Sunday, November 10, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Not Wanted (1949) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

NOT WANTED (1949), a tale of unwed motherhood largely directed by the uncredited Ida Lupino, is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

Lupino replaced the credited Elmer Clifton early in the film's production after he suffered a heart attack. Lupino also cowrote the script along with Paul Jarrico, based on a story by Jarrico and Malvin Wald.

Like some of Lupino's later credited directorial efforts, NOT WANTED tackles a then-controversial topic, having a child out of wedlock. In ensuing films Lupino would also take on subjects such as rape (OUTRAGE) and bigamy (THE BIGAMIST), as well as a realistic look at rehabilitation after contracting polio (NEVER FEAR).

Regular Lupino lead actress Sally Forrest plays young Sally Kelton. Sally doesn't have much direction in life and isn't happy living with her parents (Dorothy Adams and Wheaton Chambers), so it's easy to imagine herself in love with a temperamental pianist named Steve (Leo Penn).

After conflict at home, Sally follows Steve when he moves on from her town, only to realize he has no intention of being serious about her. Fortunately she meets nice-guy Drew Baxter (Keefe Brasselle), a disabled war veteran who works at a gas station; he gets Sally a job and eventually they begin to fall in love, as Sally comes to appreciate Drew's innate decency.

But just after Drew proposes, Sally realizes she's expecting Steve's baby. She moves on again without a word to Drew, eventually finding herself at a home for unwed mothers and facing a very difficult decision.

Needless to say, NOT WANTED is in some ways a rather sad tale. Sally is a rootless young woman with little self-worth whose situation goes from bad to worse; just as she's perhaps found love and a stable relationship, life comes crashing down on her hard. The scenes where she contemplates giving up her baby for adoption, and the emotional problems she suffers in the wake of her choice, are almost too painful to watch.

Thankfully Brasselle is on hand as a man who has overcome his own problems -- not just disability, but the early loss of his parents -- and his character provides hope that in the end, Sally will have a good life. There's a good bit of similarity to the endings of NOT WANTED and NEVER FEAR, as Forrest's character, having wrestled with her inner demons, reunites with Brasselle on a sidewalk.

Former silent film actress Ruth Clifford is also very good as the sympathetic woman who runs the home for unwed mothers. The cast also includes Lawrence Dobkin and Rita Lupino, who were also in NEVER FEAR, plus Ruthelma Stevens and Virginia Mullen.

Unwed motherhood was a topic which occasionally popped up in films of the era, notably HER SISTER'S SECRET (1946) and TO EACH HIS OWN (1946), but the frank treatment of the subject in this film must have been somewhat surprising for audiences in 1949.

Though sad at times, NOT WANTED is also a well-made film which is worth seeing. I certainly wish Lupino had directed more films, as every one I've seen was well-done and also rather unique for the era.

NOT WANTED runs 91 minutes. It was filmed in black and white by Henry Freulich. There's some interesting location shooting in Los Angeles; I'd love to know more about where it was filmed, including the gas station.

Extras on the Kino Lorber Blu-ray include a commentary by Barbara Scharres and Greg Ford plus a "hygiene reel" on childbirth which was inserted into the movie by some distributors. There are also five trailers for additional titles available from Kino Lorber.

NOT WANTED joins three other Lupino films simultaneously released by Kino Lorber, including NEVER FEAR, which I reviewed last month, plus THE BIGAMIST (1953) and THE HITCH-HIKER (1953), both of which I reviewed after theatrical screenings (THE BIGAMIST was reviewed here and THE HITCH-HIKER here). They can be purchased as single titles or in the Ida Lupino Filmmaker Collection.

Kino Lorber has also released NOT WANTED on DVD.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


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