By Yoram Kahana
The HFPA, which has been supporting film restoration for many years, last year gave a grant to a very specialized restoration-minded organization: the Film Noir Foundation, a San Francisco based non-profit dedicated to the research, restoration and showing of this most American of film genres.
Film noir, in the words of one historian, is made of
...” dark rooms with sunlight slicing through Venetian blinds,,, rain-slicked streets, seedy detective offices…,a perfect blend of form and content, where the desperation and hopelessness of the situations is reflected in a visual style that drenches the world in shadows….. Occasionally acerbic, usually cynical, film noir gives us characters forever trying to elude some mysterious past that continues to haunt them, hunting them down with a fatalism that teases and taunts before delivering the final blow..”..
A good description of Too Late for Tears, the 1949 film that the HFPA helped restore.
It is based on a novel by future television Hall of Fame author Roy Huggins (creator of 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, The Fugitive, Baretta, etc.), who wrote his own brilliant screenplay. It stars Liz Scott, Dan Duryea and Arthur Kennedy [a Golden Globe winner for Trial in 1956.] The film was made by the independent producer Hunt Stromberg who unfortunately failed to renew the copyright, so Tears fell into public domain and anyone could duplicate and sell it. For many years, all the original 35mm prints were believed lost. Many of the versions on the market are degraded by bad editing and poor print quality, even more reason for the Film Noir Foundation to put Tears at the top of their to do list.
Said Scott MacQueen, head of preservation at the UCLA Film & Television Archive: “The original negatives and master positives were long gone. We had to rely on two 35mm picture sources: the 1949 nitrate French composite dupe negative that carried the original American soundtrack, a 1955 acetate reissue print which is de-composing due to acetic acid “vinegar syndrome” and a very good 16mm television print that was clean and orderly.”
Mixing and matching from these elements the restoration team created a new negative, from which fresh prints can now be struck. The new Tears had its world re-premiere at the recent annual noir film festival, Noir City 12, held in San Francisco at the historic Castro theater, where the HFPA’s Chairman of the Board Yoram Kahana was invited to represent the association at the sold out premiere.
Eddie Muller, founder and president of the FNF, said:.”The re-premiere of Too Late For Tears was one of the greatest triumphs in the history of the FNF, To hear an audience respond so enthusiastically to a film long thought lost, after so many years of hard restoration work, made me so much more grateful to the HFPA for helping us across the finish line.
“I am thrilled that Yoram was here on behalf of the HFPA to experience first hand the excitement of this resurrection. I received endless thanks during the Festival for getting this film back on the big screen, and I ‘m happy to share the accolades with the HFPA”.
Too Late For Tears will be shown at other Noir City 12 festivals across the USA in 2014, in Hollywood, Portland, Chicago and Miami, and on the international film festival circuit.