The advertising copy for this slice of Warner Bros. pulp says it all: “[She’s] as tempting as a cupcake and as tough as a 75-cent steak.” This Joan Crawford vehicle puts this intense screen queen through a series of film noir hoops. She starts out a troubled housewife who can barely earn an honest dollar, putting all of her energy into raising her kid right. When the kid gets splattered across the pavement in a car accident right in front of her house, she leaves her no-good husband and becomes a sultry cigar store girl. Before you can say Evita Peron, she’s sleeping her way to the top of a criminal empire starting with nebbish accountant Marty Blackford (Kent Smith), moving on up to fellow poor boy made good George “Mr. Big” Castleman (David Brian) and ending with a poolside affair opposite rising West Coast gangster Nick Prenta (Steve Cochran). Throughout, Crawford moves from frumpy frau to naïve chorus girl to glamour gal dressed in silks and furs. This is the cheap and tawdry birth of a star, no matter who she has to walk over to get there. Oh, but since Crawford needed her audience to love her against all odds, she gets her moral comeuppance and a chance for redemption at the end…just falling short of a hospital bed monologue where she can weep into the camera. (She’d already done that in real life, winning the Oscar for Mildred Pierce.) The Damned Don’t Cry is an efficient, fast moving exercise in melodrama, hardly memorable and at times putrefying in its reliance on hokum, cliché, and bullshit sentimentality. The direction by hack Vincent Sherman is adequate and humble before Joan, though some scenes feel like the transition into the editing room was hardly smooth. (At least two insert shots feel wobbly and jarring.) But Crawford gets what she wants, and that’s all we really came for, no? Like the star in question, this diva showcase knows what it is and what it’s good at. If you don’t like it, why are you still here?
- Warner Bros.
- 103 min
- Vincent Sherman
- Harold Medford, Jerome Weidman
- Joan Crawford, David Brian, Steve Cochran, Kent Smith, Hugh Sanders, Selena Royle, Jacqueline deWit, Morris Ankrum, Edith Evanson, Richard Egan, Sara Perry, Jimmy Moss, Eddie Marr
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