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Noir icon Dan Duryea's son pays tribute at opening night of Noir City film fest

Dan Duryea and wife reading a script with his sons Richard and Peter.
Dan Duryea and wife reading a script with his sons Richard and Peter.

Fans of actor Dan Duryea know him best as a "dapper and dangerous" heel from film noirs like "Criss Cross," "The Woman in the Window," and "Black Angel," but his son, Richard, shared that his dad was nothing like his sinister screen image.

Dan Duryea and Lizbeth Scott in 'Too Late For Tears'
United Artists

At the opening night of Noir City, the American Cinematheque's animal film noir series, Richard Duryea paid tribute to his late father, along with Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller and author Alan K. Rode.

Richard recalled that his dad was a "family man, who loved to tinker around the house, loved to garden." He added that his father liked to show movies to the neighborhood, but never his own. "We weren't allowed to see his movies, because he thought it wasn't a good thing to see him slapping women."

And Duryea does just that in the first film on the double bill, the beautifully restored "Too Late For Tears" from 1949. Muller called it the "holy grail of restorations," since the only versions available have been nearly unwatchable. The restoration took five years, Muller said, and thanked the FNF, UCLA and the Hollywood Foreign Press for their efforts in the restoration.

In the film, Duryea plays a blackmailer who roughs up scheming housewife Lizbeth Scott after she accidentally ends up with his suitcase full of ill-gotten cash. He does his share of slapping her around, but realizes that Scott is far more ruthless than he could ever be. "I wouldn't like you if you had a heart," he tells her at one point, just one of the great lines in the film.

Richard Duryea, who'd also brought his son to the event, said that this would be the first time he'd be seeing his father on the silver screen.

The second film on the bill was "Larceny," in which Duryea plays the con-man partner of John Payne as they attempt to fleece a war widow. Shelley Winters co-stars as Duryea's girlfriend with a unhealthy crush on Payne and a penchant for gumming up the works of their carefully orchestrated con.

Duryea died of cancer at the age of 61 in 1968. He and his wife, Helen Bryan, were married until her death in 1967. Their son Richard was a talent agent while his brother, Richard, also acted.

Noir City Hollywood continues at the American Cinematheque through April 6.

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