Juleen Compton was an independent American filmmaker—and one of the only women making features during the decade—working in both Europe and the United States during the 1960s. As a teenager, in the 1950s, Compton moved from Phoenix to New York City, where she became part of the tight-knit theater community; she was close friends with playwright Clifford Odets; and studied acting with Lee Strasberg who recommended that she take classes with Harold Clurman, co-founder of the Group Theatre. In 1961 Compton and Clurman were married until his death in 1980. During these years, Compton began a successful career in real estate and interior design; a secondary profession that would finance her work as an independent filmmaker.
Compton’s first feature was the autobiographical Stranded, which she wrote, directed, starred in, self-financed and distributed. Released in 1965, the film shares the cinematic experimentation and stylish, youth-centric rebellion of the French New Wave made even more radical by its progressive portrayals of female independence and sexuality, beatnik culture, and discussions of homosexuality.
Stranded follows Raina, a young American woman (played by Compton), traveling through Greece with her American lover (Gary Collins), and her French, gay, best friend (Gian Pietro Calasso). Raina partakes in several love affairs rejecting marriage offers for no other reason than she likes her life the way it is. Made just prior to the arrival of second wave feminism, Compton, as writer-director, never judges her on-screen alter-ego the way similar female characters were frequently punished in other films during this era by stigmatizing female sexuality.
Compton’s drive to make her first movie without any formal filmmaking training was similar to Raina’s pursuit of living life on her own terms. Compton made the picture for under $300,000, investing her own money into the project. It screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1965 and had a theatrical run in Paris, but has rarely been seen since.—Maya Montañez Smukler