For the first time in years, I watched The Damned Don’t Cry (1950), and I had forgotten how truly great a film it is. How can you not like something that carries a tag line like, “Ambition. Betrayal. Murder. Don’t let the little things stop you.”

Joan Crawford stars as Ethel Whitehead / Lorna Hansen Forbes, but gets plenty of top-drawer support from David Brian (always underrated, in my opinion) as George Castleman and Steve Cochran, who turns in yet another stellar performance as the conniving Nick Prenta.

The DVD included an interview with, of all people, director Vincent Sherman. The date on the DVD is 2005, so the interview was conducted not too long before his death, which occurred the following year right before his 100th birthday. A veteran of Hollywood’s golden age, Sherman directed other films noir, such as Backfire and The Garment Jungle, as well as mainstream efforts like The Young Philadelphians, one of Paul Newman’s early efforts.

The Damned Don’t Cry, however, was his best. And it is arguably Joan Crawford’s finest hour, too, her Oscar-winning turn in Mildred Pierce notwithstanding. Her scenes with Brian and Cochran crackle with intensity. She worked well with them and they were both up to it. The story of a woman rising up from deep blue-collar roots to the top of society mirrors Crawford’s own life, enabling her to crawl into the skin of her character with ease. But Lorna Hansen Forbes’ meteoric rise is only a prelude to her introduction to the world of organized crime.

Brian runs the show and he sees in Crawford the kind of grit and tenacity that he had within himself during his own trip to the top. He finds her irresistible and eventually figures out how to integrate her into his empire. But of course, Cochran has other plans.

The film’s first half is set in Texas oilfields and New York back streets, but appears to have been shot primarily on the Warner Bros back lot. The second half, however, shifts to a Palm Springs-ish locale, where Cochran is plotting his next move. The look is so authentic, I almost felt as though I were watching a different film altogether. I don’t remember any film of that era with a Palm Springs setting, but this one was very effective.

If you haven’t seen The Damned Don’t Cry, or haven’t seen it in awhile, go find it. You won’t be sorry.

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