As an actress, Lupino starred in major Hollywood studio films such as They Drive by Night (1940) and High Sierra (1941). Never satisfied with the exploitative relationship between actors and film studios (to which they were tethered through exclusive contracts), in 1949 she established her own production company, The Filmakers, with her husband Collier Young and the screenwriter Anson Bond. Their mission was to make socially conscious films, encourage new talent, and bring realism to the screen.
In 1949 the company produced the feature Not Wanted, which Lupino directed when the slated director, Elmer Clifton, fell ill (although Clifton ultimately received directorial credit). Her official directorial debut came the following year, with Never Fear (The Young Lovers), the story of two dancers poised on the brink of success on the nightclub circuit. One day, while rehearsing, Carol Williams (Sally Forrest) becomes feverish and disoriented. She collapses and is diagnosed with polio. Lupino set Williams’s treatment at the famed Kabat-Kaiser Institute in Santa Monica, California, where actual patients served as extras.
In addition to Never Fear, which was released at the height of the polio epidemic in the United States, Lupino’s films dramatized social issues such as rape, unwanted pregnancy, and bigamy—topics the major studios zealously avoided. After Never Fear, The Filmakers produced Outrage (1950), Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951), The Hitch-Hiker (1953), and The Bigamist (1953), all of which Lupino directed.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)