The Damned Don't Cry - Warner Archive CollectionOverview -
Joan Crawford and her padded shoulders star in this hard-boiled, noirish melodrama about a woman who forsakes dreary domesticity for a high-living, high-risk life in the underworld. The Damned Don't Cry isn't cinematic art, but it oozes Warner Bros style and provides a showcase for Crawford's tough, intense screen persona. A brand-new 4K scan of the original nitrate camera negative, remastered audio, and all the extras from the 2005 DVD make Warner Archive's Blu-ray presentation of this slick portrait of a grasping woman a guilty delight. Recommended.
It's a man's world. And Ethel Whitehead learns there's only one way for a woman to survive in it: Be as tempting as a cupcake and as tough as a 75-cent steak. Joan Crawford brings hard-boiled glamour and simmering passion to the role of Ethel, who moves from the wrong side of the tracks to a mobster's mansion to high society, one man at a time. Some of those men love her. Some use her. And one - a high-rolling racketeer - abuses her. When the racketeer murders his rival in Ethel's swanky living room, she flees a sure murder rap right back to the poverty she thought she had escaped. And this time there may not be a man to pick up the pieces of her shattered life.
Special Features and Technical Specs:
- NEW 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM FROM THE ORIGINAL CAMERA NEGATIVE (2023)
- Audio Commentary by Director Vincent Sherman
- The Crawford Formula - Real and Reel - Fetaurette
- Screen Director's Playhouse radio broadcast (4/5/1951)
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
When MGM and Joan Crawford parted ways in 1943 after an 18-year association, Warner Bros instantly signed the star, but it took a couple of years for her to find a suitable comeback vehicle. The property she finally selected was Mildred Pierce, which won her a well-deserved Best Actress Oscar and ushered in arguably the most fruitful period of her long career. After such subsequent triumphs as Humoresque and Possessed, a tougher, more headstrong Crawford emerged in Flamingo Road. Fans liked what they saw, so Warner rushed her into The Damned Don't Cry, a taut, slick melodrama that cemented her new persona.
Loosely based on the tempestuous relationship between pugnacious gangster Bugsy Siegel and his immoral moll Virginia Hill, The Damned Don't Cry charts the evolution of housewife Ethel Whitehead (Crawford), who leaves her gruff, working-class husband (Richard Egan) and hand-to-mouth existence after a family tragedy and heads to the big city to sow the seeds of a ritzier life. She quickly learns honesty isn't the best policy and attentive men are her ticket to wealth. Ethel's beauty gets her noticed and a "modeling" job ultimately leads her to debonair mob boss George Castleman (David Brian), who's embroiled in every conceivable criminal activity.
George fancies Ethel and she fancies the riches he can give her, despite their tainted nature. To make her a more suitable partner, George enlists socialite Patricia Longworth (Selena Royle) to soften her rough edges, refine her taste, and lend her some class. After the makeover, Ethel changes her name to the hoity-toity-sounding Lorna Hansen Forbes and revels in the spoils of George's illicit businesses...until he whores her out to his associate-turned-rival Nick Prenta (Steve Cochran), whom George believes bumped off one of his men. George wants Ethel/Lorna to get the goods on Nick, but doesn't bank on her falling for Nick's macho Italian charm.
A throwback to the pre-Code dramas that depicted women unapologetically sleeping their way to the top, The Damned Don't Cry has Warner Bros written all over it. Director Vincent Sherman, who would also helm Crawford's next two pictures (Harriet Craig and Goodbye, My Fancy), deftly mixes sex and violence with snappy dialogue, top-notch production values, brisk pacing, and dusty desert locales. He also presents his star in the finest possible light, leaving no doubt that this underworld crime drama, despite its testosterone accents, is every inch a Joan Crawford picture. And Crawford, like she would do increasingly more often at this stage of her career, makes damn sure she grabs all the attention every moment she's on screen.
Crawford doesn't overtly steal the spotlight by shamelessly chewing the scenery or brusquely upstaging her co-stars. She's too smart for that. After a quarter of a century in the business, she knows all the subtle tricks and uses them brilliantly. A flick of her head, an arched eyebrow, a withering glare, the cavalier way she removes her sunglasses, her confident stride across a room, the puddles of tears in her saucer eyes... Crawford was a good actress, but she was a great star and realized - perhaps better than anybody - the value of star power and how to exploit it.
During her MGM years, Crawford teamed up with heavyweight actors like Gable, Tracy, and Cooper, but during her tenure at Warner Bros, she carried her films alone on her heavily padded shoulders. Her male co-stars were quite competent (John Garfield and Van Heflin could act circles around her), but Crawford was the draw. Audiences lined up to watch her make mincemeat out of the men who dared to cross her, and in films like The Damned Don't Cry they tangled with her at their own risk. At 45-ish (no one really knows Crawford's actual birth date), she was still beautiful, but no longer a shrinking violet. The thicker her eyebrows got, the more intimidating she became, and it took a special kind of manly man to romance her on screen.
Brian, who also played her lover in Flamingo Road, and the hairy-chested Cochran have the cojones to stand up to Crawford, but their male egos are no match for her feminine wiles. Long before Pat Benatar sang about sex as a weapon, Crawford was putting the idea into play in her films, and rarely more vigorously than in The Damned Don't Cry. First, she chews up and spits out Kent Smith, who plays a mild-mannered accountant who's so enamored of Ethel he allows her to convince him to embrace a life of crime, then she masterfully juggles the snarling Brian and cocky Cochran knowing full well either could snuff her out on a whim. Few actresses could get away with such brazen behavior, but the castrating Crawford, a wolf among women, leads the pack.
And yet we always root for her, because she's so much fun to watch. The Damned Don't Cry is far from a great film, but she makes it an irresistible piece of pulpy popcorn entertainment. So take a break from Cagney, Raft, Robinson, and Bogart and watch Crawford play with and manipulate the big boys. She's more than up to the task. You'll cheer her conquests and marvel at her moxie until the pesky Production Code catches up to her.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Damned Don't Cry arrives on Blu-ray packaged in a standard case. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 and audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono. Once the disc is inserted into the player, the static menu without music immediately pops up; no previews or promos precede it.
Do five-star Warner Archive transfers ever get boring? Hell no! This 4K scan of the original nitrate camera negative is just the latest 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer to earn that lofty distinction and it's well warranted. Sublime clarity and contrast, inky blacks, crisp whites, and a natural grain structure all combine to produce a silky, film-like image that immerses us in the drama and faithfully honors the cinematography of three-time Oscar nominee Ted McCord. Beautifully varied grays enhance details and depth, excellent shadow delineation heightens the noirish feel, costume textures are vivid, and background elements are easy to discern. Sharp close-ups highlight facial stubble, pores, and sweat, and even though Crawford's tight shots are slightly diffused to hide her advancing age, they exhibit plenty of detail (you can see her freckles under her makeup) and are lovely to behold. Process shots are seamlessly integrated and all the nicks, marks, blotches, and scratches that plagued the 2005 DVD have been erased. This Blu-ray transfer is a substantial step up from that DVD, making an upgrade mandatory for fans of Crawford, film noir, and classic cinema.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track has been restored and remastered as well, and the result is vibrant sound that adds loads of atmosphere to this melodrama. A wide dynamic scale gives Daniele Amfitheatrof's music score plenty of room to breathe and sonic accents like gunfire, facial slaps, sirens, and revving car engines are distinct. All the dialogue is clear, well prioritized, and easy to comprehend and no age-related hiss, pops, or crackle muddy the mix.
All the wonderful extras from the 2005 DVD have been ported over to this Blu-ray release.
Audio Commentary - Director Vincent Sherman recorded this track in 2005 when he was a very spry 98 years old (he died the following year at age 99) and it's both a treat and privilege to hear his lively, cogent, and insightful remarks. Sherman discusses the day-for-night shots, talks about how the story was altered to fit Crawford, points out various locations, praises Crawford as the "most cooperative actress I ever worked with," analyzes the characters, and identifies a scene he "stole" from one of his earlier pictures (Mr. Skeffington). It's always fascinating to hear a director's perspective and this one is especially precious considering Sherman's advanced age. Though his remarks aren't especially illuminating, his recollections are a valuable historical document and anyone who appreciates this film should listen to them.
Featurette: "The Crawford Formula: Real and Reel" (SD, 14 minutes) - In this slick, absorbing featurette, fIlm experts Glenn Erickson, Boze Hadleigh, Drew Casper, James Ursini, and Karen Swenson discuss the finer points of The Damned Don't Cry, cite the story's loose connection to Bugsy Siegel and Virginia Hill, examine the hard-boiled Warner Bros style and the film's violence, and note how women used sex to get ahead in that era. They also relate how many of Crawford's roles mirrored her humble roots and rise to prominence and talk about how Crawford often pursued relationships with her directors to achieve a sense of security. Director Vincent Sherman, who reportedly had an affair with Crawford, doesn't dish any dirt, but does share a few recollections of the star.
Vintage Radio Adaptation (59 minutes) - Crawford reprised her role for the April 5, 1951 broadcast of the Screen Director's Playhouse. Frank Lovejoy takes over David Brian's part in this truncated adaptation that cuts out the movie's tragic first act. Crawford gives her all and the brutal beating scene packs an even greater punch without the visuals. A few (scripted) comments from Crawford, Lovejoy, and director Vincent Sherman cap off the program.
Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2 minutes) - The film's original preview hypes Crawford's portrayal of "a woman who crossed the paths of many men...and double-crossed every one of them!"
Crawford commands the screen in The Damned Don't Cry, and as usual doesn't take any prisoners. Her magnetism overshadows this pedestrian gangster yarn that's also enlivened by a strong supporting cast and Vincent Sherman's solid direction. The 4K scan of the original nitrate camera negative and remastered audio far outclass the 2005 DVD and a hefty spate of supplements adds more luster to Warner Archive's Blu-ray presentation of a signature Crawford picture. Recommended.
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