Not Wanted

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Not Wanted

Ida Lupino was a Hollywood star in the '30s and '40s, with roles in such films as High Sierra and They Drive By Night. She left her studio in the late '40s to found The Filmmakers, an independent production company that crafted small, quiet dramatic films on the periphery of the Hollywood system—three of which are being released under the banner Ida Lupino: Queen Of The B's. As a screenwriter and director, Lupino had an eye for the emotional truth hidden within the taboo or mundane, making a series of B-styled pictures which featured sympathetic, honest portrayals of such controversial subjects as unmarried mothers, bigamy, and rape. Her exploration of the tired, hope-starved downside of the American dream is both timeless and one of the first glimmers of post-war dissatisfaction. In The Bigamist, a traveling salesman is unable to choose between a tough, working-class waitress and his properly feminine wife. The film is surprisingly sympathetic toward his situation; by presenting philandering as a result of combined sensitivity and moral weakness, Lupino can condemn his actions without dehumanizing him. In Not Wanted, Sally Forest plays a young single mother awash in an ossified family life, her own growing cynicism, and her new status of social invisibility, plagued by the hypocrisy of authority figures and shunned by conventional sources of compassion. And in The Hitch-Hiker, arguably Lupino's best film and the only true noir directed by a woman, two utterly average middle-class American men are held at gunpoint and slowly psychologically broken by a serial killer. In addition to her critical but compassionate sensibility, Lupino had a great filmmaker's eye, using the starkly beautiful street scenes in Not Wanted and the gorgeous, ever-present loneliness of empty highways in The Hitch-Hiker to set her characters apart. She could also draw amazing performances from herself and her actors; the performances of Lupino as the waitress and Joan Fontaine as the sheltered little thing in The Bigamist are unqualifiedly brilliant. These movies are frank and compassionate, and they show great empathy for small and fragile things. They are, quite simply, great films.

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