Posted by Pablo Kjolseth on October 4, 2015
Ida Lupino is the Keith Richards of female directors. Lupino was born in London during a WWI German zeppelin bombing. Richards was born in London during WWII while V1 and V2 rockets tore through the sky – thus inspiring one of my favorite lines in rock: “I was born in a cross-fire hurricane”. Richards picked up a guitar to became the ultimate bad-boy of rock-and-roll and was exiled from his own country. Lupino was quoted in the Hollywood Reporter as saying “My father once said to me, ‘You’re born to be bad,”… And it was true. I made eight films in England before I came to America, and I played a tramp or a slut in all of them.” Richards blazed his own path. So did Lupino, who recognized that the studio was treating her like “the poor man’s Bette Davis” so she got behind the camera and joined the ranks of directors like Sam Fuller and Don Siegel, cinema rogues who found inspiration in dark alleys as they tackled tough subjects on their own terms.
One such tough subject would be rape, the subject of Lupino’s Outrage (1950). Although latter film falls under the rubric of her first wave of “woman’s social issues” films, preceded by Not Wanted and Never Fear (both 1949), Outrage has noirish elements that include inspired camera angles, expressionistic lighting, and long shadows. As the whistling predator picks up his pace along the dark streets ready to pounce on our protagonist, Peter Lorre comes to mind from M (1931). Given its minuscule budget limitations, Outrage never gets as lavish as a Fritz Lang production, but Lupino’s eye for detail is impressive. After the attack our protagonist returns home and collapses, framed behind the bars of her bed in a way that suggest imprisonment. Indeed, what follows is the self-imprisonment of paranoia and real jail time.
Outrage was the second post-Production Code film to come out of Hollywood to tackle rape – the first was Johnny Belinda (Jean Negulesco, 1948). Lupino was the second woman to be inducted into the Director’s Guild (first being Dorothy Arzner), but Lupino was the only female director working in Hollywood in the 1950′s – nevermind the fact that she was an actress, writer, and producer too. And with The Hitch-hiker (1953) she became the first woman to helm a hart-hitting film noir – in this case one based on real-life serial killer William Cook. Noir-wise I first came across Lupino as the blind woman in Nicholas Ray’s On Dangerous Ground (1951) – a film I saw at Telluride. Was it there that I heard she had directed part of the film while Ray was ill? I can’t remember and will let more alert readers chime in.
It’s interesting to me how both Outrage and The Hitch-hiker don’t take the short-cut of making the villains one-dimensional bad guys to be terminated Death Wish-style. In both cases Lupino makes it clear that the villains had an abusive childhood, which never forgives the crime but at least adds what should be a note of understanding as to how such acts don’t come out of a vacuum.
Richard Boone, star of the Have Gun, Will Travel television series, was a fan of The Hitch-hiker and recruited Lupino to helm her first television series. Throughout the decades that followed she would find most of her work as the director of a variety of TV shows, including a Twilight Zone episode I screened last night. The Masks (1964) has the distinction of being the only episode of The Twilight Zone to be directed by a woman. She also starred in a Twilight Zone episode before that titled The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine (1959).
I’m tempted to go into her three marriages (and three divorces) as a way of further highlighting her independence, but let’s leave it at this: Ida Lupino was one cool and badass player, and as I look at her extensive filmography, be it as actress, writer, producer, or director, I clearly have a lot of catching up to do.
October’s TCM spotlight is on “Trailblazing Women – Behind the Movies, Ahead of Their Time,” which will feature movies by female directors on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the month. TCM will be screening Outrage this Tuesday night, also The Bigamist (Lupino, 1953), and on Thursday a movie in which Lupino acted, Fight for Your Lady (Ben Stoloff, 1938). For further reading:
MovieMorlocks.com is the official blog for TCM. No topic is too obscure or niche to be excluded from our film discussions. And we welcome your comments on our blogs and bloggers.
See more: facebook.com/tcmtv
See more: twitter.com/tcm
3-D Academy Awards Action Films Actors Actors' Endorsements Actresses animal stars Animation Anime Anthology Films Art Direction Art in Movies Asians in Hollywood Australian CInema Autobiography Avant-Garde Aviation Awards B-movies Beer in Film Behind the Scenes Best of the Year lists Biography Biopics Black Film Blu-Ray Books on Film Boxing films British Cinema Canadian Cinema Character Actors Chicago Film History Cinematography Classic Films College Life on Film Comedy Comic Book Movies Crime Czech Film Dance on Film Digital Cinema Directors Disaster Films Documentary Drama DVD Early Talkies Editing Educational Films European Influence on American Cinema Experimental Exploitation Fairy Tales on Film Faith or Christian-based Films Family Films Film Composers Film Criticism Film Festival 2015 film festivals Film History in Florida Film Noir Film Scholars Film titles Filmmaking Techniques Films About Gambling Films of the 1930s Films of the 1960s Films of the 1970s Films of the 1980s Food in Film Foreign Film French Film Gangster films Genre Genre spoofs HD & Blu-Ray Holiday Movies Hollywood history Hollywood lifestyles Horror Horror Movies Icons independent film Italian Film Japanese Film Korean Film Literary Adaptations Martial Arts Melodramas Memorabilia Method Acting Mexican Cinema Moguls Monster Movies Movie Books Movie Costumes movie flops Movie locations Movie lovers Movie Magazines Movie Reviewers Movie settings Movie Stars Movie titles Movies about movies Music in Film Musicals New Releases Outdoor Cinema Paranoid Thrillers Parenting on film Pirate movies Polish film industry political thrillers Politics in Film Pornography Pre-Code Producers Race in American Film Remakes Revenge Road Movies Romance Romantic Comedies Russian Film Industry Satire Scandals Science Fiction Screenwriters Semi-documentaries Serials Set design/production design Short Films Silent Film silent films Social Problem Film Spaghetti Westerns Sports Sports on Film Stereotypes Straight-to-DVD Studio Politics Stunts and stuntmen Suspense thriller Swashbucklers TCM Classic Film Festival TCM Underground Television The British in Hollywood The Germans in Hollywood The Hungarians in Hollywood The Irish in Hollywood Theaters Thriller Trains in movies U.S.S. Indianapolis Underground Cinema VOD War film Westerns Women in the Film Industry Women's Weepies