HARD, FAST AND BEAUTIFUL (1951) B/W 78m dir: Ida Lupino
w/Claire Trevor, Sally Forrest, Carlton Young, Robert Clarke, Kenneth Patterson, Marcella Cisney
From Variety's review of the film: "A product of the indie Filmmakers unit headed by Ida Lupino and [producer] Collier Young [Lupino's then-husband], film is an entertaining study of selfish mother love and amateur tennis.
"Expose of 'expense' money and other coin-getting channels available to top amateur racket-wielders is not worked too hard. Emphasis is on 'mom-ism' and this story line is well-exploited, without being overdone, in the top-notch script and through the authority and punch of Lupino's direction.
"Claire Trevor socks over her character as the selfish mother of Sally Forrest. Forrest is strong as a promising tennis player whose mother pushes and shoves her into the championship in order to ride along and soak up some of the fame and glamour that goes with the top tennis brackets.
"Tennis court footage is expertly interlaced with the story and, creditably, camera angles on the play are smartly set up and there is a minimum use of shots showing head-swinging spectators."
From Film Fatales: Independent Women Directors by Judith M. Redding and Victoria A. Brownworth: "Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951) is for lovers of Mildred Pierce (1945) and other tear-jerker dramas of the period. Lupino directed the marvelous Sally Forrest in this tale of a rising young tennis star and her oppressively controlling mother, played by veteran actor Claire Trevor with a steeliness that makes Joan Crawford's Pierce seem tame. Lupino appears briefly as a passerby, a la Hitchcock. As with her directorial work in The Hitchhiker, Lupino's focus is character-driven. Intent on the motivations of her characters, Lupino's vision isn't narrow, simply succinct. The interaction between mother and daughter, the impact of career and familial obligation on the young tennis star, the influence of romance ---- Lupino takes these conflicts and heightens them with the strength of the main performers. (In fact, this directing style had long been labeled 'women's' directing in Hollywood and the resultant films, 'women's pictures,' even though it was men like Frank Capra directing films with that emotional style, not women.)
"Hard, Fast and Beautiful is an uneven but interesting film, though disputably a melodrama with an ending that will disappoint feminists (which Lupino claimed not to be). Darker and simpler than Mildred Pierce, the film explores the same kind of volatile mother-daughter dynamic. Lupino's direction of Forrest, a powerful young actress who had a very brief career, is taut and excellent. A few years earlier Lupino's directorial debut film, Not Wanted (1949), had starred Forrest as well, as did her 1950 film Never Fear.
"Lupino liked fresh faces, new stars and character actors over established studio stars. In a 1945 fan magazine interview, Lupino, then at the height of her acting career, made some prescient comments about her future in Hollywood, noting, 'I see myself, in the years ahead, directing or producing or both. I see myself developing new talent, which would be furiously interesting for me. For I love talent. Love to watch it. Love to help it. Am more genuinely interested in the talent of others than I am in my own.'
"Which may explain why, despite her own strength and ability as an actress, Lupino was a superb and challenging director. She claimed to have learned her directorial skills while hanging out at the Warner Brothers studio, where she was on contract for eight years. 'I paid attention,' she noted. 'I didn't stand around wasting time.'"