This post is Classic Movie Gab’s contribution to the Classic Movie Blog Association’s Fabulous Films of the 1940s.
I have been acquainted with many fem fatales in my classic movie journey, but I don’t think anyone can beat the one in “Too Late for Tears,” (1949) This film noir gem stars, Lizabeth Scott and Arthur Kennedy who play Jane and Alan Palmer a middle class couple who don’t make much money, just enough money to “get by.” They are not exactly “poor,” but they are, as Jane puts it, “white collar poor.”
Jane’s Ticket Out
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 visualizing the “haves” who were attending the party, and the idea of that was driving the little “have not,” out of her mind. The green monster was gnawing at her, like a hungry wolf that 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 ticket out. Jane takes the wheel of the car, and a chase ensues with the person who should have gotten the money. Eventually they escape and arrive at their apartment.
Are you Crazy!
What to do with all this money? They needed it, but was it right? These little questions were more than likely running all around Alan’s head. But I don’t think Jane gave it a second thought. The money is hers! Alan wants to return the money, but Jane won’t have it. She’s like, “Are you crazy!” After all, she has touched the wads of cash and it felt good! 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 loathing of having to budget everything, and buying things on time. He relents after Jane turns on her charm, and he puts the stash in a locker at Union Station. What some men will do for a woman is astonishing! The plan is, if no one reports the money missing, it is theirs and Jane gets to live the life she’s dreamed of.
Shop til I drop!
Although the money is safely away, Jane goes on a shopping spree with the little money they’ve managed to save on their own. And all I could think of in this scene was, didn’t she think her husband would find out? Duh. She buys expensive clothes, shoes, and a fur coat. I just laughed in the scene when she comes back from her shopping trip and she hides the goodies under the kitchen sink. She’s got this grin on her face, oh joy! Amazing what shopping can do for a gal!
The guy involved in the erred transaction, Danny Fuller (Dan Duryea) shows up at the couple’s apartment. Duryea could always play a thug like no other! 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.
Who is this Person?
Alan finds out about her shopping sprees and discovers that his wife has become another person, a person he doesn’t recognize. The lust for money has changed her. Or maybe, just maybe Alan didn’t really know his wife. You see in this scene she reveals a side to her she’s kept tucked away in the dark corners of her heart.
When Alan pleads again to return the money, and tells her that the money would bring nothing good, Jane relates a story of her deprived childhood. She explains how her family was “white collar poor,” and were not “able to keep up with the Joneses,” and “died a little each day because they couldn’t.” Jane didn’t want that life, and no one was going to take this one chance away from her. Not even her husband.
Sadly for Alan, he didn’t catch that Jane has always lusted money, wealth, and position. Jane’s problem was so deeply rooted in her childhood, but still Alan didn’t see all of this in her revelation. Because he loved her he couldn’t see past that. He was standing in front of a cold blooded murderer and he didn’t even know it.
A Desperate Housewife…
Alan demands the money be returned. Jane becomes desperate and comes up with a murder plot which will involve Danny, who has her number, but has idiotically become ensnared in her web of crafty deception.
And here is why I think she is the worst fem fatale, her murder plot is to go 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 including her husband!
Jane Meets her Match
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 evil. Unbeknownst to Jane, someone from her past is on to her, and he’s come to collect on a debt. Jane tries to deceive him, but she’s met her match. This stranger will ultimately end her murderous ways.
I enjoyed this movie lots. Well let’s just say I’m a sucker for film noir and the more evil the fem fatale in the film, the better. Lizbeth Scott as the housewife turned stone cold killer makes this film all the more interesting. Just when I thought that Cora, (Lana Turner) in The Postman Always Rings Twice, was bad ass, I am introduced to Jane. Jane is the same league, as Cora, only I a few levels higher on the bad scale. In fact, Jane gets the gold medal for the toughest, most heartless, & coldest Fem Fatale. Yes, she even tops Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) in Double Indemnity.
Lizbeth Scott, in what is one of her two major roles of her career, plays Jane with such delicious precision you forget it’s an act and want to reach inside your tele and smack her a few times. Ha! Ice ran through Jane’s veins. Jane in my book is the coldest, and most manipulative, fem-fatale ever—a sociopath and she got what she deserved! A must see!