lizabeth Scott during the opening clip is riveting. She starts out seemingly dominated by her husband, who is driving her to a social engagement she had already told him she did not want to attend. When she explains the reason - not wanting to be patronized by the diamond-studded hostess - her husband patronizes her with an "Oh, sweetheart" dismissal of her feelings. 

 

Perhaps this doubling down of patronization is what compels her to try to yank the keys from the car's ignition (or maybe just turn it off). BTW, are either of those outcomes possible if the car is moving forward in Drive? I have never tried it to find out, ha ha.

 

But then, when a satchel full of opportunity lands in the backseat, she is transformed quicker than freeze-dried sea-monkey pills become briny shrimp when dropped into bath water! I was transfixed by watching her face as she NASCARed away from the car that chased them. Her clueless husband seems unwilling or unable to recognize his permanent banishment to the backseat, when he asks her to slow down and let him take the wheel (only after Lizabeth has lost the pursuer).   

 

I won't comment on the societal influences on this film, as those are very well explained in this week's assigned readings and in postings made by my classmates.

 

I am looking forward to seeing Lizabeth Scott. She is frequently mentioned in a film noir group site that I recently joined on Facebook, but frankly I was not aware of her.   

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Did you watch Dead Reckoning?    The femme fatale was clearly in charge.   She just lied and acted like she was a victim.  As her husband said,  it was all an act, right from the start and right up to the end.     All the men in the film,  including Bogie,  were sucked into her web.   Bogie just got lucky at the end.

Yeah, let that be a lesson to you...If you smell jasmine, run!

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it's nice to hear from someone who lived during this time. Is any one else on the message board that lived during this time period that can reflect on what life was like during 40s and 50s

I was born in1949 and also have to say that as a young child I really wasn't aware of any paranoia.  We did have the duck and cover drills in my elementary school.  I lived in Paterson, NJ at the time and remember the bomb shelter that was constructed in front of City Hall.  But as a small children, I don't think any of us really understood the implications of these things.  Of course, we weren't constantly saturated with news from so many sources like today.  And I think that the adults in my community were careful to hide concerns from us kids.  The TV shows we watched were things like the My Friend Flicka, Superman, Father Knows Best, and Leave it to Beaver.  And, of course, The Mickey Mouse Club.  All pretty benign.  Adult shows like Racket Squad, The Naked City, etc, were on later in the evening and kids didn't usually watch them.  At least not in my home..... It was still safe for us to do things on our own like walk back and forth to school, go to the movies, play unsupervised in the park...  But at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, I was old enough to understand the imminent danger and resulting fear..... As well as the anxiety over the space race and the fact that the Soviet Union had definitely taken the lead.Now the threat of their missiles being launched at us from outer space  seemed real...

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Yeah, let that be a lesson to you...If you smell jasmine, run!

 

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).

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