When Kristy, boss ass bitch who’s heading up Pajiba’s 52 Films by Women series, asked her fellow Overlords whether they’d like to contribute an essay or two, I knew immediately that I would be banging the Ida Lupino drum. (Not like that. Perverts.) There are a lot of female directors putting out a lot of great films nowadays, but back in the Golden Age of Hollywood, that just wasn’t the case. Between the ’40s and the ’60s, you have Ida Lupino and Dorothy Arzner and… that’s about it. It’s not that the talent wasn’t there—certainly, there were women working outside the Hollywood system, like experimental filmmaker Maya Deren—but Hollywood was exponentially more of a boy’s club than it is today, and there just weren’t many opportunities for women who wanted to direct.
Karina Longworth’s podcast You Must Remember This, which we’ve written about before, has a great episode on Ida Lupino: How she started out as an actress but always had a yearning to tell her own stories, ones that eschewed melodrama and spectacle for shining a light on the everyday struggles of real people. How it was a stroke of luck (good for her, bad for someone else) that got her her first gig: The director of a film she co-wrote and co-produced, Not Wanted, had a heart attack shortly before filming was set to begin. Lupino, who knew her way around a film set after a lifetime in the entertainment business, stepped in as his replacement, though she didn’t take a director’s credit. Though not well-known today, Not Wanted was financially successful when it came out in 1949, which meant that Lupino had the leverage she needed to helm her own projects.
And then there’s America’s great eccentric, Howard Hughes, with whom Lupino had been romantically involved in the past. A wannabe film tycoon, Hughes was on the hunt for low-budget movies to invest in that would appeal to audiences’ tastes for the salacious. Not Wanted was one—it’s about unwed mothers.
Outrage was, too.
It’s about rape.