Barbara Loden is a unique figure in American independent cinema. Before directing her lone feature film, she was a Tony winner on Broadway and appeared in a couple of Hollywood productions. None of these endeavors seemed wholly satisfying, though. That was our good fortune, as she was driven to helm her own production and that turned out to be one of the most significant independent features ever made. That film was Wanda (1970), perhaps the most affecting story of a woman adrift in the world that I have ever seen. And that real world is inextricable from the film and my understanding and love of it. To begin with, it’s loosely based on the true story of Alma Malone, who endured a similar episode of kidnapping and robbery that ended with her incarceration, which she meekly thanked the judge for. Then, we have the fact that Barbara Loden poured all of her life into the interpretation of this story. She said it was made completely of her experiences. Finally, we have the bittersweet note that this was the only feature that Loden directed, as she succumbed to cancer ten years later without having completed another project. It’s a powerful and tragic story, both within the boundaries of the film and without. She was a pioneer and this film is a landmark achievement. I hope this encourages you to go see it.
What you’ll find in this episode: divorce court, outlaws, in-laws, cheap motels, life on the run, and the sad fate of the prettiest girl in town.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out Wanda on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Housekeeping.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Harlan County U.S.A.
The website of the Pennsylvania Anthracite History Museum.
Barbara Loden on the Mike Douglas show.