Thursday, May 19, 2016
The Rebirth of TOO LATE FOR TEARS
The 1949 TOO LATE FOR TEARS was one of the first discoveries I made when I began my descent into the dark universe of film noir. I've written about the film several times: in my book THE BLIND ALLEY, in a tribute to Lizabeth Scott in the pages of MYSTERY SCENE magazine, and on this blog. The first conversation I ever had with film noir guru Eddie Muller was about this film. I have loved TOO LATE FOR TEARS for years.
All of which is to say that the resurrection of this long forgotten--and for all intents and purpose, this long lost--film noir is something that I regard as pretty close to a miracle.
The film itself is a bizarre creation. It was made by a producer (Hunt Stromberg) whose best--or at least most successful--days were behind him. It was a showcase for a star (Lizabeth Scott) whose career had never really taken off and would quickly come to an end. Its director (Byron Haskin) was talented but even today he remains widely unknown to all but the most hardcore movie geeks. The most successful person associated with the film was undoubtedly the writer Roy Huggins, who would go on to amass a legendary career in television. The most amazing thing about this list of talent is that all of these people, at one time or another, to one a degree or another, more or less disowned the film.
So how did an obscure cheapie come to be resurrected? Well, the easy answer is that the movie is a masterpiece that couldn't be denied. There are a few noirs that are as good as TOO LATE FOR TEARS but there aren't many that are better. The film is the finest moment not only of Lizabeth Scott, one of the greatest of all noir women, but also of her costar Dan Duryea, one of the greatest of all noir men. It is suspenseful, it is frequently laugh out loud funny, and it has depth and humanity. Scott and Duryea play a mismatched housewife and conman who attempt to get away with $60,000 in blackmail money, and their scenes together are some of the most entertaining moments you'll see in a film noir. I saw the film at Noir City Chicago a while back and it killed with the audience.
There is a more complicated answer to why this film has endured and it's a story that is well told on the brand new BluRay and DVD package that's just been released by Flicker Alley, in cooperation with the UCLA Film and Television Archive and the Film Noir Foundation. This package is a must have for any film noir fan. It contains a new digital version transferred from a new 35mm print of the film. For fans of the film who have made do with cheap digital versions based on scratched and faded prints, this package is a revelation. The set also includes new featurettes on the making of the film and on the story of its rescue and restoration. It contains interviews with folks like Eddie Muller, Kim Morgan, and Julie Kirgo, as well as feature commentary by Alan K. Rode, and an excellent essay by noir expert Brian Light.
There is a lot of hand-wringing about the future of cinema and the loss of film culture, but there are still miracles. The rebirth of TOO LATE FOR TEARS is one of those miracles.