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


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I saw this so many years ago that I had to Google a synopsis to see what made this movie so special to Eddie Muller.  The story has more twists and turns than the Angeles Crest Highway. Now I can’t wait to see it again. And I will say, Lizabeth Scott is rather easy to overlook because she was not as huge a star (at least looking back) as Lauren Bacall (who she seems to resemble most).  She also made Desert Fury (with Mary Astor, John Hodiak and Burt Lancaster) which hasn’t been on for years.

 

-- 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?

 

Film Noir seems to love the desert and deserted highways.  Nobody around for miles and people still screw up. This time the innocent bystanders seem to have good luck, rather than something disastrous happening  (well, not yet anyway).  The scene opens with a car waiting at the side of a highway, we see the signpost and the time so we know it’s a rendezvous.   Jane and Alan, driving down this same highway, are having a spat because Jane doesn’t want to go to Ralph and Alice’s party – she wants to go home.  She tells Alan she feels patronized by Ralph’s “diamond studded wife” in her “big house (in the hills) looking down on Hollywood”.   At one point she grabs for the ignition keys and instead hits the headlights.   They go out – Alan pulls them back on.  It’s this inadvertent signal that sets everything in motion.  The waiting car pulls up beside them, throws something in the back, and speeds away.  Jane and Alan stop to see what it was.  It’s a bag full of money. Lizabeth Scott’s expression at seeing the money says it all.  Then another car down the highway flashes its headlights and starts towards them.  Jane and Alan guess correctly that this is the car the money was intended for.  Before Alan can do anything about this, Jane jumps behind the wheel and speeds away, barely giving Alan time to get back in the car. They only lose the car after it is cut off by another car.  By this time, we know Jane has made a commitment to keep that money. Lizabeth Scott goes from good girl to bad girl in ten seconds flat.  

 

-- 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?

 

There had been and were a lot of changes. A lot of adults in the Fifties grew up during the Depression and remembered going hungry and without.  Then WWII, which pulled America out of the Depression, it did so at a high price by losing nearly a half million American lives.  Women went to work at the factories in record numbers, held jobs previously only done by men and proved they could work just as good as a man.  After the War, women had to go back to the home, where they were expected to become happy mothers and homemakers.  People had been expected to adjust to and absorb quite a bit for many years.  Perhaps this had something to do with audiences wanting to see others go through bad situations.  Was it cathartic?  Was it so they could feel better about their lives? Was it cynicism.  Don’t know.

 

-- 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 classic noir style elements – the night, the highway, the mile marker, the watch.  I see substance in the twists which start with two inadvertent mistakes that brought out the femme fatale in a good girl, or was she never a good girl, or teetering on the edge and this tipped her over?

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It looks Lisabeth Scott has shook off a tail before! The couple gets roped into this situation almost literally when the satchel gets tossed into their car. He should have listened to her and turned back!

As for the 2nd question, I guess that innocent people getting sucked into danger and mystery serves as a metaphor for America's loss innocence, buffered by depression and war. But America has never been innocent in that respect, being made up of human beings. Perhaps the audience gets a sense of catharsis watching innocent people in harm's way.

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The obvious difference it that the couple here are a couple of innocents who just so happen to have a bag of money thrown in their car by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.   Sort of a mom and pop have a bag of money tossed at them.

 

The whole deal of going from rags to riches was a popular post-war time theme as it had happened to so many people before.  Maybe not to the extent that the couple in Too Late for Tears had happen to them.

 

I think for me that the introduction of the innocents unlike so many other film noirs would really draw in an audience. How many people in real life would welcome such an unexpected delivery.

 

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- TCM ALERT - TONIGHT (July 14/15) -  4:15am Eastern / 1:15am Pacific -

 

TCM is running PITFALL (1948), a terrific noir with Dick Powell, Jane Wyatt, Liz Scott, Raymond Burr, directed by Andre De Toth. This one fits sooo well into ths week's themes. Dick & Jane are the nice average postwar couple, he's bored with the dull, soul-sapping routine, can't resist the adventure and sizzle of an affair with Liz Scott. Raymond Burr adds touch of evil. This is a Summer of Darkness entry for which Friday wasn't long enough. Well worth recording!!!

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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. . . .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.

 

Thanks, Working Dead, as always, for your insightful analysis.  In considering what you've identified as the post war enemy being our own weaknesses rather than an external force, I consider why the bag of cash wound up in Alan and Jane's convertible.  I think--someone help me out here if I'm mistaken--the lights of Alan's convertible go out and then on again as Jane struggles to turn off the ignition in order to force Alan to stop the car and turn it around.  She's attempting to make Alan avoid a gathering where her financial and middle class insecurities are, in her mind, painfully on display.  

 

After Alan and Jane have discovered the bag of cash, they look behind them and see another convertible flashing its lights once along the very same stretch of highway where their car lights flashed because of the ignition key struggle. (It's tricky to see in shots of the Alan/Jane convertible headlights, in part because it might be a day for night shot, but I think it's there.) It looks like the flashing headlights was the signal for the criminal cohorts to identify the correct convertible in which to switch the bag of cash.  

 

Assuming flashing headlights in a convertible was the signal, we see how Jane's weaknesses serve as a linchpin for the determining yet seemingly random error.  Her noir weakness is that she insists on having her own way, even if it endangers their safety as the car careens during the struggle.  Jane's struggle for control of their car "inadvertently" tags them as the "right" car for the transfer of the bag of loot--the only coincidence being that their convertible is at the right place (the 3.5 mile marker) and right time (8:30PM).  The dough itself exploits Jane's ultimate weakness as defined through the noir lens--her unrelenting insistence that she control events, enhanced by what the cash can do to salve her middle class insecurities.  Although I've not seen the end of the film, I can only assume that these noir weaknesses serve as her undoing.  I think it's a great example of what you referenced, the enemy within in postwar noir as the ultimate threat.

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This scene starts so dark and anonymous. All you see are a car and headlights. The driver is an anonymous anyman. I think this reflects the anxiety and paranoia of the times. Who could you trust? What would happen to you if some crazy person happened to throw something in your car? How should you react? The tension is palpable, when these things happen to the couple, who could be any couple in the audience.

 

What really felt noir-ish was the way the woman reacted. Instead of the man, she took charge and drove off with the money. This seems to suggest that the woman may be bored with conventional relationships and normal everyday life. It also hints that women can be impulsive and make rasher decisions than men. I think this reflects, not only the bounds of conventional womanhood at the time, but also the anxiety men felt post-WWII about their place as family breadwinners and decisionmakers.

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Lizabeth Scott played Toni Marachek in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.  She was Van Heflin's love interest. This is a fantastic movie and, in my opinion, very noir. I liked her raspy voice and not so glamorous looks. She was imbuded with a sultriness and vulernability which she transferred to her characters and I think she has been underrated.

 

Having a boat load of money drop unexpectedly into the back seat of your automobile is fatalistic and borders on the absurd. That having been said, the adventure begins and Jane is the one who sees a future in this. She takes the wheel from her husband (symbolically gaining her independence) and with a smirk on her face, she embarks on doing something for herself only she knows about. Perhaps she will gain control of her own destiny....something she hasn't thought possible until now. The means by which she accomplishes all this remains to be seen.

 

This will be a movie to look forward to. Thanks to the gallant efforts of Eddie Muller in bringing this film back.

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I love this opening.  It’s so very 1950 (well, 1949).  Jane is talking about not wanting to be patronized; and all of a sudden she gets her chance to show how “tough” and “take charge” she can be.   Jane is undoubtedly one of the women who “manned” the home front when the boys were off fighting World War II. 

 

I am terribly impressed to read that Eddie Muller found three viable source materials for “Too Late for Tears” so that UCLA could achieve its restoration, as the film’s original negative was lost long ago.  Too often (or in actuality, most of the time) I just don’t think about the fragility of the medium of older films.  In our digital age, I have gotten used to assuming everything will always be “there” in binary ones and zeroes for us.  I will be interested to hear what Eddie Muller has to say as he introduces “Too Late for Tears” on Friday evening. :) 

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I was born in 1940. In the late 1940's my friends and I would go to the local movie theaters to see the double feature with 10 cartoons, newsreel and the serial. We had to go every week in order to see the latest serial edition. The serials were 10 or 20 minutes long and at the end the hero would be in big trouble with no way to save himself. But you would see in the following week, all was OK until the end of that edition. It only cost 12 cents for kids (12 or under). Many of the films we saw were the ones we are seeing in this class. This was a fun time to grow up. In the early 1950's there was a campaign to not be a litterbug. There was phrase "Don't Be a Liiterbug"; to this day, I still clean up around the area when I see litter. We didn't have a car until 1950, it was a 1937 Packard. When upgraded to another used car, my dad sold it to the local gas station as push car (pushing cars when it is really cold). One more thing now that we are talking about the Cold War, in 1952 as a twelve year old I was delivering the morning paper in Minneapolis. I remember one morning, I looked at the headline for the papers I was about to deliver. The headline was "Stalin is Dead" or something like that, I remember thinking to myself, things are going to get better now. Boy was I wrong.

 

 

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

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I'm so grateful to Eddie Muller and the Film Noir Foundation for their caring in restoring "Too Late For Tears." A fabulous film noir including the talents of Lizbeth Scott and Dan Duryea, our Daily Dose brings us the best print I have ever viewed.

Images that stand out include the city lights, a dark car pulling up to a distance marker, jutting up like a tombstone, the shielded face of a driver, a light-colored car approaching from the opposite direction, implying perhaps moral superiority, as different lives about to collide, the winding miles of road, the birds' eye view. Lizabeth Scott lets us know that her moods are tumultous, as perilous as her attempt to control the car's direction. It is more likely her own sense of insecurity and longing for riches than a friend's judgment-- "His diamond-studded wife, looking down her nose at me like... like a big ugly house up there looks down on Hollywood." We are thrust into anticipation from the start.



 

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A car on a dark tortuous road at night.   The woman wishes to take charge and return home because of her perception of social class.  She wants her way to the point of almost wrecking the car and possibly killing each other.  A state of confusion exists for the audience.  Then the other auto throwing some thing into the car.  They stop and find a bag of money.  Then immediately comes the blinking auto that was supposed to get that money.  The woman takes charge and drives the auto and successfully looses the auto.  Interesting really how she appears to want this money even if it wasn't meant for her.  Again the idea of moving up in social class had to have crossed her mind.  She wanted to return home because of her social class deficiency, and now with the money she will do anything to keep it.  

 

This opening does have  me wanting to continue to watch this film and see in whose hands that money with end up. 

 

Another point is that whenever husband and wife are in the car back in the 40s and 50s the husband almost always drove that car.  Here we have in the beginning of this film the wife taking the man's role of driver after he opens the bag with the money in it and successfully losing the auto after her.  A role reversal showing the woman in charge.  And later what happens to that woman. 

 

Great Film Noir.  Lizabeth Scott is truly a beauty. 

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I can't wait to see this film on July 17th. Totally unfamiliar to me.

 

I've always felt that there was a hard edge to Lizabeth Scott. I don't know if it's the squareness of her face or the way she talks. Again, we're not in a city in this scene. The road is desolate but not far out...only at mile marker 3.5. Dark shadows conceal a dark sedan. Tossing the bag of money into the car from another car coming in the opposite direction was totally unexpected.  Lizabeth reaction once she saw what it contained was also unexpected. From weak female who can't face another man's wife to a woman taking control in an out of control kind of way.

 

A bag of money can really change a person's outlook. She's willing to drive recklessly to keep something that doesn't belong to her...that she doesn't know who tossed it into the car or who is chasing her for it. What does this money symbolize to her and what is she willing to do to try to keep it? And her male companion seems to be along for the ride. She's definitely wearing the pants in this scene!  It's "Too Late For Tears" The question is whose tears?

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I haven't seen this movie but this clip already has me drawn in especially since Lizbeth Scott is one of the stars.

 

I haven't done the reading or seen the lecture so I may be way off base. But being a history buff I believe that unexpected incidents involving innocent people was such a popular post war theme because unexpected incidences were happening to people in real life. After the war the boys returning home were told their jobs were secure and protected by government laws however many businesses found loopholes and the returning military men (and women) found themselves out of work. The women who had left their homes to work in the factories were now being told to go back home even though some had lost their husbands and were now sole supporters. Plus many women in general had gotten use to being on their own and enjoyed the independence. Wartime romances turned out to not be so romantic in peacetime and divorce was on the rise. Then of course there were the world issues. Pictures of the Holocaust were just coming out and the year this movie was made the Soviet Union tested an atomic bomb. Those tests led to the bomb scare and played a major role in the rise of McCarthyism and its significant role in the space race.

 

The world was a changing and insecure place. Society in general didn't know where it was going and Hollywood reflected this in the movies

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I've noticed in a lot of films noir, such as this one, that innocent people do get dragged into these unexpected incidents, causing a lot of trouble and danger for them. Maybe one of the reasons this was a popular postwar theme was due to the witch hunt for communists back then and some of them were innocent people accused of being a communist when in reality they weren't. So the theme of innocent people getting in trouble was something that really resonated with folks.

 

It was a surprising turn of events to see the wife take charge and speed away from the other car and actually manage to lose the person that was following them. In a matter of minutes we see an innocent wife turn into possibly a femme fatale (I have to see the rest of the movie to find out). I can't wait to see this on Friday!

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Very much looking forward to Too Late for Tears.     Will withhold judgment on Eddie Muller's claim until after I've seen it, but love the title.   Tre' noir! 

 

Another dark highway...one of noir's favorite visual metaphors for life...and another wagging of fate's random fickle finger...gets things rolling very quickly.   A car stops in the middle of nowhere on the side of road, diming its lights, waiting.   

 

Enter Alan and Jane, a couple having a mild disagreement over an engagement they're en route to.   Alan wants to go, Jane doesn't, and it's clear by the exchange that money---or the lack of it---is a sore spot with her.    It stands to reason that it's Jane who's most responsible for fate tapping them on the shoulder; she struggles for control of the keys in the ignition, so they can turn around; causing the car to swerve and the headlights to dim.

 

Of course this is just the signal the first car waiting on the roadside is expecting, and soon a satchel full of money is tossed into the back of Alan and Jane's convertible.   It's obvious from Jane's gleeful reaction to the bag of money that she doesn't much care where it came from.  Another car approaches behind them, and it's now flashing it's lights, expecting to receive the satchel.   Jane takes control, drives off, and the other car pursues, but it's telling that Jane's the one with the quick wits and reflexes for a getaway.  

 

It's implied that the chase for the satchel is only beginning, and that those in the other car will want it back regardless of cost.   

 

This particular opening has a planned rendezvous on the highway, not a chance meeting, and it's Alan and Jane's random presence in and interference with that plan that gets them into trouble and starts the plot moving.    

 

Random, unexpected events weigh heavily in noir, especially in the Post War era.    America's inclination to isolationism gave way to engagement in global conflict, and triumph in that war came at a high cost.   We won the war but lost our innocence and naivety.   We were forced to not only glimpse the very Kurtzian horrors and evils of what our enemies were capable of, but what horrors and evils we had to unleash within ourselves in order to defeat them.   Society, politics and the economy had been turned upside down and inside out, and returning GI's had a difficult time reintegrating in society, embracing their families and having their families embrace the often damaged/haunted soldiers who came back.

 

Nor was there any delusion at the end of WWII about it being another "war to end all wars".   The spectre of renewed conflict was never far away, and this time conflict might be fought with nuclear weapons.   

 

The prominence of randomness, of the unexpected, of wanton, seeming undeserving victimization was one of the more pronounced effects these myriad factors and forces had on our collective Post War psyche.   Weeds grew in every garden, every next door neighbor was suspect of being the enemy, any minute radioactive death could fall from the skies, the old gods were dead and new ones had yet to be created.   

 

We can see much of the Fifties as an attempt to purge ourselves of these fears and insecurities, or at least a vain effort to hold them at bay; a desperate attempt to find safe havens in safe homes in safe suburban communities, replete with creature comforts for typical families, a modern home with gadgets of convenience, car in every garage, the security of a good job and pension --- the proverbial American Dream ---  but noir saw the new promises were as empty as the old ones.  

 

Which might explain why noir begins to lose steam and significance in the Mid-Late Fifties.   How often are we inclined to look into mirrors if we keep not liking what we see? 

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Of all the road-at-night clips we've seen, isn't this the only one where something ostensibly awesome happens? Even though Jane's reckless driving kinda presages what a wreck this is likely going to end up being, having a big old bag of cash tossed into one's vehicle is something many folks daydream about, in stark contrast to, say, picking up an escaped mental patient or violent criminal. But each of the comparably set scenes used noir camera angles and (lack of) lighting, foreboding music and other stylistic elements to establish an immediate uneasy feeling in the viewer in it's own way.

 

From a post-war perspective, the theme of randomness leading to chaos in movies mirrored the fears being experienced by Americans in their daily lives, as well as their reactions to said fears. WWII vets came back to a USA they barely recognized - in terms of gender roles, civil rights concerns, youth culture, consumer culture, the list goes on... This was very disconcerting to them and lead those vets to dislike anything they saw as "abnormal," (such as commies, "colored" people, "fast" and/or "loose" women and young people, etc...), and to construct a rigidly conformist post-war social climate. But the problem was that "abnormal" stuff seemed to be popping up everywhere they looked. And, bless the Greatest Generation (both sets of my grandparents were among their numbers), they tended to lack the introspection gene, and thus viewed the changes they saw as social chaos being caused by random events. Hollywood wasn't about to miss the chance to cash in on this pervasive social anxiety, and so made lots of movies that either expressed or pandered to that anxiety.

 

I've never seen this movie, and the clip we saw got me excited to see it. From a technical point of view, I love the saturated black contrasting with the white car and Jane's blonde hair & white shirt, and how right after the bag gets thrown into the car, the road curves. And Jane's instantaneous transformation from a slightly dissatisfied wife into a dangerous, money-grubbing dame is 24k noir!

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Here are a few discussion starters (though feel free to come up with your own):

 

-- 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?

 

With the other films. We see something ominous coming with the other movies but with this one, there is just a couple going about their business having a disagreement about something. We do notice the car that has stopped and know all is not well when the man throws something in the backseat of the couple's car. This was not expected compared with the other Daily Doses.

 

-- 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?

 

Distrust and cynicism was growing in society and this was most definitely demonstrated by the couple seeing what was in the bag and deciding to keep the money instead of returning it to its rightful owner. This possibly appealed to many of the audiences viewing the picture in theaters in the country. When first seeing this scene. You think the female is timid but once she sees the money, another side is exposed. With this, the director could have been implying all is not as it seems and people can put up pretenses or facades.

 

-- 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."

 

Noir always usually involves some random event that usually places the protagonist in some type of peril. Night scenes were extremely prevalent in films, along with tight shots of scenes to name a few. Times were a changing and what we saw in these movies changed from the early 1940's to the late 40's and into the 50's.

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This scene from "Too Late for Tears" has some of the elements from previous "road noir" we have seen of late: the dark highway, the isolation, a feeling of the viewer being put into the middle of the story. It doesn't have the feeling of foreboding of the opening of films like "Kiss Me Deadly" or "The Hitchhiker," however, but I think that is what helps it work so well. We may not know exactly where we are in the story, but that's not upsetting as it was in the previous films where there was clearly something bad happening. In "Tears," it seems like an ordinary night on the road.

 

We meet Jane and Alan in their car. They look like an average (and innocent) couple in their humble clothing. But Jane does look a bit odd, emotionless until she quietly asks her husband to turn the car around - she doesn't want to go to their friends house where she feels she won't be treated well. Again, this isn't out of the ordinary for a woman to feel inferior (unfortunately); Jane tells Alan their friend's "diamond-studded wife is looking down on me."

 

But this couple's ordinary day takes a turn into noir with a random twist of fate as a bag full of money is thrown into their back seat. Not only has fate stepped in with a case of mistaken identity, but now it has dealt a second blow: they've been spotted by the intended recipient of the cash. Suddenly, meek and mild Jane, who was afraid to be "looked down upon" only a minute earlier, now takes control and speeds off as they are chased along the highway. The change in Jane's face from no emotion to an almost gleeful smirk is fantastic. Jane has made her fateful choice down a dark road and it probably won't be a good trip.

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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.

 

Fantastic point about the danger being Jane!

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A lot of traditional expectations were completely overthrown because of World War Two and the Cold War. Americans never expected to bury their children or become widows in their 20s. They never expected to face a threat to their nation's existence...from Hitler and then the atom bomb. They never expected that their government would tell them they couldn't trust their neighbors, in the form of the Japanese internment and the Communist hysteria of the 50s.
So a movie genre that overthrows traditional expectations - that allows anything to happen to anybody at any time whether they deserve it or not - confirmed the anxieties of the time. 

These "by-chance" plots also expose the thin veneer of normalcy that shields ordinary people from chaos. Jane is chafing against her mundane existence even before the accidental money drop. But when she sees the cash, she sees her power. Alex says at the end of the clip "Slow down. I'll take the wheel." I don't think Alex is ever really going to take the wheel again.

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thanks so much for sharing.. 12 cents for all that entertainment!!! we need those type of movie prices now

I was born in 1940. In the late 1940's my friends and I would go to the local movie theaters to see the double feature with 10 cartoons, newsreel and the serial. We had to go every week in order to see the latest serial edition. The serials were 10 or 20 minutes long and at the end the hero would be in big trouble with no way to save himself. But you would see in the following week, all was OK until the end of that edition. It only cost 12 cents for kids (12 or under). Many of the films we saw were the ones we are seeing in this class. This was a fun time to grow up. In the early 1950's there was a campaign to not be a litterbug. There was phrase "Don't Be a Liiterbug"; to this day, I still clean up around the area when I see litter. We didn't have a car until 1950, it was a 1937 Packard. When upgraded to another used car, my dad sold it to the local gas station as push car (pushing cars when it is really cold).

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just my opinion but tcm should have showed pitfall after too late for tears. would have made a most excellent double feature

- TCM ALERT - TONIGHT (July 14/15) -  4:15am Eastern / 1:15am Pacific -

 

TCM is running PITFALL (1948), a terrific noir with Dick Powell, Jane Wyatt, Liz Scott, Raymond Burr, directed by Andre De Toth. This one fits sooo well into ths week's themes. Dick & Jane are the nice average postwar couple, he's bored with the dull, soul-sapping routine, can't resist the adventure and sizzle of an affair with Liz Scott. Raymond Burr adds touch of evil. This is a Summer of Darkness entry for which Friday wasn't long enough. Well worth recording!!!

attachicon.gifpitfall-insert3.jpgattachicon.gifPitfall-DVD-R0-Synergy-11332.jpg

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1.)   The three Daily Doses which opened with highway scenes (The Hitch Hiker, Kiss Me Deadly, and this scene from Too Late For Tears) are all post war film noir which were filmed at time when the U.S. was at the height of consumerism. After the war. millions of people were purchasing automobiles who never owned cars previously and many of those new found car owners found themselves travelling on America's still young highway system. These films show the fears and paranoia Americans felt travelling these roads and the various people they might meet along those roads and situations they could potentially find themselves involved in.

 

       The fateful twist that occurs in this opening scene from Too Late For Tears is different that the other two Daily Doses in that the two main characters are unwillingly pulled into this situation.  In Kiss Me Deadly,  Hammer agrees to pull over and give Cloris Leachman a ride as do the two men who pick up the gun wielding hitchhiker in The Hitch Hiker. In both of those films,  the protagonist made decision to stop and aid these individuals albeit unaware of the terrible consequences which then followed.  However, in Too Late For Tears the characters are completely innocent and are pulled into the situation when a bag full of money is hurled mistakenly into their rear seat.

 

2.)  After WWII,  people were travelling more and driving cars to parts of the United States that were not as densely populated as the cities.  Also,  the U.S. was facing the Communist threat. There was a fear of a repeat of the horrors of WWII. People were vigilant in looking for a communist infiltration of the country.

 

3.)  The films contains much of the substance of film noir.. Two people driving down a lonely road in the darkness.  The two characters are "dragged" into the story when a bag full of money is thrown into their car.  The film vey clearly shows the changing roles of women if films noir;  the woman takes

over from the male characters and drives the car away from the other vehicle.  

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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 scene differs because there is a husband and wife together instead of a man or men in a car, etc. The fateful twist differs because the wife sends the action into a fateful event. By her trying to grab the steering wheel, she brings attention to their car, so the driver of the other car marks their car to take the bag of money. She's an hysterical woman in her own right; she fits in well as a noir character.

 

-- 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 postwar theme was that the innocence and naiveté of the American culture and society was changed because of the Depression and the world war. The American society could never go back to the way it was, white picket fence, safe city, safe country roads. The times were changing, and the urban setting was moving into small-town America. The horrors of the war were too much to ignore, but our hapless protagonists just keep going on as if nothing had changed. I think this theme comes up because it might have been time to wake these hapless folks from their dream and show them the real world. There were going to have to survive by their wits. 

 

-- 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 scene has all the elements of the classic film noir: the highway at night; someone driving toward a destination; a stranger lurking in the dark; a mystery bag full of money; someone following our anti-heroes; a chase; a feeling of entrapment; a false sense of "getting away". Plus this is not a happy couple, even though they appear to be middle class Americans. The wife is being forced to a house party she does not want to attend. She has an argument with her husband, who doesn't understand why the wife is so upset. She has an inferiority complex; didn't he ever notice that? These all add up to a delicious film noir story!

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    "Too Late For Tears" 's opening scene takes place on a dark, deserted highway, but unlike the past noir movies, the protagonists appear to be an innocent suburban couple on their way to a party.The wife wants to turn back because the diamond studded hostess looking down her nose at her. She seems to resent the wealthy and their patronizing attitude. When the husband disregards her pleas, the wife becomes unglued and tries to remove the car keys from the ignition while the car is moving.As noir fate would have it, they are at the right place (3.5 mile marker) and at the right time (8:30 pm). A car mysteriously races by and throws a bag of money into the couple's car. At this point, it seems like a stroke of good luck. But is it?? Suddenly,another car charges toward them. The wife seizes the opportunity and the viewer witnesses an abrupt transformation of her character that is totally spellbinding. She takes over the situation, grabs the wheel, drives like a pro racer and loses the pursuer, all the time with a sinister look on her face

    Historically, in the 1950's, Americans were feeling the threat of the Cold War with air raid sirens, ( I remember them as a child), fallout shelters and bomb drills in the schools (also experienced that) We also witnessed the first time use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima,Japan and knew that it could also happen here. Society just came to terms with women in the work force and their becoming self sufficient. It was very acceptable for audiences to watch a female protagonist  to be powerful and the decision-maker.

    This movie has many noir elements such as; the deserted highway, the ironic twist of fate (discussion about the rich putting down the poor then suddenly having lots of money available), shadowy introduction of mile marker and watch as foreboding clues for the story's action, strong take charge woman (possible femme fatale)

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