A Low-Key Highpoint
9 October 2013
Another of Ida Lupino's low-budget, guerilla entries she hoped would find an intimate place between the twin behemoths of 1950's TV and big screen Technicolor. Too bad her effort largely failed. The odds, I suppose, were just too great. Nonetheless, her productions typically tackled difficult subjects otherwise avoided by the behemoths, e.g. rape in The Outrage (1950) and bigamy in The Bigamist (1953). Unfortunately, this obscure entry, dealing with the perils of success, doesn't rise to the level of the other two, but does have its notable moments.

To me, those moments come with the effect that Florence's (Forrest) tennis star success has on her middle-class family, which to that point, seems fairly happy. However, with the success, Mom (Trevor) exults, because now she has a chance to escape a dull suburban existence and indulge her secret desire to social climb among the rich and famous. Meanwhile, daughter Florence starts out as a sweet, unassuming girl, but eventually has her head turned by the new world of big time tennis. These are interesting, but fairly routine developments.

Instead, the really compelling few moments come from Dad and the effect of his daughter's success on him. Now Kenneth Patterson is a name I don't recognize. But here he delivers a really affecting performance as a man who sees his family slipping slowly away from their conventional lives leaving him in an uncertain limbo. Worse, he sees his very manhood undermined by slick promoter Locke (Young) who politely but insistently takes over the lives of his wife and daughter. Catch those few close-ups of Dad trying quietly to comprehend while his home slips away beneath him. Whatever pain he's feeling on the inside, manfully, he won't let it show on the outside. These are minor masterpieces of the collaborative art of camera, script, and performance. The poignancy is made all the more intense by Patterson's refusal to go over the top, and Lupino's awareness that this should be the movie's low-key highpoint.

More generally, Forrest delivers a sprightly performance as an ace tennis player, even if she's not very good at being bitchy. On the other hand, Trevor knows exactly how to convey the self-indulgent behavior of an unfeeling woman, while Clarke has the thankless role of the patient boyfriend. Too bad, Lupino didn't try to buck the banality of the conventional romance, which mars the otherwise rather tough-minded 80-minutes. All in all, it's a well done little film from one of Hollywood's gutsiest figures, and is still worth catching up with.
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