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A short history of film

6.01.2011

He drifted over to Columbia and was soon working as an assistant director until he got his first chance as solo director on the “B” film One Mysterious Night (1944). From then on, Boetticher made a name for himself as a reliable and inventive director in a variety of genres, especially with a remarkable series of westerns with Randolph Scott, including Seven Men from Now (1956), The Tall T(1957), Ride Lonesome (1959), and Comanche Station (1960).


In 1960 he left Hollywood for what should have been a brief trip to Mexico, to make a documentary feature on the life and career of matador Carlos Arruza, one of Boetticher’s idols. As it turned out, Boetticher would run into numerous difficulties with the project, which would take many years to finish. Obsessed with completing the documentary, he turned down numerous other assignments, ran out of money, got divorced, and wound up spending one week in an insane asylum and another in a Mexican jail. To make matters worse, Arruza himself was killed in an automobile accident in 1966, forcing Boetticher to complete the film with the materials at hand. Finally, after various other production and financing problems, Arruza was released in 1972 to generally excellent reviews.


Another maverick filmmaker, Ida Lupino, emerged as one of the most interesting and individual directors of the era, tackling themes no other director would touch. During the 1950s, Lupino was the only female member of the Screen Directors Guild. Indeed, when she assumed the director’s chair, a number of influential critics suggested that, as a woman, she had no business venturing into what they viewed as an exclusively male profession. But Lupino pushed ahead—“Believe me, I’ve fought to produce and direct my own pictures,” she said in reflecting on her career—all the while being quite aware that it was important not to appear overly ambitious in order to fit into the gender constructions of 1950s Hollywood.


Her mastery of the Hollywood publicity machine is in itself fascinating, because she continually stressed her femininity and portrayed herself as a woman who accidentally assumed a directorial capacity, often saying that she “never planned to become a director.” True enough, her first job as director, though uncredited, for Not Wanted (1949), seemingly fell into her lap when veteran Elmer Clifton became ill three days into shooting. But Lupino co-wrote the screenplay with Paul Jarrico (based on a story by Jarrico and Malvin Wald) and the film was released through Lupino’s own production company, Emerald Productions (later known as The Filmakers [sic]); some have argued persuasively that she was angling for the director’s chair from the start of preproduction.


Not Wanted is the story of a young woman who gives birth to an illegitimate child. Lupino attempted to cast the picture with a multicultural group of young women but had trouble getting her idea past producers; ultimately she was told by the production company that she “couldn’t have the heroine in the same room with a Negro girl and a Spanish girl and a Chinese girl.” Though shocked by the outright racism of the executive, she gave in, nevertheless telling him that someday she would be in a position to make a film without outside interference. True to form, Lupino still managed to cast a young Chinese woman in the film.


Director Ida Lupino instructs a technician on the proper way to light actress Sally Forrest on the set of Never Fear (1949), Lupino’s groundbreaking film about the fight to conquer polio.


Never Fear (1949) is a study of a woman dancer fighting against polio. Outrage (1950) is one of the only movies of the period to directly represent rape and its aftermath. Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951) is an acerbic study of a mother who tries to live her life through her daughter, a champion tennis player. The film attacks the model of motherhood championed in 1950s cultural ideology, comparable to Dorothy Arzner’s critique of passive feminine roles in Craig’s Wife (1936). The Bigamist and The Hitch-Hiker (both 1953) are film noir studies of masculinity and violence. Lupino’s sometimes ambiguous feminism exemplifies the career of a woman director who refused to define herself in feminist terms, yet clearly employed a feminist vision in her films.



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