Damned Don't Cry [1950]

Joan Crawford bashes her way through this melodrama inspired by the Bugsy Siegel-Virginia Hill story. Our girl walks out of tacky poverty at the beginning and re-shapes herself into a fur-lined mobster's moll, her will of steel out-pointing the men at every stop. David Brian (recently her Flamingo Road co-star) is the looming blond monster who runs the organization, Steve Cochran is the Bugsy guy building his own network in Nevada, and Kent Smith is the meek accountant Joan bullies into becoming a syndicate player. It's all from that mid-career post-Mildred Pierce period that served Crawford so well, with the full-on film noir look (Ted McCord photographed) and the strong whiff of American sleaze. Joan Crawford's face had assumed its masklike quality at this point, and at times she seems more of a business manager than an actress: organizing each scene, pushing the story along to its next stop. In its own over-the-top way, it works: there isn't a moment when she doesn't seem capable of devouring anybody that stands in her way. Everything is writ large in this movie, which makes it a fitting target for a Carol Burnett send-up... and which also makes it a great deal of fun. --Robert Horton

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