My agent had told me that he was going to make me the Janet Gaynor of England – I was going to play all the sweet roles…

Whereupon, at the tender age of thirteen, I set upon the path of playing nothing but hookers.

Ida Lupino

Is it any wonder she turned to directing? In an era, I might add, when that was a nearly impossible career choice for a woman. Have times changed? Not much. The percentage of women directing films and TV now is under 10 percent. Will times change? Darlings, that is inevitable.

Back to glorious Ida Lupino, born of a long line of entertainers in London 1918, she was called to Hollywood in 1933. Two years later Ms. Lupino — becoming more and more canny about the studio system and the art of filmmaking, and desirous of something a little more pithy to do than wave a fan over Claudette Colbert’s head in Cleopatra — received her first studio rebuke, and her first suspension. She was often suspended from her contract in her long acting career. During one of these times in 1948, she decided to start working behind the lens. She wrote, she produced, and on her first independent feature the director was struck ill, and she took over.

“If Hollywood is to remain on the top of the film world, I know one thing for sure — there must be more experimentation with out-of-the-way film subjects,” declared Ida Lupino, the DGA’s second female director member and one of its most prolific. In her day, she “tackled subjects that were pretty daring at the time – unwed mothers, under the table payoffs in amateur tennis, a hitchhiker’s cross-country crime spree, bigamy and polio.” In the early 1950s, this was no small feat, especially under the constant scrutiny of the Production Code Administration. A pioneer of independent, low-budget films, she later made the transition to television, directing episodes for 56 different series. On the set, she preferred being called “mother” and avoided ordering her crew around. “I’d say, ‘Darlings, mother has a problem. I’d love to do this. Can you do it? It sounds kooky, but I want to do it. Now can you do it for me?’ And they do it – they just do it.” Her director’s chair read: “Mother of all of us.”

via The Director’s Guild of America: Ida Lupino.

If you read along on the blog you will know I am near completion on a novel about a Hollywood babysitter’s unlikely rise to studio boss. I’ve toyed with the idea of calling it Snowball in Hell, settled on You Don’t Own Me, and recently (and since it centers on the longstanding relationships of five women, who meet young and stand together) I’m toying with calling it You and I are Certainly Simpatico. Here’s to the pioneering spirit of Ida Lupino.

 

16 comments

  1. Ida Lupino is one of my heroines – with such a ‘born in a trunk’ history, I was never not going to fall in love with her. However, I wanted to be Rosalind Russell when I grew up! Then I grew up, saw Cabaret and wanted to be Liza. Liza, you note, not Sally Bowles.

      • I’d have to check but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she went back to the late 18th-century at least. I can just see a Lupino great-grandfather alongside Siddons, probably playing Feste or Malvolio. And wouldn’t you put money on him being seen guzzling a tankard of beer with Grimaldi? (don’t pull me up on the dates!) I should be in bed but I can’t sleep. I’m sure I did know Ida’s full family history at one point but my major “I’ve fallen deeply in love with Hollywood” bout of reading was mostly when I was a teenager so all things I picked up then are just too hazy these days. In fact, I read so much that I read myself out, back and through the subject and I’ve rarely read a book about film since. Sad in a way. As for Novello, she rather lost out there with his early death. Mind you, I suspect she might not have discovered him to be much of a mentor had he lived and I’ve always thought that that is what a godparent is for!

      • I watched an old film from 1933 last night, “I Lived with You” written by Ivor Novello, starring Ivor Novello, and featuring Ida. I can see why he was a West End sensation. Great comedic sense and real whimsy — and kind of odd that his goddaughter (at 15) was cast as a vixen shop girl having an affair with her boss…

      • Reading the article…One of her uncles (?) played Nana in the original Peter Pan production in 1904…I LOVE THAT. Now that’s a photo I am going to search out, if it exists. Get some rest wonderful one.

      • I know! I meant to tell you that when I commented above because I just knew you’d love that fact as much as me! It’s an absolutely riveting story. Did I ever tell you that my father played Mr Darling but not Captain Hook? It was just before I was born so it must have been 1955. Evelyn Laye played Mrs Darling and omg I’ve completely forgotten who played Peter. Oh, Sarah, that’s appalling! Got it (because I checked!) – it was Pat Kirkwood. I wonder if that was the year that Prince Philip was, if the rumours were true, having his affair with Kirkwood?! But the best thing of all – except that my father never had any decent stories to tell about him – was that the inimitable Donald Wolfitt was playing Hook. I don’t know why that happened. Did Wolfitt not want to play Father? Did the management think that it wouldn’t be so obvious if he was three sheets to the wind playing Hook or simply that he was too old for Mr D? This is a long-winded way of saying I have a marvellous book about all the productions from the first up to and including my father’s one and there are photos of the first and of Nana. In fact, I sell one of the pictures on a card. Ironically, it’s the scene in which Father is in the kennel and not Nana! https://www.zazzle.com/z/oepnl?rf=238506839148079358

  2. When I was a glamorous little boy in retched Fontana…the boy who lived in the pink house on Orchid Street. I lived for summer time when in the flattening heat of the Santa Ana winds I would curl up under the swamp cooler in the den and watch re-runs on TV all day long. One of my absolute favorites was “Mr. Adams And Eve”. With with real life married stars Howard Duff and Ida Lupino playing reel life movie stars Eve Drake and Howard Adams who just happened to be married to …each other! It was an escape to an imaginary Hollywood only 60 miles away by car but light years away it seemed in accessibility. I was always drawn to Hollywood stories in sitcoms. Like when Greer Garson came to town in Father Knows Best, my favorite I Love Lucys are the Hollywood episodes. But this show, this was all about a funny, loving, lovable pair of movie stars that you just knew would be the perfect next door neighbors …if only I could have figured a way to get to Bel Air! Here is an episode just for fun. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkwc08JTA0k

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