Early female film producer/director/wr
iter Ida Lupino
I've got a thread up in Films, with a link to an early film of hers, and a link to a feminist essay about her work- very few people will know Ida Lupino (I knew she'd been a top star of the Film Noir genre in the 1940s, but had no idea about her later career), and I wanted to share my discovery with anyone interested in old movies and/or the history of women in cinema. I hope someone finds it interesting.
Thanks for that BoF. Really interesting. Interesting as well that although she directed the original film, she's all but been eradicated in terms of profile.
So much of her output seems to give a bleak analysis of the consequence of transgressing gender roles, while simultaneously showing how conformism leads to frustration and stultification it's a very interesting take on the Noir genre, which is known for showing the cynicism of The American Dream.
Honestly, there's so much stuff in there for serious film students, but I've barely seen her name mentioned.
I haven't read the essay yet but will read it this evening so will come back on that. Just read the first few lines and it sounds really fascinating. Right up my street!
But yes it does sound like her stuff has a lot to offer academically which makes her low profile even more bizarre. I suspect that 'cultural femicide' in action!
Absolutely. She's so under-rated, it's ridiculous- look at her bio on IMDB:
Ida was born in London to a show business family. In 1933, her mother brought Ida with her to an audition and Ida got the part her mother wanted. The picture was Her First Affaire (1932). Ida, a bleached blonde, came to Hollywood in 1934 and played small and insignificant parts. Peter Ibbetson (1935) was one of her few noteworthy movies and it was not until The Light That Failed (1939) that she got a chance to get better parts. In most of her movies, she was cast as the hard, but sympathetic woman from the wrong side of the tracks. In The Sea Wolf (1941) and High Sierra (1941), she played the part magnificently. It has been said that no one could do hard-luck dames the way Lupino could do them. She played tough, knowing characters who held their own against some of the biggest leading men of the day - Humphrey Bogart, Ronald Colman, John Garfield and Edward G. Robinson. She made a handful of films during the forties playing different characters ranging from Pillow to Post (1945), where she played a traveling saleswoman to the tough nightclub singer in The Man I Love (1947). But good roles for women were hard to get and there were many young actresses and established stars competing for those roles. She left Warner Brothers in 1947 and became a freelance actress. When better roles did not materialize, Ida stepped behind the camera as a director, writer and producer. Her first directing job came when director Elmer Clifton fell ill on a script that she co-wrote Not Wanted (1949). Ida had joked that as an actress, she was the poor man's Bette Davis. Now, she said that as a director, she became the poor man's Don Siegel. The films that she wrote, or directed, or appeared in during the fifties were mostly inexpensive melodramas. She later turned to Television where she directed episodes in shows such as The Untouchables (1959) and The Fugitive (1963). In the seventies, she did guest appearances on various television show and small parts in a few movies.
It utterly trivialises her contribution, and seriously undermines her triumphant path to independence: she'd actually been pursued and 'seduced' by the wealthy movie powerhouse Howard Hughes when she was just sixteen, but went on to break away from the studio system to build a career with full creative control of her projects, which was practically unheard of at the time. And her films are dismissively characterised as 'melodramas' rather than given the respect of the auteur-driven genre of Noir, which is a much more accurate label. Perhaps the rather hopeless "you can't win no matter what you do" undercurrent to her film-making comes from her own frustrating experience of rejecting male control and then finding isolation and obsolescence to be the consequence for a woman?
I think she deserves a lot more credit than she's been given.
She does indeed deserve more credit. As do all the early pioneers. Dorothy Arzner was directing Hollywood movies in the thirties and forties. It's said the very first narrative film was directed by a woman, Alice Guy-Blache. Film directing wasn't seen as a strictly male profession in the very early days of cinema.
That's interesting, alsmutko. Do you know of any good blogs/sites/podcasts etc where I can find out more?
I did a one year film studies course organised by the BFI years ago. However I just did a Google to refresh my memory and found a list of female directors on Wikipedia. There are several Wikipedia pages on women film makers around the world. The BFI is probably a good source of info too.
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