The Damned Don’t Cry (1950)

Cinematography Ted McCord

Director:

Vincent Sherman

The murder of gangster Nick Prenta touches off an investigation of mysterious socialite Lorna Hansen Forbes, who seems to have no past, and has now disappeared. In flashback, we see the woman’s anonymous roots; her poor working-class marriage, which ends in tragedy and her determination to find “better things.” Soon finding that sex appeal is her only salable commodity, she climbs from man to man toward the center of a nationwide crime syndicate…a very perilous position.

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The Damned Would Cheer After Seeing this Film ****

28 September 2008 | by edwagreen (United States) – See all my reviews

5 years after “Mildred Pierce” and Joan Crawford is at it again. Again, she is poor and is willing to climb to the top no matter what. In this film, she becomes involved with organized crime and becomes a real pro in being used to infiltrate other wayward mobsters.

From poverty to that Mildred Pierce mink, Crawford gave a truly memorable performance. She will stop at nothing to get to the top.

Along the way, she seduces timid accountant, played masterfully by Kent Smith, to join the mob only two realize that the two of them are trapped.

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Another favorite co-star of Crawford, David Brian appears as the head mobster who is against violence but must come to grips with it when renegade hood, the always terrific Steve Cochran, seduces Crawford and then goes after her when he discovers that she is a Brian stooge.

This is a gripping film-noir at its best.

Crackerjack Film Noir – Crawford at her best!

9/10

2 October 2000

I have to say that this is one of my very favorite films. A truly entertaining movie. Briefly, Joan Crawford plays a good woman who’s world is turned upside down by a tragic event. She decides to climb her way out of poverty by using everyone she comes in contact with and falling in with a lot of shady characters. She makes her way to a life of glamour and wealth, only to see it all fall apart when her bad karma comes back to haunt her. For all the Joan Crawford jokes – this is actually quite a good movie. The dialogue is crackling and all the actors are very good. Joan does not go over the top and gives a convincing portrayal of a woman who has lost her moral compass – but then regains it in the end. There are of course some melodramatic moments, but not too many. The production values are top notch – lots of location shooting – mainly in Palm Springs, to really get you into the setting of the film.

I would classify this film as a film noir – it starts out as who-done-it and features noir stalwart Steve Cochran. If you are looking for an entertaining flick – you can’t go wrong with this one!

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Very Nice-Looking Noir-Melodrama

8/10
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
24 January 2006

For me, the best part about this film was the exceptional lighting which made this a great movie to see on DVD. The great black-and-white photography reminded of films like The Sweet Smell Of Success and To Kill A Mockingbird. The camera-work in this movie does not take a backseat to those great films, believe me.

Story-wise, it’s a somewhat-familiar Joan Crawford movie with a bit more emphasis on the melodrama than the film noir, a la Mildred Pierce. That’s a compliment because “Mildred” was a well-crafted story and so is this. It’s an effective mixture of drama and noir. However, unlike “Mildred,” this Crawford character (“Ethel” aka “Mrs. Forvbes”) has a worldly edge to her with a chip on her big shoulders. It’s tough to sympathize with her in this story, frankly.

Kent Smith plays her naive, wimpy dupe for much of the film but when David Brian enters the scene, the movie really picks up. Gangster Brian is nobody’s patsy and he’s fascinating, portraying the most intense character in the story.

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This is another one of the fine classic movies that never got a VHS showing but finally got a break with a recent DVD release, which is all the better since the camera-work is deserving of the nice look this transfer gives it. Once more, another impressive movie from 1950, one of the better years Hollywood ever had.

Loose reworking of the Bugsy Siegel-Virginia Hill affair

8/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
24 October 2007

Joan Crawford revitalized a flagging career when she left MGM and signed with Warner Brothers in the ’40s. “The Damned Don’t Cry” is just one of the very entertaining films she made for Warners, which include “Mildred Pierce,” for which she won an Oscar and “Flamingo Road.” The formula usually follows the rags to riches line, something Crawford was very good at indeed.

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Here, she’s Ethel Whitehead, a wife and mother of a young boy who dies in an accident, at which point Ethel takes off seeking money, nice things, and the fun she’s never had in life. She soon comes to the attention of a clothes manufacturer who has her model the clothes and encourage the buyers to spend their cash after hours. She rides the coattails of a bland CPA (Kent Smith) into the mob domain of George Castleman (David Brian), who gives her a life she only dreamed of – a society name, expensive digs, great trips, clothes and jewels – and no ring on third finger, left hand. Not that anyone has mentioned if she divorced her first husband (Richard Egan). Castleman, suspicious of Nick Prenta (Steve Cochran) who runs his western territory sends Ethel – now “Lorna Hanson Forbes” out to investigate and inveigle her way into Prenta’s life to find out what he’s planning. It’s then that “Lorna” realizes she’s just another thing that Castleman uses.

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This is a slick, fast-moving noir that is basically all Joan all the time. Surrounded by a strong cast, she’s the only real star, and she looks it in her beautiful clothes and jewels. She’s at her glamorous best here in 1950, right before she hardened into almost a caricature of herself in the ’50s and ’60s. I can’t agree that Crawford’s age (46) gets in the way and that Ava Gardner would have been better. Ethel/Lorna is the type of role at which Joan excelled. It was believable, to me at least, that these men were all attracted to her – her character has guts, intelligence, beauty and sexuality. David Brian is her brutish boyfriend, and the scene where he surprises her out west is quite violent, even by today’s standards. Steve Cochran is handsome, boyish, and thug-like as Prenta, and he comes on strong.

“The Damned Don’t Cry” is directed with great spirit by Vincent Sherman and will keep the viewer involved throughout.

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The Damned Don’t Cry – they just sweat it out in this stylish noir

8/10
Author: Nick Zegarac (movieman-200) from Canada
12 June 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

“The Damned Don’t Cry” (1950) is really six different Joan Crawford movies all rolled into one, with a moral ambiguity that must have left the censors blushing. It stars Crawford as Lorna Hansen Forbes, a socialite who has been leading a conflicted double life that is about to catch up to her. When the body of bad boy, Nick Prenta (Steve Cochran) turns up, Lorna’s romantic connection is immediately investigated by the police. However, not before Lorna vanishes into thin air. This disappearance does indeed present a grave problem for the investigation, because it seems that Lorna Hansen Forbes never existed before she met Nick Prenta.

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The police’s confusion, of course, touches off a long flashback in which Lorna (previously known as Ethel Whitehead) is shown making the best of her impoverished marriage to Jim (Morris Ankrum) – an unhappy set of circumstances fraught with anti-climactic sterility. However, the marriage, like Ethel herself, is doomed to tragedy. With nothing more than self determination, Ethel/Lorna embarks upon a lucrative career as a back-stabbing, social climbing vixen. She uses men like disposable Kleenex to get where she wants to go. Eventually her bedroom prowess throws her into the arms of Nick, positioning Lorna as the lady behind a thug running one of the most notorious nationwide crime syndicates.

Director Vincent Sherman had his own notorious romantic goings on with Crawford while shooting this film and that hot blooded backstage tryst shows up on the screen. Both the actress and her performance have been oxygenated and primed to explode, with dilated twists and turns oozing from every facet of Gertrude Walker’s lurid screenplay. But for all its torrid sexiness and slippery sinful attitudes toward a woman’s ‘place’ in a world of ravenous male desire, “The Damned Don’t Cry” comes across as something of a convoluted cropper.

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It’s initial film noir base is subverted in melodrama that dissolves into moments of subtle comedy, before bouncing into the sphere of over the top camp and kitsch. Though Crawford keeps all of these elements at bay, while central to her performance, she’s really been thrown into the deep end of the pool here so to speak, artistically compromised in a very inarticulate bit of business that has her doing everything but card tricks and standing on her head in a bikini – though there is little doubt she would have done even this if the screenplay had commanded it.

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Another near perfect transfer from Warner Brothers greets on this DVD. Gray scale is finely wrought with detail, solid blacks, clean whites and a minimal amount of film grain. There’s no hint of edge enhancement for a very smooth picture that will surely please. The audio is mono as expected but very nicely cleaned up. Extras include a “Reel and Real” featurette analysis of the Crawford style of acting, as well as an audio commentary by director, Sherman – who really is more into raking smut about his star/lover than recollecting the film in a clinical and analytical way. Not that his commentary isn’t interesting. But it does tend to run more toward tabloid headlining than serious audio track.

Watch Joan act!

Author: Holdjerhorses from United States
4 August 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Look. Let’s get this outta the way right now. Joan Crawford was a fine — even amazing — screen actress. She herself said she was terrified of acting in the theatre, on a stage. That’s not what she did, and she knew it.

Here, in “The Damned Don’t Cry,” at age 46, she’s unafraid to show herself in minimal makeup as the mother of a young boy. Her character, “Ethel,” is supposed to look haggard and careworn. Joan does. But she plausibly passes as the mother of a six-year old boy.

Joan Crawford can’t act? Really? Review her stunning reaction close-up as she watches her son get run over on his bicycle by a truck. A naked, warts-and-all close-up electrifying and heartbreaking in its raw emotion. Even today, as brief as it is, it’s almost hard to watch.

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The rest of the cast is uniformly excellent — except for Sara Perry as Joan’s mother. She’s not “bad.” But among an intense cast of excellent, if not-quite-A-list actors, her line readings are exactly that — line readings.

Contrast Perry’s performance with Morris Ankrum’s as Joan’s father. In an instant — his first glimpse of his daughter, Joan, through the screen door — and in every subsequent scene, he forcefully establishes his character and develops it. Ankrum has little to do, throughout the film. Yet he’s so solid an actor that he continually exposes layers of the hard life, spent dreams and vestiges of a loving heart, of this man.

Kent Smith — utterly believable (and again, perfectly cast) as the noble but amorous accountant.

David Brian — never better. Ten years younger than Miss Crawford (yes, he was only 36 when he filmed “The Damned Don’t Cry”), Brian was apparently born young middle-aged. He effectively looked the same in every screen appearance for over 40 years. Like Crawford, Brian often isn’t given credit for his acting chops. Though never given the opportunities to show his range, as was Crawford, Brian was never less than honest, on screen, compelling and dangerous.

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Steve Cochran? 13 years younger than Miss Crawford. 33, in other words, to Miss Crawford’s 46. Name a 46-year-old actress today who would dare appear on screen with a 33-year-old love interest.

Convincingly.

Cochran is all male. You practically smell his armpits on the screen. Where are today’s equally testosteroned leading men? Uh, nowhere. Matthew Broderick? Jude Law? Colin Farrell? Are you kidding? Plus, Cochran can actually act.

Watch his character arc from tough-guy hood, to clumsy suitor, to sensitive lover to betrayed patsy. Like Crawford, you love the guy, but you never quite trust him — never know when he might explode. Terrific! Selena Royle, another casting coup, embodies Patricia Longworth perfectly — from her first uncertainty as to the bloodstain on her carpet to her flashback scenes as a socially confident if venal leech.

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But it’s Crawford’s picture from start to finish. (Weren’t they all?) Yes, Harold Medord’s script from Gertrude Walker’s story is melodramatic. So are real lives, sometimes.

This superlative cast makes almost everything work.

Except for the too-cute-by-half final lines, uttered by the journalists on the scene.

That moment, and every moment that Sara Perry is on screen as Joan’s mother, suddenly jerk us out of what almost feels like a documentary.

A powerful documentary, thanks to a roster of actors whose likes we may never see again.

Critical response

When the film was released, the review was mixed, even though the box office was considered good. The New York Times film critic, Bosley Crowther, was tough on the film in his review. He wrote, “Miss Crawford as the ‘fancy lady’ runs through the whole routine of cheap motion-picture dramatics in her latter-day hard-boiled, dead-pan style … A more artificial lot of acting could hardly be achieved” He added, “And Kent Smith, as a public accountant whom Miss Crawford lures into the syndicate, plays a Milquetoast so completely that his whole performance seems a succession of timid gulps. Steve Cochran as a tricky West Coast mobster and Selena Royle as a cagrant socialite do their jobs in a conventional B-story, A-budget way. Vincent Sherman’s direction is as specious as the script.”

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Modern critics are generally more sympathetic. James Travers in 2012 said: “It is not hard to account for the popular appeal of The Damned Don’t Cry. The plot may be far-fetched and the characters absurdly exaggerated, but the film is otherwise well-constructed (using the familiar film noir device of the extended flashback) and well-performed by a well-chosen ensemble of acting talent.

Film critic Craig Butler called the film “a ridiculous melodrama that is fairly poor as real drama but is quite enjoyable as camp.” He added, “Damned starts out as if it were one of Crawford’s earlier ‘poor gal makes good’ flicks, but it quickly becomes lurid and unbelievable. As is often the case in her later vehicles, Damned finds Crawford in a one-dimensional world and asks that she find ways of giving the illusion of depth to her character.”

Critic Dennis Schwartz liked the film, Crawford’s work and its direction. He wrote, “A dreary crime drama following the formula of Flamingo Road, which also starred Joan Crawford. It is efficiently directed by Vincent Sherman … Joan Crawford gives a solid performance as the gangster’s moll who discovers when it’s too late that she took the wrong path.”

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Slant magazine film critic, Jeremiah Kipp, said of the film, “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?”

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