A study was made of radial crack evolution in curved brittle layers on compliant support substrates. Three-dimensional boundary element analysis was used to compute the stepwise growth of radial cracks that initiate at the bottom surfaces of glass on polymeric support layers, from initiation to final failure. The algorithm calculates reconstituted displacement fields in the near-tip region of the extending cracks, enabling direct evaluation of stress-intensity factors. Available experimental data on the same material systems with prescribed surface curvatures were used to validate the essential features of the predicted crack evolution, particularly the stability conditions prior to ultimate failure. It was shown that the critical loads to failure diminish with increasing surface curvature. Generalization of the ensuing fracture mechanics to include alternative brittle-layer/polymer-substrate systems enabled an explicit expression for the critical load to failure in terms of material properties and layer thicknesses. Implications concerning practical layer systems, particularly dental crowns, are briefly discussed.