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NOT WANTED

USA, 1949 (MIFF 1996, Ida Lupino - Director)

Director: Elmer Clifton (Ida Lupino uncredited)

Even though she chose not to take director's credit (she stepped in after Elmer Clifton had a heart attack three days into production). Not Wanted bears the unmistakable stamp of a Lupino film from beginning to end. Its heroine Sally (Sally Forrest, in the first of three Lupino-helmed star turns) is a pretty young girl waitressing in a cafe. Frustrated by the unchanging colourlessness of small-town respectability, her romantic dreams crystallize around the figure of a moody piano player in town for a gig. Her one 'night out' and resulting pregnancy cast her adrift in a no-man's land of suitcases, bus stations, boarding houses and odd jobs that form the landscape of so many Lupino films. Sally is the first in a long line of Lupino wanderers, shell-shocked veterans who wonder if they can ever go home again.

There are temporary refuges; for Sally a home for unwed mothers constitutes a real community, with it's homey chores and matter-of-fact sisterly solidarity (literal here, as Ida's sister Rita delivers the 'goodnight' soliloquy on shared dreams and fears.) But it is a community, like the rehabilitation centre in Never Fear or rural enclave in The Outrage, defined by its insulation, overshadowed by impertinence Sally's baby happens to her alone, in total passivity. She is lifted unyielding, almost inert, from bed to stretcher, the walls going by above in sharp-edged hallucination, the white-clad nurses bending down before the lights go out-one of many such compelling 'spacy' moments in Lupino's films.

Exploited commercially, and quite success­fully, as a daring expose of the shocking plight of unwed mothers, Not Wanted resembles its publicity very little, remarkably free of head-shaking compassion for 'poor unfortunates' that mark many low-budget efforts, not to mention the tawdry sensationalism of big budget Peyton Place type teenage preggie pics. (RS)

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