When a writer finds for himself a formula that works, miles beyond difficult is the process of trying something new. When Mom told me I was born three weeks past my expected due date, she added “Well you know how you are once you get comfortable.” It’s possible that from the start I’ve been able to ease, settle, and cement myself promptly into comfort zones, so the idea of zone expansion is hardly without its terror. “New” and “fear” tend to grasp hands before they enter a room, but my pen and I are gathering strength to tell “fear” to go sit in the corner while we propose a toast to the “new.”
Months ago I assigned myself the task of writing about a film that failed to charm the ink out of me, but the blessed problem with older movies is that I could always find something to enjoy, even in the most atrocious. In the process I discovered a new, telling formula . . . when I don’t enjoy a movie, I tend to write about my writing. Meta-writing has become my first clue that the film in question will not be floating over to the shelf of favorites (hmm, please see above). There’s a certain movie I own that appears on every single list of “Greatest Films Ever Made,” and I’ll admit it’s one of the dustiest DVDs in the house. I have yet to tackle what many consider to be a masterpiece, mostly because I have no desire to be a good citizen and sit through it again . . . but never say never; it could come to pass! Until then, tonight I must give my respectful apologies to Miss Crawford, for the first sentence I wrote about The Damned Don’t Cry was “Hmm I don’t know about this one.”
Formulas are important surely, but because this one stuck so closely not only to the Crawford formula but also to that of Warner Bros., it failed to hook me. When I’m too aware of the effort, I know the experience is doomed. Crawford’s character is down and out, works her way into high society, Warner throws in a few mobsters, and suddenly we have a collage of many films that I enjoyed much more than this one. I always find it a treat to watch Joan Crawford play Joan Crawford, but in this one at times it seemed like she couldn’t decide which “Crawford” she wanted to give us. Her character’s ascensions and plummets on the social ladder don’t flow smoothly for me, and I think the awkward pace is what does this one in. When they threw in some random (and surprisingly brutal) violence, I perked up for a moment, but soon I found myself looking at my poor neglected nails . . . another clue.
I must give Crawford credit for her crackerjack delivery of some venomous one-liners. When she crosses a fellow “lady of the evening” early in the film, Crawford’s angry coworker tells her, “I’m gettin’ myself a new partner.” Leave it to Joan to eye this dame up and down before suggesting “While you’re at it you better get yourself a couple of other new items, if you’ll excuse the expression.”
Of course we’ll excuse it . . . when it comes to Joan Crawford, what won’t we excuse?
Why not add it to your queue . . . maybe you’ll like it!