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Ida Lupino: A Biography

William Donati
Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Ida Lupino
    Book Description:

    "Ida Lupino (1918-1995) was more than a gorgeous image of film noir in the forties and fifties who starred in classics such as They Drive By Night, High Sierra, and Road House. Lupino also evolved into one of Hollywood's earliest female directors whose work was described by Martin Scorsese as ""resilient, with a remarkable empathy for the fragile and heartbroken."" William Donati chronicles the dramatic life of one of Hollywood's most prolific, substantive, and innovative artists, both behind and in front of the camera."

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4351-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Credits
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. xiii-xvi)

    One evening in April my telephone rang. “Mr. Donati, I received your letter.”

    I recognized the vibrant, low voice with the exquisite enunciation even before she said, “This is Ida Lupino.” She apologized for disturbing me at dinner, then launched into an attack on a controversial book about Errol Flynn. At the outset, her tone was soft and poised, but as she continued speaking, sparks ignited.

    “I can assure you,” she said, “that he was never a Nazi. We both hated Nazis! As for Errol being a homosexual—well, I have nothing against those gentlemen, but nothing is farther from...

  6. 1 Drama in Her Veins
    (pp. 1-16)

    In the last days of January 1918, German aircraft swooped across the Kent and Essex coasts. Their target was the heart of the British Empire. The formidable zeppelins that had once terrorized England had been replaced by Gothas, large three seater biplanes that swept over London dropping deadly explosives with devastating fury. For two consecutive nights, the Gothas penetrated the city’s defenses, and death and destruction rained down on the British Lion. The attacks left 68 Londoners dead and 183 injured. The official coroner’s report rendered a verdict of “death by misadventure due to the dropping of bombs.”

    After the...

  7. 2 Like A Little Queen
    (pp. 17-32)

    At a party celebrating her thirteenth birthday, Ida appeared dressed in her mother’s clothes and high heels. Rather tall for her age, Ida added sophistication by wearing her hair up; she made a spectacular entrance, and the guests were pleasantly surprised, especially Lupino Lane. He was directing Stanley in the zanyLove Race,and he enthusiastically insisted that Ida appear onscreen.

    “Nipper” Lane had been the first family member to achieve international screen stardom. In 1915, as a child, he was featured in a series of one-reel comedies produced by Billy Merson and Company. His great aunt, actress and theater...

  8. 3 Louis
    (pp. 33-59)

    Ida’s year in America had made a profound impression; the four months she’d spent in England had done nothing to make her want to stay. She loved the warm California sun and the high studio salary, which brought her independence. In 1934, she would earn $23,400—not bad for a newcomer, though a paltry sum compared to Mae West’s $399,166 or Marlene Dietrich’s $145,000. Yet Ida was quite comfortable, and her income allowed her to purchase a car and a small trailer that she used for jaunts in the country.

    On her return from England, Ida brimmed with eagerness. She...

  9. 4 The Years of Glory
    (pp. 60-81)

    Mark Hellinger waited anxiously in a studio projection room. As expected, a grinning Jack Warner swept in with his aides. He eased himself into a seat, and the room darkened. Hellinger was producingThey Drive by Night,and he wanted Ida Lupino for the lovely murderess. Director Raoul Walsh was ready to sign unknown Catherine Emery, so Hellinger had to move quickly. Impressed with Lupino inThe Light That Failed,he had arranged for her to make a test with George Raft. Designer Milo Anderson had created a breathtaking dress to enhance Lupino as an alluring seductress. Hellinger had spun...

  10. 5 The Hard Way
    (pp. 82-98)

    Ida was chosen for the plum role inLadies in Retirement.The play was a well-crafted psychological thriller starring Flora Robson as a murderess. The lead role was that of a woman of sixty, but producer Lester Cowan decided to take a chance on twenty-three-year-old Lupino. Harry Cohn exploded: “You are out of your mind choosing this child to play that role.” Ida was taking a big risk. Robson had been acclaimed on Broadway, and comparisons were inevitable. Director Charles Vidor wanted Ida to appear about forty years old. Ida wore scant makeup, pulled back her hair in a severe...

  11. 6 Devotion
    (pp. 99-109)

    The New York Film Critics Award was, thus far, the crowning achievement in Lupino’s career. Yet Stanley wasn’t there to share the glory. Neither was Louis, who was on active duty in Quantico, Virginia. Ida burned with an intense hatred of Germany and Japan. She roused herself from the deep lethargy brought by her father’s death and devoted free hours to the Women’s Defense Ambulance Corps, installing a switchboard in her home to monitor emergency calls. Ida seldom refused any patriotic request; she assisted the Red Cross, the USO, China Relief, Bundles for Britain and other groups. After radio shows,...

  12. 7 The Breakup
    (pp. 110-121)

    On November I, 1943, a convoy filled with troops of the Second Marine Corps left New Zealand. The full force of the tropical sun beat down on the men who thronged the steel decks and anxiously pondered their fate. During their nineteen days at sea, strategists had carefully analyzed the course of the attack. The First Division was to storm ashore on New Britain; the Second would invade the Tarawa Atoll; the Third, Bougainville.

    Captain Louis Hayward displayed a surface suavity, strong compassion and quiet courage, characteristics that impressed the dozen photographic specialists under his command. The Tarawa plan had...

  13. 8 Deep Valley
    (pp. 122-134)

    “Lupino Sisters Wed and Shed” reported newspapers. While Ida’s marriage had ended, Rita married Enrique Veledez, her dance partner.

    Shortly after giving her divorce testimony, Ida left for a six-week tour of military hospitals on the East Coast, accompanied by Frances Robinson. In the hospital wards Ida brought smiles to hundreds of recuperating servicemen. Warner Bros. hosted an expensive party in her honor at the Sherry Netherland Hotel. Among the guests were Helmut Dantine, Faye Emerson and her husband, Brigadier General Elliott Roosevelt.

    A few days later, while attempting to move a large trunk in her suite, Ida strained a...

  14. 9 Collie
    (pp. 135-146)

    Lupino at twenty-nine years old was at a crossroads in her career. Being unshackled from Warners gave her a sense of freedom and independence. The art of acting before the camera was no longer a personal challenge. Had she remained with Warner Bros. she would have guaranteed wealth. But money was secondary to her. What she wanted, more than anything, was artistic freedom. Her yearning to be her own boss led to a hasty partnership with Ben Bogeaus, an independent producer. They formed Arcadia Productions with offices at the General Service Studio and in a press release announced that Ida...

  15. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  16. 10 Filmakers
    (pp. 147-160)

    Ida had read countless scripts in search of the perfect project. Finally, she found something that spurred her to a momentous decision. She was wildly enthusiastic over a story written by Malvin Wald. According to writer Paul J errico: “I was approached by Jerry Wald, then a producer at Warner Bros. and Malvin’s brother, who asked me if I could develop an original story about unwed mothers. There wasn’t a hell of a lot of time. He said it was for Ida Lupino.” Jerrico, an accomplished professional writer, was a solid constructionist who turned in a tight, gripping first draft....

  17. 11 Howard
    (pp. 161-177)

    As Ida memorized her lines forWoman in Hiding,a melodrama about a bride whose husband tries to kill her on her honeymoon night, she received word that Ronald Reagan was out of the picture. The news disappointed Ida. At Warners she had been friendly with Reagan and his wife, Jane Wyman, and occasionally visited them at their apartment at 1326 Londonderry in Beverly Hills. She found Reagan easygoing and down-to-earth; like Lupino, he was a liberal Democrat, and both had been avid supporters of President Roosevelt. She looked forward to playing opposite Reagan, who was to have been cast...

  18. 12 The Turning Point
    (pp. 178-198)

    Nineteen fifty was a phenomenal year for Lupino. With the release ofNot Wanted, Never Fear, Outrage,andHard, Fast and Beautiful,she became Hollywood’s golden girl again, as she had been a decade before. As recognition of her new industry status, she was asked to present the Oscar for best director at the 22nd Academy Awards ceremony. Applause swept over her as she stepped to the podium. She announced Joseph Mankiewicz as the winner forA Letter to Three Wives.Said Mankiewicz: “Miss Lupino is the only woman in the Directors Guild, and the prettiest.” The press hailed her...

  19. 13 The Long Goodbye
    (pp. 199-210)

    After fourteen months of marriage, Howard said goodbye. He was barely out the front door when Louella Parsons had the story in print: “The strangest separation of all time is that of Ida Lupino and Howard Duff ... there had been no quarrel, no trouble of any kind, and Ida thought everything was going along smoothly when Howard walked out of the house. He said he was leaving and was through.”

    After hiding for a few days in Palm Springs, the wayward spouse suddenly reappeared. He telephoned Parsons, saying he had returned and everything was fine. His departure was the...

  20. 14 Mr. Adams and Eve
    (pp. 211-224)

    In December 1955, Ida announced she was joiningFour Star Playhouse.Since her first appearance two years earlier, she had eagerly returned for ten episodes. Director Roy Kellino praised Four Star’s newest addition: “She is a trouper. She is never late. She always knows her lines. She knows how to improvise. And she will stand all day on a recently broken ankle because she knows that if the picture goes into another day of shooting, it will cost more money. I admire Miss Lupino tremendously.”

    Ida adored her charming partner, David Niven. Like Ida, he was high spirited and loved...

  21. 15 Mother
    (pp. 225-238)

    It was Richard Boone who encouraged Ida to become a television director. Boone, who had a gravel voice and a face to match, began a screen career playing thugs and killers. Fame had come with the top-ratedHave Gun Will Travel.As Paladin, the cowboy troubleshooter dressed in black, Boone delighted audiences with his blazing action series. Lupino’s superb direction inThe Hitch-hikerhad caught his eye, and he invited her to direct an episode of his show. Ida much preferred being behind the camera. “Directing is much easier than acting. The actor deals in false emotions, produced on cue....

  22. 16 Alone
    (pp. 239-249)

    In January 1972, Ida headlinedWomen in Chains,a suspenseful television drama depicting brutality in a women’s prison. Ida was chilling as the sadistic matron. Next she acted in her first theatrical film in sixteen years. She and Robert Preston were cast as the parents of Steve McQueen inJunior Bonner,a contemporary western. Sam Peckinpah had achieved acclaim withThe Wild BunchandThe Ballad of Cable Hogue.His directorial skill brought success as well as criticism of his use of graphic violence. Ida boarded a plane for Prescott, Arizona, though she did not want to leave her family...

  23. 17 Madame Director
    (pp. 250-262)

    The eighties were a decade of further loss and isolation for Ida. Illness and death robbed her of her close friends. In July 1980, Reginald Gardiner passed away. His marriage had been one of the happiest in Hollywood. As Ida had told Nadia Gardiner: “Yours is the only marriage I was ever in that stayed together.”

    Collier Young remained a trusted confidant. Since the demise of Filmakers, he had achieved a prominent career as a television producer, responsible forThe Rogues, One Step Beyond,andIronside.His marriage to Joan Fontaine had ended in 1961. In divorce court Fontaine complained...

  24. 18 A Critical Appraisal
    (pp. 263-269)

    A film attains immortality because it retains a deathless audience through time. If successive generations can watch and be drawn into the story, it will survive; if not, it will disappear into the shadowy vaults of obscurity. A director also achieves timeless acclaim by the enduring success of his motion pictures. Orhermotion pictures. And what about Ida Lupino?

    New themes and new faces was Filmakers’ creed in 1949. Lupino chose to make films with socially controversial themes. As a woman director she received enormous publicity. But she never sought to exploit her sex. Having been born into show...

  25. Appendix: Ida Lupino’s Career
    (pp. 270-293)
  26. Notes
    (pp. 294-304)
  27. Sources
    (pp. 305-306)
  28. Index
    (pp. 307-327)