Actress/Director, supernumerary of her generation. And, yet, a lot of contemporary movie fans aren’t even aware of Ida Lupino, born in London in 1918 to a theatrical family.

It’s a sad comment on our amnesiac era that one of the most distinctive stars of the 1940s and 50s is virtually forgotten today, writes critic David Mermelstein in The Wall Street Journal. (Few) people realize that Lupino, alone among actresses of her time, forged a secondary career as a Hollywood director and screenwriter. 

She was, in short, a genuine, working feminist pioneer in Hollywood.

No question that Lupino was a sexy, tough babe on the screen who could confound audiences with her subtlety and surprising singing abilities.

You hear a lot about folks being one-of-a-kind.  In Ida Lupino’s case, it wasn’t just blowing smoke.  Unless you didn’t take her seriously — then she’d blow it right in your face, writes film noir savant Eddie Muller.

Lupino was even billed above Humphrey Bogart in 1940’s High Sierra because back then she was better known and more popular.  She was all of 22 at the time.

She appeared opposite some of the most notable leading men of the Thirties and Forties (see photo above), and even charmed the universally disdained Columbia Pictures’ Harry Cohn. Her career was a lengthy one. When movie acting ran dry, she turned with gusto to television, winning at least three prime time Emmy nominations.

She worked for nearly a half century, and knocked off some 100 pictures and tv shows either as actress or director/writer before she died at age 77 in 1995. Lupino’s stellar contribution as a director to the film noir genre was RKO’s tense 1953 thriller The Hitch-Hiker, costarring Edmond O’Brien and Frank Lovejoy, and highlighted by a truly creepy performance from William Talman.  Highly recommended, not to be missed.

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Did you know that the fellow pictured below was her first husband, actor Louis Hayward? And that she was heartbroken when their seven-year marriage fell apart in 1945. Louis Hayward was husband No. 1.

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Hayward, an intense type, served in the South Pacific with the Marines in World War 2.  So shaken by the carnage he saw, he came home shell shocked, said to be incapable of a “normal” life. Lupino, who adored Hayward, was crushed as she witnessed the collapse of their marriage. Producer-actor Collier Young was husband No. 2, followed by Howard Duff.

In 1972’s Junior Bonner, she would wind down her 46-year career by costarring with top-of-his-game Steve McQueen.

New York’s Film Forum will celebrate Lupino’s career with a 25-film retrospective screening through the month of November.  Catch at least part of it if you can.

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