I is for Ida Lupino!
Starting out as a film actress in 1931, Ida Lupino proceeded to carve a career path unlike anyone else in the history of Hollywood – and consequently became one of the most fascinating personalities in entertainment – though she’s not remembered as much as she should be, considering. Ida Lupino was born in England and encouraged into show business by both parents.
She attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts for two terms, then made her film debut in The Love Race. Lupino starred in over a dozen films in the mid-1930s, a few in England, the rest in America after she emigrated in 1933. She took to calling herself the “poor man’s Bette Davis” as she often took the roles that Bette Davis refused.
She was signed to a contract by Warner Brothers and into the 1940’s, Lupino appeared in high profile roles in movies like They Drive by Night and High Sierra – but she also took to refusing roles she considered “beneath her dignity as an actress.” The studio would then suspend her from work as punishment.
|Aiding Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in some sleuthing in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939).|
Consequently she would spend her time in suspension going to the studio and hanging around with directors, studying their processes and learning all she could about their job.
She described herself as being bored on set while "someone else seemed to be doing all the interesting work." She and husband Collier Young formed an independent filmmaking company, The Filmakers - and while saving up for that other M Lupino became a producer, director and screenwriter of low-budget films, most dealing with social issues the major studios wouldn't touch. The Filmakers would go on to produce twelve feature films, six of which Lupino directed or co-directed; and five of which she wrote or co-wrote. She also acted in three of them. Lupino claims she didn't set out to be a director, but she was thrust into the role unexpectedly in 1949 when Elmer Clifton had a heart attack and couldn't finish Not Wanted. She finished the film, but let Clifton keep sole credit as director. She directed four pictures that tackled subjects like pregnancy and rape, then became the first woman to direct a film noir - The Hitchhiker (1953).
Lupino was known to joke that "if she had been the poor man's Bette Davis as an actress, then she had become the poor man's Don Siegel as a director."
She continued to act and direct throughout the 1950's and 1960's - although she moved into television directing and gave up features in the 60's. She directed episodes of shows as diverse as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Thriller, Have Gun – Will Travel, The Donna Reed Show, Gilligan's Island, 77 Sunset Strip, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, The Rifleman, The Virginian, Sam Benedict, The Untouchables, The Fugitive, Bewitched, and The Twilight Zone - a show for which she was the only female director, and the only person to direct an episode (The Masks) and star in one (The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine).
She guest starred on a wide range of TV shows into the 70's, made two interesting genre film appearances - in The Devil's Rain (1975) - for which she won the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress - and Food of the Gods (1976) for director Bert I. Gordon. Lupino retired after filming the independent feature My Boys Are Good Boys with Ralph Meeker in 1978. Ida Lupino lived a quiet life in Hollywood in retirement and worked on her memoirs until her passing in 1995 at the age of 77. Her memoirs were published posthumously.
|Having a spat with a rat in Bert I. Gordon's Food of the Gods (1976).|
I've always loved seeing her many directing credits pop up on my TV - and she was a good actress as well. Definitely check out some Ida Lupino films when you get a chance - you won't be sorry!
This was fun, let's do it again, say, about 24 hours from now? Until then, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!