Ida Lupino

John Florens | Feb 27, 2024

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Ida Lupino (London, England, February 4, 1918-Los Angeles, California, United States, August 3, 1995) was an Anglo-American actress, singer, producer and film director. Throughout her 48-year career, she acted in 59 films and directed eight, working mainly in the United States, where she acquired citizenship in 1948. In Hollywood, she was the first woman since the late 1940s to simultaneously direct, write and produce films.

She is widely regarded as the most prominent filmmaker working in the 1950s during the Hollywood studio system. With her independent production company, she co-wrote and co-produced several social message films and became the first woman to direct a film noir, The Hitch-Hiker, in 1953. Among her other directed films, the best known are Not Wanted, about out-of-wedlock pregnancies (Never Fear (Outrage (The Bigamist (and The Trouble with Angels (1966). Her short but immensely influential career as a director, addressing themes of women trapped in social conventions, usually under melodramatic or film noir covers, is a pioneering example of proto-feminist cinema.

Como actriz, sus películas más conocidas son The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (High Sierra (Ladies in Retirement (Deep Valley (While the City Sleeps (y Junior Bonner (1972) con Steve McQueen.

She also directed more than 100 episodes of television shows in a variety of genres, including wésterns, supernatural tales, situation comedies, murder mysteries and gangster stories. She was the only woman to direct an episode of the original series The Twilight Zone ("The Masks"), and the only female director to star in an episode ("The Sixteen- Millimeter Shrine").

Ida Lupino was born in Herne Hill, London. Her parents were the actress Connie O'Shea (also called Connie Emerald) and the music hall artist Stanley Lupino, a man dedicated to singing and dancing, member of a British family of theater artists of Italian origin. She was born in 1918, and not in 1914, as some biographies maintain.

Ida Lupino was encouraged to enter show business by her parents and a first cousin, Lupino Lane, who had made his film debut in 1931 with The Love Race.

Stanley, her father, built a backyard theater for Ida and her sister Rita (1920-2016), who also became an actress and dancer. Ida wrote her first play at age seven and traveled with a traveling theater company as a child. By the age of ten, Ida Lupino had memorized all the leading female roles in every one of Shakespeare's plays. After her intense training as a child for plays, her uncle, Lupino Lane, helped her move into film acting, landing her work as an extra at British International Studios.

She wanted to be a writer, but, to please her father, she enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Ida excelled in a series of "bad girl" roles, often playing prostitutes. She disliked being an actress and was uncomfortable with many of the early roles she was given. She felt she had been pushed into the profession because of her family history.

Interpretive career

Ida Lupino worked as a stage and film actress. She first hit the stage in 1934 as the lead in In Search of Happiness at the Paramount Studio Theatre. Lupino made her first film appearance in The Love Race (1931) and the following year, at the age of 14, she worked with director Allan Dwan in Her First Affair, a role for which her mother had previously been cast. She played leading roles in five British films in 1933 at Warner Bros. Teddington Studios, and for Julius Hagen at Twickenham, including The Ghost Camera with John Mills and I Lived with You with Ivor Novello.

Nicknamed "the English Jean Harlow," she was discovered by Paramount in the 1933 film Money for Speed, in which she played a dual role of good girl and bad girl. Lupino claimed that talent scouts saw her playing only the sweet girl in the film and not the prostitute, so she was asked to apply for the lead role in Alice in Wonderland (1933). When she arrived in Hollywood, Paramount producers didn't know what to do with her talent, but she landed a five-year contract.

He spent a few years playing small roles: but between 1930 and 1941 he worked with great directors such as Henry Hathaway, Lewis Milestone, Rouben Mamoulian, William A. Wellman, Charles Vidor, Raoul Walsh, Michael Curtiz and Anatole Litvak.

After her performance in The Light That Failed (1939), Lupino was taken seriously as a dramatic actress, a role she acquired after walking into the director's office unannounced, demanding an audition. Warner Bros. associate producer Mark Hellinger was impressed by Lupino's performance in The Light That Failed, and hired her to star in such films as They Drive by Night (1940) and High Sierra (1941), both starring Humphrey Bogart and directed by Raoul Walsh.

She worked regularly and was in great demand in the forties, as an actress confident in her roles and intelligent in her expression, but without reaching the category of a great star. In 1946 she played Walsh's El hombre que amo, for the third time, in a valuable drama recently recovered.

During this period Lupino became known for her tough roles. As a result, her roles improved in the 1940s, and she began to describe herself as the "poor man's" Bette Davis.

Her performance in The Hard Way (1943) won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress. She starred in Pillow to Post (1945), which was her only comic role as a leading lady. After the drama Deep Valley (1947) finished filming, neither Warner Bros. nor Lupino moved to renew her contract. Although in demand during the 1940s, she arguably never became a major star, although she often had top billing in her films, ahead of such actors as Humphrey Bogart, and was repeatedly praised for her realistic and straightforward style.

She often provoked the ire of studio head Jack Warner by opposing his casting overtures, turning down poorly written roles that she considered beneath her dignity as an actress, and making revisions to scripts deemed unacceptable by the studio. As a result, she spent much of her time at Warner Bros. on suspension. In 1942, she turned down an offer to star with Ronald Reagan in Kings Row, and was immediately suspended from the studio. Eventually, a tentative rapprochement was negotiated, but her relationship with the studio remained strained.

In 1947, Lupino left Warner Brothers to become a freelance actress, appearing for 20th Century Fox as a disco singer in the film noir Road House, performing her musical numbers in the film. She also starred in On Dangerous Ground in 1951, and it may have been she who took on some of the film's directing duties while director Nicholas Ray was ill.

Career as director, writer and producer - The Filmakers Inc.

After a suspension in the late 1940s, Lupino had plenty of time to observe the filming processes and became interested in behind-the-camera work and film directing. She described how bored she was on the set while "someone else seemed to be doing all the interesting work."

She and her then-husband, producer and screenwriter Collier Young, formed an independent company, The Filmakers Inc. to "produce, direct and write low-budget, theme-oriented films, to "produce, direct and write low-budget, issue-oriented films." It was founded in 1948 with Lupino as vice president, Collier Young as president and screenwriter Malvin Wald as treasurer. The Filmakers produced twelve feature films, of which Lupino directed or co-directed six, wrote or co-wrote five, acted in three; and one she co-produced. The Filmakers' mission was to make socially conscious films, foster new talent and bring realism to the screen. Their goal was to tell "how America lives" through independent B pictures shot in two weeks for less than $200,000 with a creative "family," emphasized by stories based on real events - a combination of "social meaning" and entertainment. In short, low-budget pictures, they explored virtually taboo subjects such as rape in Outrage (1950) and The Bigamist (1953). The latter received positive reviews upon its release, with Howard Thompson of The New York Times calling it "the best film offering to date." The Lupino-directed and best known work, The Hitch-Hiker, released on RKO in 1953, is the only film noir film from the classic era of the genre directed by a woman.

His first directing came in 1949, when Elmer Clifton suffered a heart attack and was unable to finish Not Wanted, a film co-produced and co-written by Lupino and film he was directing for Filmways, the company founded by Lupino and her husband, Collier Young, to shoot low-budget films. Lupino stepped in to finish the film without taking a director's credit out of respect for Clifton. Although the subject of the out-of-wedlock pregnancy was controversial, it received much publicity and she was invited to discuss the film with Eleanor Roosevelt on a national radio program.

She went on to direct her own projects, becoming the only female film director in Hollywood at the time. Never Fear (1949), a film about polio (which she had personally experienced at age 16), was her first directorial credit. The film came to the attention of Howard Hughes, who was looking for suppliers of low-budget feature films to distribute through his newly acquired RKO Pictures franchise. Hughes agreed to finance and distribute The Filmakers' next three features through RKO, leaving The Filmakers full control over the films' content and production. After four "women's" films about social issues - including Outrage (1950), a film about rape (although this word is never mentioned in the film) - Lupino directed her first major film, and her first all-male action film, The Hitch-Hiker (1953), and was the first woman to direct a film noir. She also directed an episode of The Twilight Zone series, entitled "The Masks" (1964).

In 1952, Lupino was invited to be the "fourth star" of the television production company Four Star Television, along with Dick Powell, David Niven and Charles Boyer, after the departure of Joel McCrea and Rosalind Russell.

Lupino once called herself a "bulldozer" to secure financing for her production company, but referred to herself as "mother" while on set. On set, the back of her director's chair was labeled "Mother of Us All." Her studio emphasized her femininity, often at Lupino's own urging. She attributed her refusal to renew her contract with Warner Bros. under pretexts of domesticity, stating that "I had decided that nothing awaited me but life as a neurotic star with no family and no home." She emphasized not appearing threatening in a male-dominated environment, stating, "That's where being a man makes a big difference. I guess men don't mind leaving their wives and children. During the vacation period, the wife can always travel and be with him. It's hard for a wife to tell her husband, come sit on the set and watch."

Although directing became Lupino's passion, the quest for money kept her in front of the camera, so she could acquire the funds to make her own productions. She became a shrewd low-budget filmmaker, reusing sets from other studio productions and convincing her doctor to appear as a doctor in the childbirth scene of Not Wanted. She used what is now called product placement, placing Coca-Cola, United Airlines, Cadillac and other brands in her films, such as The Bigamist. She was very conscious of budgetary considerations, planning pre-production scenes to avoid technical errors and repetition, and shooting in public locations such as MacArthur Park and Chinatown to avoid rental costs. She joked that if she had been the "poor man's Bette Davis" as an actress, she had now become the "poor man's Don Siegel" as a director.

The Filmakers production company ceased operations in 1955, and Lupino almost immediately returned to television, directing episodes of more than thirty American television series from 1956 to 1968. She also directed a feature film in 1965 for the Catholic schoolgirl comedy The Trouble With Angels, starring Hayley Mills and Rosalind Russell; this was Lupino's last theatrical film as a director. She continued acting as well, going on to a successful television career during the 1960s and 1970s.

Television work

Lupino continued to act in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and her directorial activity in those years was almost exclusively directed toward television productions, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, Have Gun Will Travel, The Donna Reed Show, Gilligan's Island, 77 Sunset Strip, The Investigators, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, The Rifleman, Batman, Sam Benedict, Bonanza, The Untouchables, The Fugitive, Bewitched and Charlie's Angels. and Columbo T3 chapter 6. From January 1957 to September 1958, Lupino starred with her husband, Howard Duff, in the CBS sitcom Mr. Adams and Eve. They also participated, in 1959, as themselves, in one of the episodes of Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.

Towards the end of her career, Lupino participated as a guest artist in numerous television programs, and her last appearance was in 1978. She retired at the age of sixty.

After the demise of The Filmakers, Lupino continued to work as an actress until the late 1970s, primarily in television. Ida Lupino appeared in 19 episodes of Four Star Playhouse from 1952 to 1956, an effort involving partners Charles Boyer, Dick Powell and David Niven. From January 1957 to September 1958, Lupino starred with then-husband Howard Duff in the sitcom Mr. Adams and Eve, in which the duo played married movie stars Howard Adams and Eve Drake, living in Beverly Hills, California. Duff and Lupino also co-starred, playing themselves, in 1959 in one of 13 one-hour installments of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour and an episode ofThe Dinah Shore Chevy Show in 1960.

Towards the end of her career, Lupino guest starred in numerous television shows, including The Ford Television Theatre (1954), Bonanza (1959) in episode 7 of the first season called "Annie O'Toole", Burke's Law (1963-64), The Virginian (1963-65), Batman (1968), The Mod Squad (1969), Family Affair (1969-70), The Wild, Wild West (1969), Nanny and the Professor (1971), Columbo: Short Fuse (1972), Columbo: Swan Song (1974) in which she played Johnny Cash's jealous wife, Barnaby Jones (1974), The Streets of San Francisco, Ellery Queen (1975), Police Woman (1975) and Charlie's Angels (1977). His last participation was in 1978. He retired at the age of sixty.

Lupino holds two distinctions with The Twilight Zone series, as the only woman to have directed an episode ("The Masks") and the only person to have worked as an actress for one episode ("The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine"), and director for another.


Lupino's Filmakers' films deal with unconventional and controversial subjects that studio producers would not touch, including out-of-wedlock pregnancies, bigamy and rape. He described his independent work as "films that had social significance and yet were entertainment...based on true stories, things that audiences could understand because they had happened or were newsworthy." He focused on female themes in many of his films and liked strong characters, "women who have masculine qualities, but who have intestinal fortitude, guts".

In the film The Bigamist, the two female characters represent the working woman and the housewife. The protagonist is married to a woman (Joan Fontaine) who, unable to have children, has devoted her energy to her career. On one of many business trips, he meets a waitress (Lupino) with whom he has a child, and then marries her. Marsha Orgeron, in her book Hollywood Ambitions, describes these characters as "struggling to find their place in environments that mirror the social constraints Lupino faced." However, Donati, in his biography of Lupino, said, "The solutions to the character's problems within the films were often conventional, even conservative, reinforcing more 1950s ideology than undermining it."

Prior to her time within the studio system, Lupino was determined to create films rooted in reality. In Never Fear, Lupino said, "People are tired of having the canvas pulled over their eyes. They pay a lot of money for their theater tickets and they want something in return. They want realism. And you can't be realistic with the same glamorous mugs or weather."

Director Martin Scorsese noted, "As a star, Lupino had no taste for glamour, and the same was true as a director. The stories she told in Outrage, Never Fear, Hard, Fast and Beautiful, The Bigamist and The Hitch-Hiker were intimate, always framed in a precise social setting: she wanted to make pictures with poor, bewildered people because that's who we are. His heroines were young women whose middle-class security was shattered by trauma: unwanted pregnancies, polio, rape, bigamy, parental abuse. There is a sense of pain, panic and cruelty that paints every film."

Lupino's films criticize many traditional social institutions, reflecting her contempt for the patriarchal structure that existed in Hollywood. Lupino rejected the commodification of female stars and, as an actress, resisted becoming an object of desire. In 1949, she said that "Hollywood careers are perishable commodities," and sought to avoid that fate for herself.

Awards and recognitions

She was married and divorced three times. Her husbands were:

She petitioned a California court in 1984 to appoint her business manager, Mary Ann Anderson, as her conservator due to shoddy business transactions from her former business management company, and her long separation from Howard Duff.

Ideology and religion

She became a U.S. citizen in June 1948 and was a staunch Democrat who supported the presidency of John F. Kennedy.


Lupino was diagnosed with polio in 1934. The New York Times reported that the outbreak of polio in the Hollywood community was due to contaminated swimming pools. The disease severely affected her ability to work, and her contract with Paramount fell apart shortly after her diagnosis. She recovered and eventually directed, produced and wrote many films, including a film based on her problems with polio titled Never Fear in 1949, the first film credited to her as a director (although she had previously stepped in for an ill director in Not Wanted and declining to take a directorial credit out of respect for her partner). Her experience with the disease gave her the courage to focus on her intellectual abilities rather than her physical appearance. In an interview with Hollywood, she said, "I realized that my life, my courage and my hopes were not in my body. If that body were paralyzed, my brain could still work laboriously... If I couldn't act, I could write. Even if I couldn't use a pencil or a typewriter, I could dictate." Film magazines of the 1930s and 1940s, such as The Hollywood Reporter and Motion Picture Daily, frequently published updates on her health condition. Lupino worked for several nonprofit organizations to raise funds for polio research.

Lupino's interests outside the entertainment industry included writing short stories and children's books, and composing music. His composition "Aladdin's Suite" was performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in 1937. He composed it while recovering from polio in 1935.

Lupino died in August 1995 of a stroke while being treated for colon cancer. She was 77 years old. She was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California. Her memoir, Ida Lupino: Beyond the Camera, was edited after her death and published by Mary Ann Anderson.

Lupino learned filmmaking from everyone he saw on set, including William Ziegler, the cameraman on Not Wanted. In pre-production on Never Fear, she spoke with Michael Gordon about directing technique, organization and plotting. Cinematographer Archie Stout said of Ms. Lupino, "Ida has more knowledge of camera angles and lenses than any director I've worked with, with the exception of Victor Fleming. She knows what a woman looks like on screen and how she should be lit, probably better than I do." Lupino also worked with editor Stanford Tischler, who said of her, "She wasn't the kind of director who would shoot something, then wait for the flaws to be corrected on the cutting room floor. The acting was always there for her."

Author Ally Acker compares Lupino to pioneering silent film director Lois Weber for her focus on controversial and socially relevant themes. With their ambiguous endings, Lupino's films never offered simple solutions for her troubled characters, and Acker finds parallels to her narrative style in the work of modern European New Wave directors such as Margarethe von Trotta.

Film critic Ronnie Scheib, who published three of Lupino's films in Kino, compares Lupino's themes and directorial style to directors Nicholas Ray, Sam Fuller and Robert Aldrich, saying, "Lupino very much belongs to that generation of modernist filmmakers." On whether Lupino should be considered a feminist filmmaker, Scheib states, "I don't think Lupino was concerned with showing strong people, male or female. She often said she was interested in people who were lost and bewildered, and I think she was referring to the postwar trauma of people who couldn't go home."

Martin Scorsese calls Lupino's thematic film work "essential," noting that "What is at stake in Lupino's films is the psyche of the victim. they addressed the wounded soul and traced the slow, painful process of women trying to wrestle with despair and reclaim their lives. Her work is resilient, with a remarkable empathy for the fragile and the brokenhearted."

Author Richard Koszarski noted Lupino's choice to play with gender roles with respect to cinematic stereotypes of women during the studio era: "Her films show the obsessions and consistencies of a true auteur...In her films The Bigamist and The Hitch-Hiker, Lupino was able to reduce men to the same kind of dangerous, irrational force that women represented in most examples of male-driven Hollywood film noir."

Lupino did not consider herself a feminist, saying, "I had to do something to fill my time between contracts. Maintaining a feminine approach is vital - men hate bossy women...Often, I pretended on camera to know less than I did. That way I got more cooperation." Carrie Rickey, a writer for the Village Voice, holds up Lupino as a model of modern feminist filmmaking: "Not only did Lupino take control of producing, directing and screenwriting, but each of her films addresses the brutal repercussions of sexuality, independence and dependence." In 1972, Lupino said she wished more women were hired as directors and producers in Hollywood, noting that only very powerful actresses or writers had the opportunity to work in this field. She directed or co-starred several times with young British actresses on a similar journey of developing their American film careers, such as Hayley Mills and Pamela Franklin. Actress Bea Arthur, known for her work in Maude and The Golden Girls, was motivated to escape her stifling hometown by following in Lupino's footsteps and becoming an actress, saying, "My dream was to become a little blonde movie star like Ida Lupino and those other women I saw on the screen during the Great Depression."


  1. Ida Lupino
  2. Ida Lupino
  3. a b Registrada en Births Mar 1918 Camberwell Vol. 1d, p. 1019 (Free BMD). Transcrito como «Lupine», en el índice oficial de nacimientos.
  4. «Elogio de la resiliencia: el cine de Ida Lupino». Pikara Magazine. Consultado el 8 de junio de 2018.
  5. Morra, Anne (2 de agosto de 2019). «Anne Morra presents Ida Lupino's Never Fear and discusses the director's place in film history». Her Way Magazine. Consultado el 10 de septiembre de 2019.
  6. Kemp, Philip (2007). 501 Movie Directors. Londres: Quintessence. p. 230. ISBN 978-1-84403-573-1.
  7. ^ Recorded in Births Mar 1918 Camberwell Vol. 1d, p. 1019 (Free BMD). Transcribed as "Lupine" in the official births index
  8. ^ Kemp, Philip (2007). 501 Movie Directors. London: Quintessence. p. 230. ISBN 978-1844035731.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Acker, Alley (1991). Reel Women – Pioneers of the Cinema, pp. 74–78. The Continuum Publishing Company, New York. ISBN 0826404995
  10. ^ Biographies of Paramount Players and Directors 1936–1937. New York The Museum of Modern Art Library. 1936.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  11. a b c d e f Acker, Alley (1991). Reel Women – Pioneers of the Cinema. Nova York: The Continuum Publishing Company. p. 300. ISBN 0-8264-0499-5
  12. a b c d e Donati, William (1993). Ida Lupino A Biography. Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. p. 346. ISBN 978-0813109824
  13. ^ Citato in Births Mar 1918, Camberwell Vol.1d, p. 1019. L'indice porta come cognome Lupine.
  14. ^ Ida Lupino, su URL consultato il 23 febbraio 2024.

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