Cast & Crew
Seemingly destined for success, dancer Carol Williams and her partner Guy Richards celebrate the end of a fine performance at Club 18 and dream of the fame and fortune to come. Their dreams are suddenly shattered, however, when Carol suffers from blurred vision and is diagnosed with Poliomyelitis by Dr. Hugh Taylor. Carol despairs and believes that she will never walk or dance again. Scheduled for months of physical therapy under the care of doctors at the Kabat Kaiser Institute, Carol is told that she will be able to walk again only if she maintains the will to do so. Meanwhile, Guy, desperate for work now that he has no dance partner, takes a job as a realtor. At a hospital picnic, Carol begins to show signs of progress and joins her new friend Len Randall, a wheelchair-bound patient who has provided her with inspiration, in a square dance. Carol is in love with Len, and when Guy shows up at the hospital with an engagement ring for her, she refuses it and tells Guy that selling houses is no life for him. Carol says she will not allow Guy to become her "nursemaid," but he insists that he still loves her and will do anything to keep her. Unable to understand her change of heart, Guy asks Carol what is troubling her, and she shouts back, angrily, "I'm a cripple, Guy, that's what's the matter with me!" Guy is determined to win Carol back, and when they take a drive to talk matters over, he turns to Carol and pleads with her to "be a woman" for him. She rejects his advances and asks him to find another woman to take care of his needs. Guy eventually gives up hope that he and Carol will ever be reunited and begins a romance with his secretary. On her twenty-first birthday, Carol, now able to take her first steps, is visited by Guy, who tells her that he has taken her advice and quit the real estate business and found another dance partner. Carol is hurt by the news but hides her pain from Guy. Len comforts Carol when she becomes hysterical and screams out her frustration, but he, too, hurts her when he tells her that he will be going back to his wife when he is released. On the day of her release from the Kabat Kaiser Institute, Carol has difficulty walking down the street alone, and is jealous of those who are able to walk freely. As she limps along, Guy shows up unexpectedly and they embrace in a kiss.
John E. Dowsing Jr.
O. Leonard Huddleston M.d.
Van Nest Polglase
Wm. H. Ziegler
Never Fear was a very personal project for Lupino. In 1934, the year she started appearing in U.S. films, she contracted polio herself. Although hers proved to be a mild case, leaving her with weakness in her right hand and leg, she still remembered the fears that had assailed her during her illness. In the late '40s and early '50s, the disease began spreading, particularly among children between five and nine, the ages at which infection posted the greatest risk of paralysis and death. Although the White House press corps did a great deal to hide the level of President Franklin Roosevelt's paralysis, his status as a polio survivor had greatly increased public awareness of the disease. Given her personal connection to the subject and her interest in creating low-budget films about social issues, the subject was a natural for Lupino. To add to the connection, she suffered an injury before production that required her to direct the film from a wheelchair.
As with the other films she made with Young, the film is shot simply, in near, documentary style, and features two of Lupino's acting protégées - Forrest, who resembles the younger Lupino, and Keefe Brasselle, as her dancing partner and fiancé. The two had appeared previously in Not Wanted. The film's key supporting role is played by Hugh O'Brian in his first credited film role (he had played a bit as a sailor in 1948's Kidnapped). Years before he achieved stardom on the Western series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, he plays a fellow patient whose courage inspires Forrest to stop feeling sorry for herself and get on with her rehabilitation. Lupino also cast her sister, Rita Lupino, in a supporting role.
Not wanting to commercialize the subject matter, Lupino and Young decided not to seek studio funding. Instead, they put together a $151,000 budget, small even by '40s standards, out of their own money and investments from friends. They rented space at the California Studio but did most of their shooting on location. Forrest's rehabilitation scenes were shot at the Kabat-Kaiser Institute in Santa, Monica, CA. Many of the extra roles were filled by patients there, who were shown going through their own rehabilitation process. For the clinic's square dance, Lupino used members of a wheelchair dance group. Once the film was completed, they released it through the U.S.-based British distributor Eagle-Lion as a production of The Filmakers, which had replaced Emerald Productions as their family production company.
Howard Hughes was so impressed with what Lupino and Young had done on their meager budget that he invited them to set up their own production unit at RKO Pictures. RKO would release her next three films as director, Outrage, Hard, Fast and Beautiful and The Hitch-Hiker (1953). Unfortunately, audiences didn't share his enthusiasm. Historians have argued that the prevalence of polio in the news actually hurt Never Fear at the box office; audiences wanted to escape from the harsh realities of life rather than confronting them. With the dissolution of Eagle-Lion in 1951, the film entered a kind of cinematic limbo. Eventually, Selznick International Pictures picked up the original camera negative. ABC Pictures International bought the Selznick library in 1978 and donated its nitrate elements, including Never Fear, to the Museum of Modern Art. Since the film had been out of circulation for decades, the negative was still in good condition, making it relatively easy for MoMA to create a fine-grain master and 35mm exhibition prints. Never Fear is the first feature length film directed by a woman that MoMA preserved, and since that time, works by Shirley Clarke and Yvonne Rainer amongst other female filmmakers have been preserved.
Director: Ida Lupino
Producer: Lupino, Collier Young
Screenplay: Lupino, Young
Based on the novel Midnight and Jeremiah by Sterling North
Cinematography: Archie Stout
Score: Leith Stevens
Cast: Sally Forrest (Carol Williams), Keefe Brasselle (Guy Richards), Hugh O'Brian (Len Randall), Eve Miller (Phyllis Townsend), Lawrence Dobkin (Dr. Middleton), Rita Lupino (Josie).
A May 1950 news item in Daily Variety notes that the title of this film was changed to The Young Lovers following its opening run in several cities. Although a print of this film bearing the title They're Called Young Lovers has been located, it May have been a television release title. The following written prologue appears at the beginning of the film: "This is a true story. It was photographed where it happened. Our grateful thanks to the many who made this motion picture possible." A contemporary news item in Los Angeles Examiner notes that director/actress Ida Lupino was diagnosed with polio at age sixteen and was successfully treated for paralysis in her right hand. An undated New York Times pre-production news item in the AMPAS clipping file announced Frank Cavett as the intended director of the picture.
This film marked Lupino's first directorial credit, and the acting debut of Hugh O'Brian. A contemporary news item notes that Lupino was diagnosed with polio at age sixteen and was successfully treated for paralysis in her right hand. An April 1949 news item in Daily Variety indicated that Anson Bond was to be the associate producer of the film, and that Leo Penn was set for a starring role. Bond and Penn were involved in Lupino's previous co-production with her then husband, Collier Young, Not Wanted (see below), but they did not participate in this film. Contemporary news items note that the name of Young and Lupino's production company, Emerald Productions, was changed to The Filmakers during the making of the picture.
According to an April 1950 New York Times news item, Lupino and Collier did not seek funding from the major studios, and instead used their own and their friends' money to make the film and cast Lupino's sister Rita in the film. Howard Hughes, after previewing the film, was said to have been so impressed with what Lupino and Collier accomplished on a $151,000 budget that he gave them a nine-month contract to join RKO as an independent producing unit. On May 31, 1949, Hollywood Reporter noted that the film would be produced for Film Classics release, but subsequently reported on September 19, 1949 that it had been withdrawn from release by that company. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item dated April 25, 1949, the film was to be shot at California Studio, although the same publication notes on August 30, 1949 that the film was to be shot entirely on location. Never Fear was shot at least in part on location at the Kabat Kaiser Institute in Santa Monica, CA, and marked the screen debut of actor Hugh O'Brian.