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The Damned Don’t Cry

Gasser

Damned Don't Cry (1950)

     The Damned Don’t Cry is probably not a good film on the whole, but Joan Crawford really impresses and brings life to this shady story about crime and sex.

     The story, which is told primarily in flashback (ala a Citizen Kane-esque non-linear plot) follows Ethel Whitehead, who leaves her husband, parents and lower-class life after her son is killed when struck by a truck. Locations are vague in the story, but it seems she takes off for the east coast where she works at a magazine stand until a customer notices her nice legs and gives her a job modeling clothes. That job, however, comes with a secondary occupation: She and another model are given a cut every time they steer clients to the back-room gambling set up at a restaurant where they entertain male customers. This activity eventually morphs Ethel’s personality to a more saucy conniving one.

     Looking to land a wealthy beau, Ethel puts the moves on a CPA who does the clothing agency’s books but quickly learns he earns very little. She arranges for him to take on a well-paying client in the form of the owner of that restaurant with the shady back room. She gets a cut of that deal also. Things get rough, however, when that CPA, Martin (Kent Smith), is talked into running the books for the national racket that runs the gambling operation. In the scheme of things, the national boss, George (David Brian), takes a liking to Ethel and offers her the world.

     Part of that world is changing her name and social status to that of Lorna Forbes, widowed oil heiress. Things are fine and dandy living off the married George’s good graces until he asks her to do a job: confirm the west coast racketeer is plotting against the organization so George can take him out with a clean conscience. Too bad that west-coast guy, Nick (Steve Cochran), is so handsome and sweet…

     What impressed me with Crawford in The Damned Don’t Cry is that she moves through three different personalities. Although she finally ends on the persona she conveys in just about every movie from this portion of her career, she does not start that way. She looks plain to begin with dull clothes and pale lipstick and speaks in a less refined tone and with poor grammar. After moving into the modeling business where men are constantly hitting on her, Ethel becomes a sass-mouthed, forward woman with an unbecoming vocabulary before dissolving into a high society dame.

     I have always noticed that Crawford had particularly expressive eyes. At the end of her career they provided more of a freaky look, but in The Damned Don’t Cry those wide eyes drill into men’s soul’s, particularly that of the lady-eyed David Brian.

The womanly eyes of David Brian

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Pillow to Post

Gasser

Pillow to Post (1945)

     I have not seen loads of Ida Lupino films, but I greatly respect the actress and grasp any opportunity to watch her. I previously expressed surprise at the difference I saw between Lupino in They Drive By Night and While the City Sleeps. In Pillow to Post, she appears in a role utterly different from the work she had done before. The film is a screwball comedy. For those who are familiar with Lupino, the notion of her appearing in such a story is surprising. Lupino was known for playing cynical, hardened women in dramatic pictures. This was none of that.

     Lupino is Jean Howard, the daughter of an oil supplies manufacturer who begs for a job as a salesman because she has otherwise been unable to do her part in society with the absence of men serving in WWII. Jean proves a rather unsuccessful saleswoman until she reaches a town that is home to an army base.

     The locale is utterly out of rooms for any visitors as the area is overrun by families visiting the soldiers. Jean lucks out, however, and gets a room at a car park by failing to deny she is a war bride. The car park only accepts married individuals, so Jean must come up with a “husband” to sign the registration card by the end of her first day. After speaking with Slim (Johnny Mitchell) about buying oil supplies and agreeing to go to dinner to solidify the deal, Jean hits the road hunting for the lieutenant to whom she claims to be engaged. She finds Don Mallory (William Prince) who is unobliging at first but manages to get mixed up in the ruse. What’s worse, his commanding officer Col. Otley, played by Sydney Greenstreet (another foreigner to such comedies), is staying in the car park with his wife. When the two soldiers collide, Don must keep up the charade of being wed to Jean, which ultimately forces him to stay the night in her bungalow and almost leads to him signing half his income and benefits to the woman.

     Considering how strange this role must have been for Lupino, she seems entirely at ease. She is attractive, funny and well suited for the physical comedy. In one scene when she attempts to situate herself across two kitchen chairs to sleep for the night, Lupino is perfectly goofy in the awkward positions she squirms into. William Prince was not a major name in 1945, but because so many of the studio’s leading men were fighting overseas, he was given a chance. Prince would not appear in a lot of films, but went on to a television career in the 1950s.

     Pillow to Post is apparently a rarity as TCM’s Robert Osborne prefaced it by saying most people probably are unaware of its existence. I can understand how this movie that is out of the ordinary for the actress in it would go unnoticed, but it is not a bad movie. It’s a great comedy and romance, that, like many, has its plot driven by a misunderstanding that has gotten out of hand. Often I find myself thinking the characters should just tell the truth and problem solved; however, then we would have no story. In Pillow to Post, both Jean and Don repeatedly plan to clear things up, but as other characters enter into the mix, that becomes more difficult to accomplish. It was nice to see Lupino in such a gleeful role, which makes this flick a bit of a jewel.

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