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Too Late for Tears  /  The Guilty

Too Late for Tears (1949)
March 7, 2015 - 7:30 pm
Alan K. Rode, film historian.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by Film Noir Foundation

Too Late for Tears  (1949)

After 17 highly successful years as one of MGM’s most successful producers (the Thin Man series, the Jeannette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy operettas, etc.), Hunt Stromberg left the studio to produce a series of smaller budget films with his own independent production company.  Utilizing strong female leads and auteurs like Edgar G. Ulmer and Douglas Sirk, many of these Hunt Stromberg titles have slipped into the public domain (including Lady of Burlesque, 1943; The Strange Woman, 1946; etc).  Adapted by author Roy Huggins from his novel that was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post, Too Late For Tears was one such production.  It was also Stromberg’s last independent film before retiring in 1951.

Between his extensive and award-winning stint in the special effects department at Warner Bros. and directing a series of widely successful science fiction and adventure films throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Byron Haskin competently helmed a few noir titles in the late 1940s.  When handed the script for Too Late For Tears, Haskin immediately thought of the sultry and alluring Lizabeth Scott whom he recently directed in I Walk Alone (1948).  Unlike the previous film, where Scott took a back seat to the flamboyant performances of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, Too Late For Tears provides Scott with the meaty role of frustrated housewife Jane Palmer, whose married life careens out of control with murderous greed when a suitcase filled with $60,000 is accidentally “tossed” to her and husband Alan (played by Arthur Kennedy).  Beyond the fantastically theatrical turn by Scott, the production highlights an exceedingly devious performance by another noir icon, Dan Duryea.

Although coolly received by audiences initially, this seemingly minor noir has gained quite a cult following in recent years.  Modern audiences now recognize it as a darkly satisfying and atmospheric meditation on the covetous social and materialistic ambitions of postwar middle-class America.  Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation calls the film “the best unknown American film noir of the classic era.”  —Todd Wiener

Director:  Byron Haskin.  Production: Streamline Pictures.  Distribution: United Artists Corp.  Producer: Hunt Stromberg.  Screenwriter: Roy Huggins.  Based on the novel Too Late for Tears by Roy Huggins.  Cinematographer: William Mellor.  Art Direction: James Sullivan.  Editor: Harry Keller.  Music: Dale Butts.  Cast: Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, Dan Duryea, Arthur Kennedy, Kristine Miller.  35mm, b/w, 100 min.

Restored from the 35mm nitrate French dupe negative, a 35mm acetate reissue print and a 16mm acetate print.  Laboratory services by Film Technology Company, Inc., Pacific Title & Art Studio, Simon Daniel Sound.  Special thanks to: The Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Charitable Trust (The HFPA Trust); Amy Turner—Southern Methodist University.

Restored by UCLA Film & Televison Archive with funding provided by Film Noir Foundation

The Guilty  (1947)

Linda and Estelle Mitchell are twins who get involved with two ex-Army buddies who room together, Mike Carr and Johnny Dixon. Estelle, unfortunately, wants both men and she plays them off against each other, until murder ensues and her sister Linda is found in a barrel on the roof. Both men are suspects, but it takes a number of extreme plot twists before police detective Heller (Regis Toomey) identifies the actual killer. Produced as a low-budget film noir at Monogram by Jack Wrather, whose wife, Bonita Granville, plays a dual role as the twins, The Guilty was actually a cheap knock-off of Robert Siodmak’s The Dark Mirror (1946).

Based on a short story by hard-boiled mystery writer Cornell Woolrich, “He Looked Like Murder,” and directed by John Reinhardt, who would go on to helm the severely underrated noir, Chicago Calling (1951), The Guilty gives evidence of numerous noir conventions: Johnny as the slightly cracked war veteran, Estelle as the spider woman, a flashback structure narrated by one of her victims, an extremely brutal murder (offscreen but described in detail by the detective), dark dingy sets and a convoluted plot full of depravity and false leads. In fact, even though the budget of the film was increased by $100,000 midway through the production, the film was shot on only three sets: the bar and the respective rooming houses of the male and female leads.

Bonita Granville had been a child star in the late 1930s, known especially for a series of Nancy Drew mysteries she made at Warner Bros., but had trouble transitioning to adult roles; as late as 1946 she was still playing a juvenile opposite Mickey Rooney in Love Laughs at Andy Hardy. After marrying oil millionaire Wrather, she finally got to play a grown-up, first in The Guilty, then in Strike it Rich (1948), Guilty of Treason (1950) and The Lone Ranger (1956)—all of them financed by Wrather before both of them became the producers of the Lassie television show reboot in 1956.  —Jan-Christopher Horak

Director: John Reinhardt.  Production: Wrather Productions Inc., Monogram Pictures Corp.  Distribution: Monogram Pictures Corp.  Producer: Jack Wrather.  Screenwriter: Robert Presnell, Sr.  Based on the short story “He Looked Like Murder” by Cornell Woolrich.  Cinematographer: Henry Sharp.  Art Direction: Oscar Yerge.  Editor: Jodie Caplan.  Music: Rudy Schrager.  Cast: Bonita Granville, Don Castle, Regis Toomey, John Litel, Wally Cassell.  35mm, b/w, 71 min.

Restored from a 35mm nitrate composite fine grain master. Laboratory services by The Cinemalab, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Simon Daniel Sound. Special thanks to: the British Film Institute; Raymond G. Cabana Jr.—The Hollywood Foreign Press Association.