Damned Dont Cry, The (1950): Crawford Star Vehicle, Classic Woman’s Picture and Film Noir

The Damned Don’t Cry is the first of three collaborations between Joan Crawford and director Vincent Sherman, with whom the star also had an affair offscreen.

The other two teamings were: Harriet Craig (1950) and Goodbye, May Fancy (1951).

Playing what has become by then a signature role, Crawford brings hard-boiled glamour and simmering passion to the role of Ethel Whitehead, a woman who moves from the wrong side of the tracks to a mobsters mansion and on to high society, taking one man at a time.

A tale of a woman’s involvement with an organized crime, the script by Harold Medford and Jerome Weidman was based on the story “Case History” by Gertrude Walker.

Loosely based on the relationship of the Jewish gangster Bugsy Siegel and actress Virginia Hill–which Barry Levinson made as a 1991 Oscar winning biopic starring Warren Beatty and Annette Bening–this stylish film noir was produced by Jerry Wald, Crawford’s favorite producer (“Mildred Pearce”).

A housewife living at the edge of Texas oil fields, Ethel Whitehead (Crawford) sees her young son killed in a bicycle accident.  Leaving her laborer husband Roy (Richard Egan) for the big city, she quickly learns how to use her physical charm to get ahead.

With the help of bookkeeper friend Martin Blackford (Smith), Ethel works her way into the entourage of George Castleman (Brian), a mobster who lives elegant lifestyle. Recruiting the help of socialite Patricia Longworth (Royle), Castleman grooms Ethel in the arts, transforming her into a “new” femme fatale, now calling herself Lorna Hansen Forbes.

After making her his mistress, Castleman uses her to trap his younger and more handsome rival, Nick Prenta (Cochran), but the trap fails when Ethel falls in love with Prenta.

In the film’s two violent climaxes, Castleman, feeling betrayed, beats Lorna (“dirty tramp”) and then shoots Prenta.  He then invades Lorna’s place, and in a confrontation with her and Blackford, both he and Lorna find their deaths.

Though well crafted and acted, The Damned Don’y Cry was dismissed by the critics of the time as a too predictable Crawford programmer, though commercially speaking, it was one of the star’s most popular films.


Joan Crawford as Ethel Whitehead/Lorna Hansen Forbes

David Brian as George Castleman/Joe Caveny

Steve Cochran as Nick Prenta

Kent Smith as Martin Blankford

Hugh Sanders as Grady

Selena Royle as Patricia Longworth

Jacqueline De Wit as Sandra

Morris Ankrum as Jim Whitehead

Edith Evanson as Mrs. Castleman

Richard Egan as Roy Whitehead