New Essential Cinema Series Starts this Week: Pioneering Director/Star Ida Lupino

Tickets available below. Watch the series trailer here.

Born into a family whose theatrical pedigree extended as far back as Renaissance Italy, British actress Ida Lupino was a vaudevillian from birth, a Royal Academy Of Dramatic Arts trained actress by 13 and an imported contract player at Paramount by age 15.

Hollywood had no idea what to do with the willowy, big-eyed beauty so she mostly spent the first ten years of her film career bouncing around, changing hair colors and reading bad scripts. In 1939 she forced her way into director William Wellman’s office and demanded to read for him. The rest was history. No longer just a decorative love interest, she proved in the films of the ‘40s that she was just as tough and talented as her co-stars, and, considering those co-stars were people like Humphrey Bogart and John Garfield, that’s a major statement.

Her early acquaintance with subpar screen material made her highly selective, and when she did not feel a script was up to her standards she refused the part, even when under contract. As a result, she was often suspended by her studio. She used the time to become proficient at the technical arts, and soon started her own production company with her husband Collier Young. Their output was low budget, quality B-movie fare, produced; and often written and directed; by Lupino.

This series presents a selection of three of Lupino’s best starring performances and, significantly, a rare 35mm print from the Library Of Congress of THE HITCHHIKER (1953), which she produced, co-wrote, and directed, and which is considered the first film noir directed by a woman.

Thu, Aug 4, 2016, 7:30 PM

Nicholas Ray’s parable of love and forgiveness is one of the best and most unusual noir films. Robert Ryan plays a city cop, driven to a state of constant rage and depression by the murder of a fellow police officer, who is reassigned to a murder investigation in a rural county. There the pursuit of the murderer leads him and the victim’s vengeful father, played by Ward Bond, to an isolated farmhouse, buried in snow, where the only inhabitant seems to be the suspect’s blind sister (Ida Lupino.) As the manhunt zeroes in on the nearby terrain, Ryan’s heart is softened by Lupino’s tenderness and love. The scenes between Ryan and Lupino contain some of the finest screen acting of the era and the film is justly considered a classic. Music by Bernard Herrman - he called it his favorite score.

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ROAD HOUSE (1948, 35mm)
Thu, Aug 11, 2016, 7:30PM

Ida Lupino plays one of the great noir women in this story of a love triangle in a highway nightclub. Richard Widmark plays the owner. His longtime best friend Cornel Wilde manages the place for him. When new singer Ida Lupino shows up, Wilde knows she will cause trouble with the sociopathic ladies’ man Widmark so he gives her a return train ticket before she even auditions. She refuses and sings anyway. She’s an instant hit, especially with the male patrons. One of them says, “she reminds me of the first woman who ever slapped my face.” Soon Widmark and Wilde are at odds, and it goes way, way too far. The dialogue sparkles here and Lupino is at her no-nonsense best. Rare 35mm print.

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Wed, Aug 17, 2016, 7:30 PM

Hardboiled novelist John O’Hara wrote the script for this story of the downtrodden denizens of the waterfront. The great French actor Jean Gabin, in exile from his war torn homeland, plays a longshoreman who may have committed murder while on a drunken bender. While hiding out on a barge he rescues a young woman (Ida Lupino) when she tries to drown herself. They become a couple, with plans to marry, but one of Gabin’s friends (Thomas Mitchell) becomes jealous, and fate’s wheels begin to turn. Co-directed (uncredited) by Fritz Lang. Featuring Claude Rains as a character named Nutsy (!!). Rare 35mm print.

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Thu, Aug 25, 2016, 7:30 PM

Years ago, the only way a female director could work in Hollywood was on a “woman’s picture,” often a romance or a domestic drama. With THE HITCHHIKER, Lupino showed that she could hang with the Hollywood tough guys. Not only is it a dark film noir full of grinding suspense, it has an all-male cast. This is Lupino’s fifth film as a director and she has an assured, masterful touch with this kind of material. The story involves a pair of friends on a relaxing fishing getaway who pick up the wrong hitchhiker. He is a killer on the run who makes the men drive him to the Mexican border, so he can make his getaway. Knowing that the desperate fugitive won’t let them live, they plot their escape. A low budget wonder with Edmond O’Brien, Frank Lovejoy and William Talman. Rare 35mm print from the Library Of Congress.

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