Noir fans know what the rest of the world needs to learn: Ida Lupino rules. The goddess of the genre had an all-purpose muse. She started out acting and then turned to directing, seeking more control over her life and her stories. In the minority of women directors (an absence continuing unaddressed: despite periodic ‘year of the woman’ claims in Hollywood, the boys continue to make movies for their own younger selves—and wonder why no one cares to go to the pictures anymore).
Lupino not only worked in an industry and genre dominated by men, she also made a lot of movies that focused on the lives of men. She was a keen observer and it gave her characters a realistic air that puts to shame the romanticized bromances of Hollywood fakery. In an era where the ‘strong silent type’ dominated the good guys, Lupino gave them a voice, never voluble or garrulous, but succinct and truthful. A good example was her film The Hitch-Hiker, where two buddies on a fishing weekend run into a murderer. Their non-verbal communication comes across both evocatively and completely natural.
Born in England, Lupino’s mother and father were performers, too. Father Stanley was a music hall comedian and her mother Connie was an actress. The acorn didn’t roll too far from the tree in character; Lupino wrote her first play at 7 and later went to RADA for her training. The snooty home of fine actors must have been a different kind of education for the young woman, but she soon tired of staid roles and made the leap to Hollywood. Moxie got her a two-picture deal with Columbia and while she called herself the “poor man’s Bette Davis” she distinguished herself in other ways.
She was a fine chanteuse, too: http://youtu.be/h1Q71t5D8ko
Lupino made a splash in films like Roadhouse, but her real magic came behind the camera. Bored by all the sitting around on set, Lupino got interested in having a hand in what got filmed. She and husband number two (of three) Collier Young formed a production company and Lupino wrote, produced and directed a bunch of films, often taking up issues that would have languished in less sure hands, like the rape-themed Outrage. While her work in front of the camera often provided the funds, it was the work behind it that fueled her passion. She faced an uphill climb in film but as the growing television business got hungry for new product Lupino found work in the new medium. According to Wikipedia, She helmed two classic Twilight Zone episodes (‘The Masks’ and the Sunset Boulevard-esque ‘Sixteen Millimeter Shrine’) as well 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 and Bewitched.
Raise a glass to fabulous lass!
Kate Laity. All-purpose writer, Fulbrighter, uberskiver, medievalist, flâneuse, techno-shamanka, Broad Universe social media wrangler, History Witch, Pirate Pub Captain. Dundee & New York · http://www.kalaity.com
9 thoughts on “He Didn’t Say That, I Did – Noir Goddess: Ida Lupino by Kate Laity”
Tip o’ the battered fedora to the Braz for allowing me to steal his column.
Splendid stuff, of course. Ida Lupino. Don’t know where I left it.
Never realised Ida Lupino was English. All hail strong women that follow their vision. Great column Kate.
Word on that, Lily! Thanks.
Reblogged this on K. A. Laity and commented:
Check out the Girl Power — erm, Killer Dames! — issue of PMM for some great stuff.
Nice job and bringing to light another side of a strong artist. – John