I’ve met many a fem fatales in film noir, but I think I met the absolute worst one on record. The film noir is titled, “Too Late for Tears,” (1949). Lizabeth Scott and Arthur Kennedy play Jane and Alan Palmer a middle class couple who don’t make much money, just enough money to “get by.” As Jane put it, they are not exactly “poor,” but they are, “white collar poor.” The movie starts with the couple driving to a cocktail party, a party that Jane did not want to really attend. It appeared to me that she was envisioning the “haves” that would attend the party, and the vision was driving the little “have not,” out of her mind. The green monster was gnawing at her, like a hungry wolf who hadn’t eaten for days. But not all is bad, Jane was going to hit it, and hit it big. As they are driving, a bag is thrown into the back of their convertible car. They stop to check it out, and when they open the bag, it is full of money, dough, lots of it. Jane’s eyes look like a child who had just been given the best Christmas present ever. A chase ensues with the person who should have gotten the money. Eventually they escape and arrive at their apartment.
Alan wants to return the money, but Jane won’t have it. She convinces him that it’s not stealing if they don’t come for it. It is the only chance they’ve got to really have money. She expresses her disgust with budgeting, and buying things on time. He relents and puts the stash in a locker at Union Station. The plan is, if no one reports the money missing, it is theirs and they live high on the hog. Although the money is away, Jane goes on a shopping spree. She buys expensive clothes, shoes, and fur coat. However, Jane’s luck is quickly running out.
The guy involved in the erred transaction, Danny Fuller (Don DeFore) shows up at the couple’s apartment. He first plays it off like he’s a detective, but soon reveals who he really is. But Danny doesn’t know Jane’s manipulative ways. And manipulates she does. Alan finds out about her shopping sprees and discovers that his wife has become another person, a person he doesn’t recognize. He demands the money be returned. Jane goes into a panic and along with Danny plots to kill her husband. And here is why I think she is the worst fem fatale, she goes on a date with Alan, but it will be Alan’s last date because she will kill him. She doesn’t get a hit man, or anything like that, she herself will kill him. What mattered most to Jane was the money and no one or anything was going to get in her way.
For a while she gets away with murder and continues to manipulate Danny Fuller until he gets hip to her ways, and even becomes afraid of her. Not even Danny can escape this woman’s grip. Unbeknownst to Jane, someone from her past is on to her, and he’s come to collect on a debt. This stranger will ultimately end her murderous ways.
Jane was the best and worst fem-fatale I’ve come across. I say best because at a time when women were to be seen, but never heard, and they did anything and everything for their man, Jane used the typical stereotypes of being weak and half-witted to her advantage. Worst because she became so consumed with money that she’d do anything to keep it. After killing two people, she struts down to Mexico and makes a new life for herself as if nothing ever happened. Jane in my book is the coldest, and most manipulative, fem-fatale ever—a sociopath and she got what she deserved.