I watched The Damned Don’t Cry entirely because it was set in the time period I was looking for (1932-1950ish) and starred someone I’d heard of (Joan Crawford). I was really pleasantly surprised with the result, so here is a quick little capsule review.
The movie opens with two men dumping a body, said body being found by surveyors, and a quick and tidy progression of news clippings revealing that this is a notorious gangster. The evidence leads them to speak with Lorna Hansen Forbes (Joan Crawford), where they discover a remarkably suspicious bloodstain on the floor. Lorna flees and goes to a home where she’s greeted as Ethel by people who are clearly her parents. The movie rattles all this off neatly concisely and then drifts into a flashback that makes up the bulk of the movie, showing the tragedy in Ethel Whitehead’s past and her rise from housewife to socialite under a new name.
There are a number of great things about this movie. First among them is that it doesn’t drag. There isn’t a lot of wasted space; things move along at a nice clip without feeling rushed. It also manages the neat balancing act of not spoon-feeding you, but also not being obtuse. It’s delightful: a movie that shows you some footage in the setup, then shows how it came to be later, without winking or zooming in dramatically or anything else to show HEY LOOK REMEMBER THAT THING YOU SAW BEFORE? It’s a breath of fresh air.
Of course, this is a Joan Crawford movie, and she’s awesome at it. It’s only the second movie I’ve seen of hers, and since the first one was Grand Hotel where no one is the main character and there are a dozen principals to chose from, this is the first real Joan Crawford Picture I’ve seen. And boy, is she something. I only know the broad outlines of her real life story, but they ring true here when all her best scenes are the ones when she gets to be cutting or scathing or imperious. She doesn’t get too much of a chance, but when she’s called to say something with a certain tone, she just nails it.
All in all, this was a wonderful surprise to pop in to the DVD player. Plus, it’s got a great title. What more can you ask for?