This morning I happened upon a short Fandor video in honor of Ida Lupino. First known as a sullen firecracker actress during the ’30s and ’40s (my strongest recollection is her husband-killing femme fatale in Raoul Walsh‘s They Drive By Night), Lupino was the first name-brand woman to make it as a Hollywood feature and TV director (late 40s to mid ’60s). And she made her features as a hip-pocket, self-funding director-producer with an indie attitude — she was John Cassevetes before Cassavetes came along.
Lupino once remarked that during her acting heyday she was “the poor man’s Bette Davis” but when she become a director she regarded herself as “the poor man’s Don Siegel.”
I’d like to post the Fandor video here but the embed code has been hidden — thanks, guys! Here instead is a restored version of Lupino’s creepy noir — The Hitchhiker (’53). Kino issued a remastered Bluray version in ’13 — I just bought a copy.
From Lupino’s Wiki page:
“Lupino and her husband Collier Young formed an independent company, The Filmakers, to produce, direct, and write low-budget, issue-oriented films. Her first directing job came unexpectedly in 1949 when director Elmer Clifton suffered a mild heart attack and could not finish Not Wanted, a film Lupino co-produced and co-wrote. Lupino stepped in to finish the film, but did not take directorial credit out of respect for Clifton. Although the film’s subject of out-of-wedlock pregnancy was controversial, it received a vast amount of publicity, and she was invited to discuss the film with Eleanor Roosevelt on a national radio program.
“Never Fear (1949) was her first director’s credit. After producing four more films about social issues, including Outrage (1950), a film about rape, Lupino directed her first hard-paced, all-male-cast film, The Hitchhiker (1953), making her the first woman to direct a film noir. The Filmakers went on to produce 12 feature films, six of which Lupino directed or co-directed, five of which she wrote or co-wrote, three of which she acted in, and one of which she co-produced.
“Although directing became Lupino’s passion, the drive for money kept her on camera, so she could acquire the funds to make her own productions. She became a wily low-budget filmmaker, reusing sets from other studio productions and talking her physician into appearing as a doctor in the delivery scene of Not Wanted. She used what is now called product placement, placing Coke, Cadillac, and other brands in her films. She shot in public places to avoid set-rental costs and planned scenes in preproduction to avoid technical mistakes and retakes.
“The Filmakers production company closed shop in 1955.
“Lupino’s last directing credit on a feature film was in 1965 for the Catholic school-girl comedy, The Trouble With Angels, starring Hayley Mills. She did not stop acting and directing, however, going on to a successful television career throughout the 1960s and ’70s.”