series The Sun Sets in the West: Mid-Century California Noir.
Last weekend's excellent movies, EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (1962) and CRISS CROSS (1949), were followed up tonight by two more very entertaining films, THE DAMNED DON'T CRY (1950) and SLIGHTLY SCARLET (1956). (SLIGHTLY SCARLET is reviewed here.)
Vincent Sherman directed THE DAMNED DON'T CRY, and it was a nice surprise when the evening started off with the announcement that his son Eric was there to introduce the film. Among other things, Eric acknowledged that his father had a fling with star Joan Crawford while making the movie. He also mentioned that Jerome Weidman's original script was 300 (!) pages long, then compressed down to manageable size by Harold Medford. The inspiration for the film was a Gertrude Walker story titled "Case History."
THE DAMNED DON'T CRY is a cross between a "woman's picture" and film noir, in the style of THE HARD WAY (1943) and Crawford's own MILDRED PIERCE (1945). It's the rags to riches tale of Ethel Whitehead (Crawford), a poor, beaten-down housewife who after a tragedy decides to dump her husband (Richard Egan, in one of his first roles) and -- after briefly teaming with CPA Marty Blankford (Kent Smith) on her move up -- eventually transforms herself into elegant Lorna Hansen Forbes, an "oil heiress" who is the mistress of mobster George Castleman (David Brian).
Lorna's life grows very complicated when Castleman sends her to "Desert Springs," California with a mission: to ingratiate herself with and spy on Castleman's underling, Nick (Steve Cochran), who Castleman suspects is plotting against him. Lorna initially finds the job distasteful, but then she starts to fall for Nick for real. If she tells Castleman the truth about Nick, Nick's a dead man, and things won't look too good for her either if Castleman realizes she's lied or figures out she's in love with Nick.
This is your typical engrossing Crawford melodrama, with noirish shadows and guns mixed in, plus a dash of Palm Springs. It was a good watch from start to finish, though I thought the surprisingly light final seconds of this 103-minute film wimped out just a bit from what I was expecting. I don't really understand why all the male characters find Crawford so incredibly attractive, but needless to say, she has a very compelling personality, which is why she was a star for decades.
As for the male actors, I would have liked it if there had been a lot less of David Brian and Kent Smith and a whole lot more of Steve Cochran, who first really came to my attention earlier this year in TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY (1951). Cochran is incredibly handsome and very charismatic, while Smith (NORA PRENTISS) is just a nice-guy wimp and Brian is okay, but not someone I particularly enjoy. Cochran really helps make the movie as worthwhile as it is.
Also registering strongly is Selena Royle as Patricia Longworth, who sponsors "Lorna's" entrance into high society. The cast also includes Hugh Sanders, Jacqueline deWit, Edith Evanson, and Jimmy Moss. Morris Ankrum wears a little too much makeup to disguise the fact that he's only a handful of years older than his movie "daughter," Crawford. I've got to take another look at this someday, as I apparently missed Bess Flowers as -- what else? -- a nightclub patron.
home, built in 1947. The estate was known as Twin Palms, and there are some great shots of it, as used in the movie, here.
This movie is available on DVD in The Joan Crawford Collection or as a single-title purchase. The DVD can be rented from Netflix or ClassicFlix. It can also be rented for viewing on Amazon Instant Video.
This film can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies. TCM has the opening sequence available on line.