The Damned Don't Cry

The Damned Don't Cry ★★★★½

What a feast for Joan Crawford! The Damned Don’t Cry’s Ethel Whitehead/Lorna Hansen Forbes is like three great Crawford parts rolled into one. As Ethel, the beleaguered mother and housewife who escapes from her controlling husband (Richard Egan) in the wake of a family tragedy, she combines the maternal instinct of Mildred Pierce with the class aspirations of Marian Martin in 1931’s Possessed. Once Ethel makes it to the city, she plays her cards as a single woman with the verve of Daisy Kenyon and the calculation of Crystal Allen in 1939’s The Women. This eventually leads her up (or down) the social ladder to connections with organized crime (shades of A Woman’s Face), where she juggles relationships with an initially upright but corruptible accountant (Kent Smith); a mob boss (David Brian) who christens her Lorna Hansen Forbes; and a violent underling (Steve Cochran) who becomes infatuated with her. All of this is to say there may have been better made movies starring Crawford (she’s working with director Vincent Sherman here, not Otto Preminger, Michael Curtiz, or George Cukor), but I don’t know if she ever had a richer opportunity to click on all of her intimate, melodramatic, and camp cylinders.