Not Wanted, 1949

A Pioneering Exploration of Unwed Motherhood and Social Stigma


Not Wanted,” released in 1949, is a groundbreaking film directed by Ida Lupino, one of the few female directors in Hollywood’s Golden Age. The film delves into the taboo subject of unwed motherhood and the societal stigmas associated with it. It was a daring move for its time, challenging the conservative norms and offering a nuanced portrayal of a young woman’s struggle.

Ida Lupino’s Directorial Choices

Ida Lupino was not just an actress but a pioneering director who wasn’t afraid to tackle controversial subjects. In “Not Wanted,” she employs a documentary-like style, using real locations and a straightforward narrative to heighten the film’s realism. Her direction is subtle yet impactful, allowing the audience to empathize with the protagonist, Sally Kelton, played by Sally Forrest.

Storyline and Character Development

The film follows Sally, a young woman who falls in love with a musician, Steve Ryan, only to find herself abandoned and pregnant. The story is a poignant look at the limited options available to women in such situations during that era. Sally’s character is well-developed; she is neither glorified nor vilified for her choices. Instead, Lupino presents her as a real, flawed individual navigating a difficult situation.

Social Commentary

What sets “Not Wanted” apart is its unflinching look at the societal attitudes of the time. The film doesn’t shy away from showing the judgment and ostracization Sally faces, not just from society but also from her own family. It serves as a critique of the lack of support systems for unwed mothers, forcing them into a cycle of poverty and shame.

Cinematic Techniques

The film employs a variety of cinematic techniques to enhance its storytelling. The use of close-ups, especially in scenes where Sally is alone and vulnerable, adds a layer of intimacy and emotional depth. The lighting and mise-en-scène are carefully crafted to reflect the mood of each scene, whether it’s the hopeful beginning or the despairing climax.

Reception and Legacy

Upon its release, “Not Wanted” was met with mixed reviews. While some praised its daring subject matter and Lupino’s direction, others found it too controversial. However, the film has gained a cult following over the years and is now considered a seminal work in feminist cinema. It opened the door for more stories that focus on women’s issues, making it a landmark film in Hollywood history.

Concluding Remarks

“Not Wanted” is a film that was ahead of its time, bravely tackling a subject that was considered taboo. Ida Lupino’s nuanced direction and Sally Forrest’s compelling performance make it a must-watch. While it may not have received the recognition it deserved upon its initial release, its impact and legacy are undeniable. It serves as a testament to the power of cinema to challenge societal norms and offer new perspectives.