Monday Movie: The Damned Don’t Cry, by David Bax
The Damned Don’t Cry is notable for more than just having one of the greatest titles in the history of movies but even if it weren’t, that would still be enough. Whatever those lurid words may suggest to you, what exists beneath them is fun, more than a little trashy tale of a woman with nothing else left to live for sleeping her way to the top of more than one organized crime empire.
Joan Crawford stars as Ethel Whitehead, a dirt poor mother and housewife. When her only child is struck by a car and killed, she makes a decision to leave her husband and whatever’s left of her life behind and start over with a new name in the big city. From model to gangster’s moll to Red Harvest-style go-between playing all sides against the middle, Ethel carves her own path through the underworld on the way to grand spoils which, this being 1950 Hollywood, she’ll eventually have to pay a price for.
The Damned Don’t Cry is less a story than a built from the ground up star vehicle for Crawford. She treads defiantly through the picture, taking no prisoners and being loyal only to herself. There’s some revealing and still relevant talk about the life of a model; when talking about handsy men, Ethel’s more experienced colleague says, “It’s no different from the subway. In fact, it’s a lot better.” Mostly, though, whether it’s wallowing in Ethel’s hardscrabble former life or in the hardboiled violence of her new one, it’s just a blast to watch the movie veer from one kind of melodrama to another.