Monday, April 11, 2011

Joan Crawford in The Damned Don't Cry (1950)

Obscurity factor: 2

In some ways this is the ultimate composite Joan Crawford film. In it she gets to go through the full range of styles and emotions from the films of her Warner Bros. pictures - grief, hard-as-nails determination, shame, sophistication, passion... Ethel Whitehead lives a bleak existence amongst oil derricks and poverty. She and her husband and son share a home with her doting mother and heartless father. When she decides to buy her son a bike it touches off a familiar argument with her husband, who is sensitive of not being able to provide more than the basic essentials for his family. When the son is killed it effectively breaks the bond between husband and wife and Ethel leaves to make her own way. She starts out as a model at a dress company, but, using men as her stepping stones, is able to scheme her way into the heart of an organized crime syndicate - and a glamorous life. She becomes Lorna Hansen Forbes, a fabulously wealthy oil heiress and lives a beautiful life. That is, until the syndicate boss decides to use her in his play to get the western territory back from a rebellious associate.

This film has a Mildred Pierce on steroids quality to it - the death of a child, the struggle to achieve, the realization that the top isn't all its cracked up to be... It's fun to see Joan play the scenes to the hilt, as usual and to see her go from know-nothing fit model to confident society woman.

This film has a big cult following among Crawford fans. It's available on DVD. The trailer is posted above, courtesy of felixxxx999 on YouTube. The poster above is available from

Obscurity factor: 2 (well known to Crawford fans, otherwise obscure, available on DVD)


  1. Even beyond the immense camp value, this is a solid "Women's Noir." I love the transformation from drab Ethel to tawdry Ethel to fancy Ethel. Many good lines, great photography, altogether better than the more renowned Flamingo Road.

  2. Yes, it's a wonderful potboiler. I agree - Flamingo Road has nothing on it...

  3. I like to make the distinction between a Women's Noir and a Male Noir Weepie. This one, and This Woman is Dangerous, are Women's Noir, whereas the equally excellent Nora Prentiss, and the magnificent There's Always Tomorrow are Male Noir Weepies.

    Male Weepies (noir or otherwise) are not popular in American culture, since men are not supposed to weep, I guess. Once in a while, Hollywood tries, with horrid results. But half of Chinese movies are male weepies: all about lost babies, found babies, fathers, sons, sacrifice... wonderful!