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Ida Lupino: Star of the Month
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Ida Lupino Profile
* Films in Bold Type Air on 8/27

Ida Lupino, actress, director and producer, entered show business at the moment of her birth. For hundreds of years the Lupino family has been in the theater, first in its native Italy and later in England, where Ida was born on February 4, 1918 to theater star Stanley Lupino and his wife, actress Connie Emerald. As a child, she was taught the basics of acting, tumbling, and stagecraft by her parents.

When she was only thirteen, Ida Lupino joined the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and not long after, accompanied her mother to an audition for a part in a film called Her First Affaire (1933) directed by the noted American director Allan Dwan. It was Connie Emerald who wanted the part but it was her daughter who was hired. Lupino later noted, "[A]t the tender age of thirteen, I set upon the path of playing nothing but hookers."

In her earliest roles in England she played much older parts, usually as a heavily made-up, bleached blonde tart, and she was billed as the "Jean Harlow of England". Within a year she was in Hollywood, signed to a contract at Paramount Studios, and playing small roles in films like Peter Ibbetson (1935), Anything Goes (1936), and Artists and Models (1937). Unhappy with the direction her career was taking, she left Paramount for Warner Brothers. It was here that Lupino was finally given a chance to shine in The Light That Failed (1939) opposite Ronald Colman. The role did not come easily to Lupino. She is supposed to have stolen the script, memorized a scene and broken into director William Wellman's office, forcing him to let her audition. Her co-star Colman did not want Lupino at first because he was hoping to get Vivien Leigh. Lupino managed to impress not only Colman, but the critics who highly praised her performance. It was the role which, as Mary G. Hurd wrote in her book Women Directors, "introduced Lupino's signature acting style which emerged as a cynical outwardly tough persona. While she was at Warner Brothers, she starred in They Drive by Night ([directed by] Raoul Walsh, 1940), High Sierra ([directed by] Raoul Walsh, 1941),The Hard Way ([directed by] Vincent Sherman, 1943), and Deep Valley ([directed by] Jean Negulesco, 1947)."

Her time at Warner Brothers was as frustrating as her experience at Paramount. Typecast – as she once put it – as "a poor man's Bette Davis", and unhappy with the roles the studio was trying to force upon her, Lupino spent a lot of time on suspension. Instead of taking a trip to Europe or New York, as many other stars in her situation, Lupino hung around movie sets, becoming friends with directors and learning their techniques. When she left Warner Brothers in 1947, Ida Lupino decided to expand her horizons and became a freelancer, not attached to any one studio. She also became a writer.

Lupino had been writing scripts since the age of 7 and had never stopped. In 1948 she and her second husband Collier Young formed an independent production company which they called "Emerald Productions" after Lupino's mother. It would later change to "The Filmmakers" in 1950. Their mission statement was, as Annette Kuhn wrote in Queen of the 'B's': Ida Lupino Behind the Camera, "to make high-quality but low-cost films with unorthodox and provocative subject-matter - films which, if they delivered a message, did so without being "preachy" – and to provide opportunities for new acting and technical talent (actors Keefe Brasselle, Sally Forrest, and Mala Powers were Filmmakers' discoveries). Between 1949 and 1954 Emerald Productions and The Filmmakers produced at least twelve feature films. Lupino directed or co-directed six of these, scripted or co-scripted at least five, produced or co-produced at least one, and acted in three."

In the 1950's, Ida Lupino was the only female director in Hollywood, and was only the second woman to be inducted into the Director's Guild (the first being Dorothy Arzner). Her films were not block-busters and at the time were not critical successes, but they featured strong women and touched upon subjects that could not even be named – her film Outrage (1950) was about rape and its aftermath on the victim. Although her directing career moved into television by the late 1950s and she would only direct one other motion picture The Trouble with Angels (1966), Ida Lupino's career helped to break down barriers for women in Hollywood.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Lupino moved into producing. Along with Dick Powell, Charles Boyer and David Niven, she formed the highly lucrative Four Star Productions (later Four Star Television) which produced several popular television shows such as The Big Valley, The Rifleman, Wanted: Dead or Alive, and Burke's Law. Her acting career continued as well, including her own series Mr. Adams and Eve, co-starring her third husband, actor Howard Duff. This stormy marriage produced Lupino's only child, a daughter named Bridget, after whom Duff and Lupino named their production company which was responsible for producing the series. Mr. Adams and Eve would receive two Emmy nominations during its two year run.

Ida Lupino continued to work as a television director until the late 1960s on shows like Gilligan's Island, Bewitched, The Twilight Zone, The Untouchables, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and Daniel Boone, and as an actress until the late 1970s. She died on August 3, 1995 from heart failure while battling cancer.

by Lorraine LoBianco

Sources:
Hard, Fast and Beautiful by Richard Armstrong
Women Directors by Mary G. Hurd
Queen of the 'B's': Ida Lupino Behind the Camera by Annette Kuhn
Wikipedia.org
The Internet Movie Database

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