Monday, March 28, 2011

Joan Joins the Mob

In 1950, Joan Crawford was back at Warner Brothers (and with director Vincent Sherman for the second time) in a fairly turgid gangster movie, The Damned Don't Cry.  Told in flashback, as on Lorna Hansen Forbes flees to her parents house following the discovery of a murdered man, we learn that Lorna was actually Ethel Whitehead.  Living in relative poverty in her parents home, with her husband and small son, Ethel's life has few pleasures, thanks to her penny-pinching husband (Richard Egan).  When their little boy is killed suddenly, Ethel leaves  her husband, landing work as a dress model, gradually becoming a call girl to make a few extra dollars.  Her life's direction changes again when she meets accountant Martin Blackford (Kent Smith); thanks to Ethel's intervention, Martin becomes enmeshed with gangster George Castleman. 

And so it goes.  Quite frankly, we found this movie WAY too long.  The section that introduced Lorna's life story for example, when we see the death of her son, was totally unnecessary (and could have been briefly outlined within the body of the movie).  Also, Crawford is not really convincing here.  Her speech pattern is very peculiar.  She seems to think that she needs to change the way she talks with each small change in her life: the housewife has a quiet, precise speech; the whore talks like she just escaped from a Damon Runyon novel, and Lorna adopts the pronunciation of the Vanderbilts.  All very bemusing.

It was nice to see Richard Egan (in a very small part as Ethel's miserly husband); David Brian (as George Castleman) was used to much better advantage in the previously discussed Flamingo Road. Steve Cochrane as gang member Nick Prenda was interesting to watch, as was Kent Smith as the loyal Martin.  But all-in-all, we've seen better movies.  Here's a trailer to give you an idea of the film's marketing:

We'll be back shortly with another Crawford film from the 1950s.

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