Celebrating Ida Lupino, Born On This Day in 1918

We would talk about Ida Lupino as one of the greats even if she never directed any movies. She was an excellent and versatile performer and she communicated a special kind of self-sufficiency on screen, even when the part as written called for a plot-driving arm-ornament. She was lovely to look at, and her initial success in Hollywood was greatly dependent upon her beauty, but she quickly won the admiration of her directors, even notorious tough guys like Raoul Walsh, even as she pushed back against bad scripts – she spent a lot of time on suspension for refusing bad parts or rewriting her lines to fit her conception of the character.

Her performances in HIGH SIERRA, ROAD HOUSE (especially) and ON DANGEROUS GROUND (which she partially directed, uncredited) establish her as a three-dimensional human being, and even in lesser films she brings more to the part than was likely intended, or expected. Audiences knew they could expect honesty from her and she held up her end of the deal.

But what really sets Lupino’s story apart from the rest is her directing career. While on her numerous punitive suspensions she began to haunt the editing rooms and observe the day-to-day work of producers, directors and technicians with a more discerning eye. Eventually she made the plunge herself and wrote and produced a film called NOT WANTED. When the director, Elmer Clifton had a heart attack, she finished the film as director. She was good at it and went on to direct a number of fine films including the highly controversial OUTRAGE, which deals with the subject of rape; THE HITCH HIKER, a virtual model of noir suspense; and THE BIGAMIST, a dark melodrama in which she plays a leading role as well as directing.

Her great ability to deliver excellent material on low budgets made her a sought-after TV director and in fact she directed scores of television episodes, all the while serving as a mentor and inspiration for others who wanted to develop their talents without gender or other restrictions.

Ida Lupino stands tall as she directs RIFLEMAN star Chuck Connors