Called the "English Jean Harlow" when she arrived in Hollywood in 1932, Ida Lupino became one of the most accomplished actresses of the 1940s and 1950s. Throughout this period, as her artistic needs began to exceed what her career in front of the camera could provide, she emerged as the first actress of the studio era to direct feature films. Despite cultural stereotypes that relegated women to the margins of cinematic practice, Lupino left Warner Bros. in 1948 to craft a series of emotionally powerful films that examined provocative issues.
Not Wanted (1949) is an atmospheric film noir that addresses the then-taboo topic of out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Although Lupino is not credited with having directed the film—she took over when the original director suffered a heart attack—her first effort behind the camera reveals a compelling vision: remarkable empathy, subjective camerawork, and documentary-style location shooting. Among its notable achievements, The Bigamist (1953) is the first Hollywood film of the sound era in which a female star directed herself. This haunting noir-like drama focuses on a traveling salesman torn between his matrimonial commitments to two women.
The Hitch-Hiker (1953) is widely considered the first mainstream film noir directed by a woman. Tense, grimy, and nerve-wracking, Lupino uses two primary and contrasting settings: the claustrophobic confines of a car, and a barren desert expanse. It is a distinctly masculine film that scrutinizes the foundational traits of conventional masculinity. Hard, Fast, and Beautiful (1951), a drama about a budding tennis star torn between her mother and her fiancé, hints at the bleak cynicism beginning to appear on the screens of post-war American cinema.
Lupino's career behind the camera continued into the 1960s with her last theatrical film, The Trouble with Angels, and in television, where she directed episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Untouchables, The Fugitive, and The Twilight Zone. Join us to explore the rich career of this celebrated director.