A Year: Day to Day Men: 3rd of August, Solar Year 2018

Heart and Soul

August 3, 1995 marks the passing of Anglo-American actress Ida Lupino.

Dubbed “the English Jean Harlow”, Ida Lupino was discovered by Paramount in the 1933 film “Money for Speed”, playing a good girl/bad girl dual role. She was asked to try out for the lead role in the 1933 “Alice in Wonderland”. When she arrived in Hollywood, the Paramount producers did not know what to make of their sultry potential leading lady, but she did get a five-year contract.

Mark Hellinger, associate producer at Warner Bros., was impressed by Lupino’s performance in the 1939 film “The Light That Failed” and hired her for the femme-fatale role in the Raoul Walsh-directed “ They Drive by Night’, opposite stars George Raft, Ann Sheridan and Humphrey Bogart. The film did well and the critical consensus was that Lupino stole the movie, particularly in her unhinged Courtroom appearance. Warner Brothers offered her a contract which she negotiated to include some freelance rights. She worked with Raoul Walsh and Bogart again in the 1941 “High Sierra”, where she impressed critic Bosley Crowther of the New York Times in her role as “adoring moll”.

The 1949 film “Never Fear” was Ida Lupino’s first director’s credit.  After producing four more films about social issues, including “Outrage”, a 1950 film about rape, Lupino directed in 1953 her first hard-paced, all-male-cast film, “The Hitch-Hiker”, making her the first woman to direct a film noir. The Filmakers, the studio Lupino and her husband Collier Young formed, went on to produce 12 feature films, six of which Lupino directed or co-directed, five of which she wrote or co-wrote, three of which she acted in, and one of which she co-produced.

Lupino’s Filmakers movies dealt with unconventional and controversial subject matter that studio producers would not touch, including out-of-wedlock pregnancy, bigamy, and rape. She described her independent work as “films that had social significance and yet were entertainment based on true stories, things the public could understand because they had happened or been of news value.” She focused on women’s issues for many of her films and she liked strong characters.

Ida Lupino was the only woman working in the 1950s Hollywood studio system to become a pioneering director and producer. Her interests outside the entertainment industry included writing short stories and children’s books, and composing music. Her composition “Aladdin’s Suite” was performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in 1937. Lupino has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for contributions to the fields of television and film.

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