Laughingly self-described as the “poor man’s Bette Davis,” London-born actress, writer, producer and pioneering director Ida Lupino (1918-1995) remains a legendary maverick in cinema history. Beginning her career as an actress in England at the age of 13, Lupino decamped from the UK for Hollywood is 1933. At Paramount, she garnered praise for her portrayals of worldly and often unsympathetic characters. Lupino’s career gained traction with her move to Warner Brothers in 1940 and high-profile roles in They Drive by Night and High Sierra.
“I’m mad they say. I am temperamental and dizzy and disagreeable. Well, let them talk. I can take it. Only one person can hurt me. Her name is Ida Lupino.” – Ida Lupino
Despite her success, Lupino was frustrated by the lack of interesting parts for women and the constraints of the studio system, where she was often suspended for refusing insignificant or demeaning roles. In 1947 she left Warner Brothers, and as a free agent began writing, producing and ultimately directing films in addition to acting. Inspired to found her own independent production company, The Filmmakers (along with her second husband, Collier Young), Lupino created a space for herself to tackle projects with complicated, and at times controversial, subject matter in a naturalistic, hard-nosed documentary style uncommon in 1950s filmmaking. She would take advantage of this newfound independence to helm several features, ranging thematically from bigamy to single motherhood, and to direct and co-write the 1953 thriller, The Hitch-Hiker (cementing her place as the only woman to direct a classic noir), making her the first consistently-working female director since early-talkies maven, Dorothy Arzner (Lupino also became the second woman admitted to the DGA, after Arzner). Producing and directing independent films at a time when the studios ruled the screen, Lupino’s productions were the “new wave” of their day. This August, The Loft Cinema pays tribute to trailblazing Hollywood director and actress, Ida Lupino, with a selection of films showcasing her talents both in front of and behind the camera!