Few if any classic Hollywood stars have made more Film Noir movies than the sultry, deep voiced actress pictured above, Lizabeth Scott.
Axiom: Every film noir “heroine” has a nifty “gat,” and knows how and when to use it. On screen, Scott had absolutely no hesitation to do so. She could plug away with the best of her tough guy counterparts.
Not only does she have the distinction of making more noir films than any other actress, she is the only woman who was actually the STAR of a noir film, 1949’s Too Late For Tears. In other noir films the woman is often just the supporting player to the male lead. But in Too Late for Tears Scott IS the lead and supported by three men, Dan Duryea, Don DeFore and Arthur Kennedy. Check this one out.
Scott portrays a greedy housewife, who bumps off her husband (Kennedy) to keep a valise full of cash someone tossed into their open convertible. The honest husband (poor fellow!) wanted to turn in the cash to the cops.
Scott, it turns out, is in cahoots with a sleazy private eye (Duryea), who slaps her around.
Dan thinks that a few stiff smacks in the kisser will be enough to keep Liz in line, but she proved him wrong, writes Eddie Muller in his definitive 1998 tome, Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir (The one sheet advertising Too Late For Tears shows Scott being struck under the headline, ‘That’s Just To Remind You…You’re In A Tough Racket Now!’ It’s a terrific film, with double cross after double cross.
Even more than from her sultry eyes, (Lizabeth Scott’s) sex appeal emanated from her husky bedroom voice, wrote Muller. It sounded soaked in gin and burnished by endless cigarettes, hung over from long nights of laughing or crying too hard…If you had to have a voice whispering in your ears, hers was the one.
In many of her films she portrayed sexy night club singers. Her voice was always dubbed. But after her film career ended in 1957, to prove that she really could sing, she released an album (its attractive cover is pictured below).
And it proved she was a damn good singer. Her voice was just perfect for the torch songs she did so convincingly.
Scott was born Emma Matzo in Scranton, Pa. She made her way to New York for drama lessons and landed the role of understudy to Tallulah Bankhead in Skin of Our Teeth. Although Bankhead never missed a performance, one of her subsequent replacements did miss performances and the show’s producers called on Scott to fill in. She even got the job in the Boston company of the touring show, and it was there she dropped the E in Elizabeth, in order to be different.
And different she was. She was noticed by Hal Wallis when she made a screen test at Warners, and when Wallis moved over to Paramount he signed her and guided her career.
She got star billing from the get go. She costarred in the noir classic, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers with Barbara Stanwyck, Van Helflin and Kirk Douglas.
And the next year she was sharing top billing with Humphrey Bogart in 1947’s Dead Reckoning made by Columbia Pictures. Scott’s role was a part originally intended for the studio’s homegrown star, Rita Hayworth. (The cover photo of Muller’s book is taken from the film, and shows Scott and Bogie grappling over the pistol she is holding to his head.)
By the Sixties she was living in seclusion but resurfaced in British director Mike Hodges’ most entertaining 1972 film, Pulp (Special Edition) [DVD].
Her costars are Michael Caine as a seedy pulp fiction writer for hire; Mickey Rooney (in a refreshingly restrained performance) and Lionel Stander. Caine co-produced the United Artists release, which was shot in Malta. Scott is very much at home in the picture, which is well worth tracking down if only for her performance.