A Tribute to Ida Lupino
It’s no exaggeration to say that Ida Lupino was born to be in the entertainment business. Her father was a famous dance hall performer in England, and her mother was known as the fastest tap dancer alive. She began performing at 10, entered the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at 13, and first appeared on film at 15.
But while she did fulfill her early promise and became a movie star, and later on one of the most prolific women directors in Hollywood history, she never quite reached the top rank of movie people. She did it all, though.
Born in England on February 4, 1918, Ida Lupino eventually found her way to Hollywood in 1935, with advance billing as the “Jean Harlow of England,” but her talent was wasted in second-rate films. In 1938, at the ripe old age of 20, she decided not to renew her contract with Paramount, and became an independent.
Dumping the platinum blonde hair and heavy makeup, she returned to her normal dark hair color, and fought her way into a role in the William Wellman-directed The Light That Failed (1939), gaining critical acclaim. This was followed by more B films, but also some meaty roles in They Drive by Night (1940), High Sierra (1941), and The Hard Way (1942); she won the New York Film Critics Award as best actress for the latter film.
In 1948 she and her husband Collier Young formed their own filmmaking company, The Filmmakers. In 1950, when the directory of Not Wanted suffered a heart attack, Ida took over as director; it was the start of another career for her. She directed five more films for her company, and was described as an actor’s director. Her films mostly tackled themes that other movie companies didn’t deal with, and approached them in an uncompromising manner.
Lupino continued both her acting and directing careers in the 1950s, but by 1956 made the transition to television, as both an actor and a director. She directed episodes of shows such as The Untouchables, The Fugitive, and Bewitched, and appeared as a guest star on Bonanza,Columbo, and Charlie’s Angels, among others. Her last theatrical film directing job was The Trouble With Angels (1966), starring Rosalind Russell and Hayley Mills.
Lupino had one daughter, with her third husband, Howard Duff, who she married in 1951 and divorced in 1984. She formally retired from movies and TV in 1978, and died of a stroke on August 3, 1995. She was a strong voice for women in films, and a great credit to her show business family. Please enjoy this tribute article, originally written in 2003 in honor of 85th birthday.
Part II: Ida Lupino Tributes and Other Pages
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find Her Movies
Part IV: Photos, Art, and Posters