Home Video Reviews
A largely forgotten gem from Joan Crawford's post-Mildred Pierce days at Warner Bros., The Damned Don't Cry! is a wondrously overwrought potboiler, with Joan's physical appearance and demeanor going through more changes than the romantic leads from Random Harvest. Her fans will get more than their money's worth here as the Hollywood icon gets the spotlight from start to finish, offering the Hollywood equivalent of a fashion show sampler. From mousy housewife to a Cagney-style threat to society, she's always watchable even though her, ahem, maturing appearance pushes the hilarity value through the roof; it's no wonder within three years she pushed her persona straight through to pure caricature with the full-strength camp trilogy of Sudden Fear, Torch Song and Johnny Guitar.
Not surprisingly, Joan overwhelms everyone around her; relative newcomer Brian (who had just appeared with her in Flamingo Road) does what he can with a character that makes little narrative sense, while the reliably bland (and shortly TV-bound) Kent Smith goes through the paces as Martin Blackford, an accountant who initiates poor Ethel into the sweet life. Interestingly, this film marked the first collaboration between Crawford and director Vincent Sherman, most famous for his Bette Davis vehicles like Mr. Skeffington and Old Acquaintance; apparently she was pleased enough to team with him again for the next year's Harriet Craig, a slightly more genteel spin on the same themes from this film.
For some reason The Damned Don't Cry! essentially stayed out of public circulation for several decades, never turning up during on home video and barely rearing its head on television for eagle-eyed viewers. Thus Warner's immaculate edition (also packaged as part of its delicious Joan Crawford Collection) marks the first opportunity for several generations to see this film, thankfully in a sparklingly-transferred edition that makes the most of its overheated noir-style visual scheme (and boasts a presumably intentional, slightly-sepia cast). Sherman's commentary track is fairly engaging, though he tends to narrate onscreen events a bit excessively and seems to linger quite a bit on the fact that he and Crawford were bedmates for a while. Other extras include the slick theatrical trailer and a fun featurette, "The Crawford Formula: Real and Reel," which loads on various Crawford clips intercut with quick soundbites from speakers about Crawford's persona and parallels with this film, which apparently drew some of its inspiration from real-life crime stories.
For more information about The Damned Don't Cry, visit Warner Video. To order The Damned Don't Cry, go to TCM Shopping.
by Nathaniel Thompson