In the spotlight…..
1918 - 1995
….thunder, lightning and fire.
A thunderstorm raged the night she was born and somehow all that energy became a part of her. It was a difficult birth and for a while it was touch and go for both mother and child. After hours that seemed like days both were out of danger. The distraught father was looking for a son to carry on the family's centuries-old theater legacy. Instead he was given a daughter who would be the most famous one of them all.
Ida Lupino was born on February 4, 1918 in Camberville, London, England to Stanley Lupino,a successful musical comedy star and Connie O'Shea Lupino who was billed as Connie Emerald the “fastest tap dancer alive”. The little girl loved her mother but adored her father and they spent hours together when he was home. When her parents were on tour, her paternal grandfather affectionately called “Old George” taught her to draw, sing and compose music as well as how to paint with oils. Granny O'Shea amused her by dragging out Connie's old costumes, draping a mirror with side curtains and letting Ida play “star”. No stone was left unturned in the training of the next Lupino prodigy.
In 1932 at the age of 14 Ida enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA). Her father wanted her to have the whole experience of a fledgling actor so he found her a cheap flat over a butcher shop with a tiny fire grate and a lumpy bed. Ida took it all in stride and her teachers were very impressed by the skills she brought and the skills she developed there. After two terms she had learned all they could teach her. Now it was time to act.
Not long after she left school, Ida signed with director Allan Dwan to play Ann in “Her First Affaire”. The film was a big hit in England and soon released in the US. Dwan realized she wouldn't stay in England long. But Ida's career almost ended before it barely started. She was struck by a car and hurled face down on a gravel walk. Every one in the family held their breath when the bandages were removed. Luckily most of the scars had faded. Only the one on her forehead was visible and she covered that with a lock of hair.
In 1933 Ida left for Hollywood with Connie and a lucrative offer from Paramount for a movie role she had no intention of accepting..the lead in “Alice in Wonderland”. With one screen test, the studio also realized she was no Alice. That deep voice and air of sophistication would never do in a children's story. Instead she was cast in “Search for Beauty” with Buster Crabbe. Paramount, still unsure how to showcase this unique talent, promised her a movie written just for her but then put her in a potboiler with Richard Arlen called “Come On Marines”. It was just the beginning of a series of minor roles. Ida was irate and exploded in the press. It was the first public expression of the famous Lupino temper, something she never allowed herself when she was on the set.
Lupino and Arlen in
“Come On, Marines”
Ida was getting ready to go before the cameras in a fluffy romance called “Ready For Love” ( a second outing with Richard Arlen) when lightning struck again. She woke up in the middle of the night with a high fever and terrible pain in her arms and legs. Her right arm and hand wouldn't work at all. And soon that extended down her entire right side. She had to crawl on the floor to Connie's bedroom where her mother called the doctor. The diagnosis was devastating. Ida had polio, a disease that was epidemic that summer of 1934. While the pain was excruciating, the mental anguish was even worse. Paramount put the film on hiatus and anxiously waited for some good news. Many of the victims of this disease that survived had crippling and permanent paralysis. By some miracle, Ida was not one of them. Slowly the paralysis on her right side subsided. When she got the all clear from the doctor she went back to work. After the picture wrapped, it was home to England for four months of rest.
When Ida returned to Hollywood not much had changed. Her option with Paramount was about to expire and the studio still had no clue on how to showcase her. When she was asked to take a role in “Cleopatra” that consisted of 5 lines of dialogue while she waved a fan behind Claudette Colbert she refused and was suspended. She went to them and asked to be allowed to do another small role, as Agnes, a tart in “Peter Ibbetson”. The
Hollywood Reporter called it her “best role to date”.
The grand jury outside Todd's cafe
On Saturday, December 14th, 1935, the Lupinos held a dinner party for their good friend, Thelma Todd. The following Monday morning Thelma was found beaten, bruised and very dead in the garage. (See Issue #30
). Ida was called as a witness. The verdict was “accidental carbon monoxide poisoning”!
Ida first met Louis Hayward in England in 1932. She didn't like him. “He bored me to extinction.” He didn't like her either. “Just another dizzy blonde.” Then, in the summer of 1936, on an outing at Oceanview Park with mutual friend Felix Tessot, Ida and Louis took another look at each other while they rode the roller coaster. It took a little longer for them to make it to the altar but on November 17, 1938 Ida Lupino became Mrs. Louis Hayward. She was 20 and he was 29.
Ida and Louis
But her career was going nowhere. Paramount was still putting her in pictures that were out of her league. Finally she asked to be let out of her contract. The studio agreed but made it plain she wasn't to darken their door again. Ida didn't work for most of 1938.
It was radio where her voice was her fortune. It kept Ida's career alive for almost 16 months. Then she was cast in two pictures for Columbia...”The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt” and “The Lady and the Mob” and another one for 20th Century Fox titled “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”. When she heard that Paramount was doing Rudyard Kipling's “The Light That Failed” she had to do something quick. Banned from the Paramount lot, she called directly to director William A Wellman and asked if she could read for the part of cockney Bessie Broke. According to Ida, it was a typical Wellman response. “He told me to get my ass over there.” She nailed the part with Wellman but Ronald Colman wanted Vivien Leigh and so did producer B. P. “Budd” Schulberg. Wellman won the battle and Ida had her first big chance at real stardom. The “painted doll” was gone at last.
But it was Warner Bros. not Paramount who reaped the benefits by signing her to a long term contract. They wanted to back up their top female star Bette Davis who was making “discontent” noises. They put Ida in “They Drive By Night” with Humphrey Bogart. Newsweek said “She stole the show with her arresting performance.”
By the beginning of 1941 Ida was proclaimed “Hollywood's Hottest Star”. The first year at Warner Bros. made up for all her years at Paramount. Best selling author William Saroyan (“The Time of Your Life”) said of her “Give Miss Lupino something to act in and there's a 50-50 chance that she will be the finest actress in the world.” Nonetheless even Warner Bros. would feel Lupino's contempt for a role. She was suspended for refusing to do the role of Cassie in “King's Row” and what she called an insignificant role in a James Cagney action film “Captains of the the Clouds”. Except for “Forever and a Day”, a tribute to Britain's wartime courage Ida Lupino was a star without an orbit once again.
On December 6, 1941, the day before Pearl Harbor, Louis Hayward became an American citizen. Without alerting the press, he joined the U.S. Marines. Ida had already enlisted in the Women's Ambulance and Defense League studying nursing and devouring medical books. It was at the very same time she learned that her father, Stanley had cancer. What she didn't know was that Louis would eventually be right in the middle of the bloodiest battle in the Pacific...Tarawa.
Louis in camp
Stanley Lupino died on July 12, 1942. On November 24, 1943 Tarawa was secured. Captain Louis Hayward and Navy Lt. Eddie Albert returned home with film documenting the bloody battle they had personally fought. But Louis was not the man who had left for war and it would be years before he could deal with it. He asked Ida for a divorce and, heartbroken, she gave it to him.
Ida suffered a nervous breakdown after the divorce and for the next year lived on a friend's boat 30 minutes outside Hollywood trying to heal. When she felt better she went back to work on four more pictures for Warner Bros. again and then asked to be released. Jack Warner told her “if you go, you'll never work for Warner Bros. again!" And she never did.
Ida and Collier
On June 28th, 1948 Ida became an American citizen and, on August 5th, she married Collier Young, a film executive with Columbia Pictures. They had been good friends with a shared love of sailing, literature and a wicked sense of humor . Collier had a calming effect on Ida when she was under stress. Ida was 30 and Collier was 39. They moved into a home on Mulholland Drive that Ida named “The Mouse House” in honor of their first four-footed visitors. The duo also agreed that there would be no more drop-in guests and visitors were cautioned “by invitation only”. That open-door part of the Lupino lifestyle was no longer tolerated.
Ida's film career was winding down a bit but her directing career was just beginning. Directing films had been her dream. When the combo of Young and Lupino joined to become Filmakers, Ida became the producer, director, scriptwriter and sometimes actress in the process. When director Elmer Clifton suffered a heart attack just as the cameras were set to roll on “Not Wanted”, Ida took the reins and never let go to the amazement of the entire industry.
Ida and director Peter Godfrey try folk dancing
The purpose of Filmakers (and Ida, in particular) was to make documentary-style stories about social issues. Of course that put the company under the microscope of the PCA (Production Code Administration) and Joseph Breen. So Ida had to walk a tight line. “Not Wanted” (1949) dealt with unwed mothers, “Never Fear” (1949) talked about polio, “Outrage” (1950) dealt with rape and “Hard, Fast and Beautiful” (1951) about domineering mothers. Every one of Ida's scripts had to be purged at least once but she did it so skillfully they never lost their message.
Trouble was brewing in the new marriage by 1949 due primarily to excessive working hours, the stress of running a company and creative differences. Collier publicly admitted “It 's pretty hard to have an argument over a script at 5:30, as all writers do rather acidly, and be husband and wifey at 6:30.” There was also another problem. While making “Woman in Hiding” Ida Lupino met Howard Duff.
On October 20, 1951 Ida and Collier were officially divorced. They continued to be friends and partners, vowing to fight only at work. Collier recognized it was ida's expertise that kept the company alive. Ida gave him the Mouse House and Joan Fontaine moved in to keep Collier company. The next day Ida married Howard Duff. She was 33 with 2 failed marriages behind her and he was still unmarried at 36.
The Duffs plus one
On April 23, 1952 she presented Howard with a baby daughter, Bridget Mirella Duff born prematurely and weighing only 4 pounds. Her godparents? Collier Young and Joan Fontaine!
“Mr. Adams and Eve”
Ida was kept busy for the next three decades on and off the screen, before and behind the cameras, on the big screen or on television. With “The Hitchhiker”) in 1953 she became the first woman to direct a film noir. “The Bigamist” in the same year made her the only woman to direct herself in a film. Her mother's death on December 26th, 1959 made Ida the only British-born Lupino in the entertainment world. Ida and Duff had their own series called “Mr. Adam and Eve” but also costarred on other series as well. Ida continued to direct and act in both films and television until her retirement in 1977.
The marriage to Howard Duff would last 21 years despite his “revolving door” policy. The first “walk” happened 14 months after they were married. It seemed every time Howard got overly peeved or stressed out the door he went. In September, 1972 Ida told columnist Pat Campbell “I love that man of mine. We've been married 21 years and I am still crazy about him”. Unfortunately Howard decided to take his last walk a few weeks later and this time for good. They were formally divorced on June 7th, 1984.
“The Trouble With Angels”
Ida's last director's effort was the 1966 family hit “Trouble with Angels” starring Rosalind Russell and Hayley Mills. In 1978 she made her final feature movie appearance as Mrs. Morton in “My Boys Are Good Boys”. Ida also turned out more than 100 episodes of such television favorites as “Zane Grey Theater”, “Bonanza”, “Have Gun, Will Travel” and “The Fugitive” among many others. She has two stars, one for films and one for television on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Ida Lupino died on August 3, 1995 of a stroke following treatment for colon cancer. She was 77 and had outlived all her ex-husbands. Collier Young died in 1980, Louis Hayward in 1985 and Howard Duff in 1990. She is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park near her friend Errol Flynn.
Let it be said now...
she was the greatest Lupino of them all!
The Love Race
Her First Affaire
The Ghost Camera
Money for Speed
I Lived with You
Prince of Arcadia
Search for Beauty
Come on Marines
Ready for Love
Paris in Spring
La Fiesta de Santa Barbara
One Rainy Afternoon
Yours for the Asking
The Gay Desperado
Let's Get Married
Artists and Models
Fight for Your Lady
The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt
The Lady and the Mob
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Light That Failed
They Drive By Night
The Sea Wolf
Out of the Fog
Ladies in Retirement
Life begins at Eight-Thirty
Forever and a Day
The Hard Way
Thank Your Lucky Stars
In Our Time
Pillow to Post
The Man I love
Escape Me Never
Lust for Gold
Not Wanted (director only)
Never Fear (director only)
Woman in Hiding
Hard, Fast and Beautiful
On the Loose
On Dangerous Ground
Beware My Lovely
The Hitchhiker (director only)
Private Hell 36
The Big Knife
While The City Sleeps
The Trouble With Angels (director only)
The Devil's Rain
The Food of Gods
My Boys Are Good Boys.