As a fan of movies of the 1930's and 40's, particularly those from Warner Brothers, I have a big soft spot for Ida Lupino. I like Ida better than Bette and a bit better than Ann Sheridan, her contemporary Warner's leading ladies, whom she seems to slot right in between in terms of prestige. So, I'd say my DVR will be burning up all day Thursday, but then again I've already got most of these!
TCM hits most of Ida Lupino's high spots with Thursday's Summer Under the Stars offerings, and while you've likely seen "High Sierra" several times due to its availability do not miss out on "They Drive By Night," nor especially "Out of the Fog," which I don't believe has had a DVD release as of yet. That's a great one for John Garfield fans as well. Poor Thomas Mitchell!
Lupino's career seems to split neatly into three or four phases. The first is marked by her hair color, bleached blonde, and time at Paramount in a series of mostly mediocre films. Ida knew it though and got out when she could, though her two picture deal with Columbia in 1939 wasn't a huge step up--still I'm partial to "The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt" myself, but granted I'm a huge Warren William fan.
From there Ida made "The Light That Failed" back at Paramount. The picture starred Ronald Colman, was directed by William Wellman, and put Ida over well enough to get her noticed by Warner Brothers. Unfortunately "The Light That Failed" doesn't air on TCM Thursday, it's actually one I haven't caught myself, but Rupert Alistair recently did a fine job reviewing it on his Classic Movies Digest.
Warner's used Ida in "They Drive By Night" where her performance earned her a contract with the Studio under her own terms. She was next cast opposite Humphrey Bogart in "High Sierra," and followed with "The Sea Wolf" (which I wish TCM aired today for you, but they don't) and "Out of the Fog." From there she made "Ladies in Retirement" (airing at midnight) on loan-out to Columbia, which Laura Wagner notes in Killer Tomatoes was Ida's own favorite film.
You may note below that Ida Lupino is credited as both a star and the director of "The Bigamist" airing at 10 am EST on TCM. In this next phase of her career, Lupino formed a production company, Filmmakers, with her second husband, Collie Young, and garnered acclaim as a director of a half dozen films including some uncredited work behind the camera for several days on "On Dangerous Ground" when Nicholas Ray fell ill. "On Dangerous Ground" airs at 1 pm EST today and is well-worth checking out for Lupino's performance as the blind Mary Malden opposite the menacing cop played by Robert Ryan.
Her career would continue, as many stars of the period did, on television, where she would would both act and direct episodes of popular shows from the 1950's through the 60's and continue guest starring through the 1970's.
Besides Young, Ida Lupino was married on two other occasions, both to actors: her first husband was Louis Hayward, her third Howard Duff. Lupino, born 1914 or 1918 according to various sources, came from a great comic family, despite her own excellence in gritty dramas and tough noirs after coming to prominence. Pictured on this page you'll see her father Stanley Lupino and cousin Lupino Lane. Ida did get to try out comedy for Warners in 1945's "Pillow to Post," unfortunately another example missing from Thursday's TCM schedule. Ida Lupino worked through the late 1970's and died in 1995 after being diagnosed with colon cancer and also suffering a stroke.
I used Laura Wagner and Ray Hagen's Killer Tomatoes: Fifteen Tough Film Dames as a source and fact checker for most of the information in this article. I can't recommend this title enough as besides being an entertaining and quick read I've found it the most accessible source whenever writing about any of the 15 "dames" covered inside. Would love to see a sequel to this indispensable volume!
We'll close with a quote Wagner from Douglas Benton in Killer Tomatoes by way of another title by Tom Weaver about Ida. Benton was story editor and associate producer of the TV program "Boris Karloff's Thriller," which Lupino directed 9 episodes of in the early 1960's:
"We used to call her 'The Great Orsini' sometimes--she was the package Welles. She could act, she could direct, she could write, she could drink--she was something!"