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As she prepared to direct her second feature film (after having assumed the responsibility from an ailing Elmer Clifton on the set of Not Wanted , which she wrote and produced with husband Collier Young), Ida Lupino signed on to star in a thriller for Universal-International, playing a beleaguered newlywed who fears her husband might be plotting her death. Based on a story by author James R. Webb, which had been serialized in the Saturday Evening Post in the spring of 1949, the production got underway that July as Fugitive from Terror (retaining Webb's original title), with Lupino slotted opposite Ronald Reagan. Lupino looked forward to working with Reagan, with whom she had been friendly at Warner Brothers but whose politics had shifted from an endorsement of the liberal policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to a rejection of Communism and a conflation of FDR's New Deal with Mussolini fascism. Elected Vice President of the Screen Actors Guild in 1946, Reagan had crashed a meeting hosted by Lupino and Young in their home for the Guild's more left-leaning members and drew jeers from the assembled (among them Sterling Hayden, John Garfield, and Howard DaSilva) for denouncing an impending labor strike as Communist-backed. The official reason for Reagan's unavailability as Fugitive from Terror went before the cameras was a leg injury sustained in a charity football game, leaving his possible disinclination to be associated with the politically progressive Lupino very much the elephant in the room.
With Reagan literally out of the picture, Universal-International substituted contract player Howard Duff as the third leg of a noir-inflected romantic triangle, in support of Lupino and Stephen McNally (replacing first choice Bruce Bennett). The star of the long-running radio drama The Adventures of Sam Spade, Duff was new to pictures but enjoyed memorable supporting roles in Jules Dassin's Brute Force (1947) and The Naked City (1948) and opposite Edward G. Robinson and Burt Lancaster in All My Sons (1948), an adaptation of Arthur Miller's controversial stage play. Lupino had met Duff years earlier and walked away with a less than favorable impression; after small talk during a yacht party, Lupino had called the handsome actor on his egotism, to which Duff replied "I couldn't care less." Dreading a rematch, Lupino was taken aback upon entering her dressing room for Woman in Hiding's first day of shooting to find a bouquet of white orchids, with a note reading "To Ida Lupino from Howard Duff... whether you hate me or not." The chemistry between the costars was palpable through the completion of principal photography in September 1949. (Lupino divorced Collier Young on September 20, 1951 and married Duff the very next day.) During shooting of Woman in Hiding, Lupino cadged free advice from director Michael Gordon about helming her first credited feature film and dealt with her own fear of heights for a vertiginous rooftop climax. Collecting an early paycheck on the production was Hollywood newcomer Tony Curtis, who can be heard but not seen as the voice of a bus driver.
The Lupino-Duff partnership would endure until 1966 (though the couple did not divorce until 1984), resulting in a handful of worthwhile onscreen pair-ups - among them Jennifer (1953, which Lupino seized from credited director Joel Newton in order to beef up Duff's role), Don Siegel's Private Hell 36 (1954), Lewis Seiler's Women's Prison (1955), and Fritz Lang's While the City Sleeps (1956). They fronted CBS' Emmy-nominated sitcom Mr. Adams and Eve (1957-1958), for which Collier Young served as executive producer, and lampooned their reputation as a Hollywood couple by appearing as themselves on a 1959 episode of the Lucy and Desi Comedy Hour (CBS, 1957-1960), in which they have the misfortune to share a vacation lodge with Ricky and Lucy Ricardo; they also played mister-and-missus super-villains on ABC's Batman (1966-1968). In demand throughout his long career, Duff enjoyed high profile roles in Robert Altman's The Late Show (1977) and A Wedding (1978) and played Dustin Hoffman's divorce lawyer in Robert Benton's Academy Award-winning Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) prior to his death in 1990. Plagued by ill health and a dependence on alcohol, Lupino limped through supporting roles in such low-budget fare as The Food of the Gods (1976) and The Devil's Rain (1975) before retiring in 1978. By the time of her death in 1995, Lupino was just beginning to be recognized as a key figure in the development of American independent film.
Producer: Michael KraikeDirector: Michael Gordon
Screenplay: Oscar Saul, Roy Huggins, based on the novel Fugitive from Terror by James Webb
Cinematography: William H. Daniels
Editing: Milton Carruth
Art Direction: Robert Clatworthy, Bernard Herzbrun
Costume Design: Orry-Kelly
Cast: Ida Lupino (Deborah Chandler Clark), Stephen McNally (Selden Clark), Howard Duff (Keith Ramsey), Peggy Dow (Patricia Monahan), John Litel (John Chandler), Taylor Holmes (Lucius Maury), Irving Bacon (Pops Link).
by Richard Harland Smith
Ida Lupino: A Biography by William Donati (University of Kentucky Press, 2000)
Ida Lupino: Beyond the Camera by Ida Lupino and Mary Ann Anderson (Bear Manor Media, 2011)
Ronald Reagan: The Hollywood Years by Marc Eliot (Harmony Books, 2008)