Hollywood’s top female filmmaker in the 1950s was English. How did we forget her?


The main female filmmaker of the late Golden Age of Hollywood was English. Born in the London suburb of Herne Hill in 1918, Ida Lupino came from a theatrical family: her father was Stanley Lupino, a music hall turner who became a major musical comedy star of the 1930s. European exoticism, but Ida’s great-grandfather had changed his name from the very English “Hook”.

She went to Rada and by the age of 15 was a regular at cheap and cheerful British films, but her striking beauty propelled her to America. His career took off in 1940 when Warner Brothers asked him to play alongside Humphrey Bogart and George Raft in the drama They Drive by Night. The following year, she played again with Bogart in High Sierra.

However, Lupino never enjoyed the actress’ life and regularly complained about the roles she was offered. As a result, Warner Brothers often suspended her so she could use her free time to learn more about other aspects of filmmaking – and found that, all along, she had wanted to be a director. With her husband, Collier Young, and other friends, she formed an independent production company, The Filmakers Inc, in 1948 to make a series of low-budget films, the most acclaimed of which was The Bigamist, in 1953.

In the same year, Lupino became the first woman to direct an American film noir – The Hitch-Hiker, for RKO Pictures. His greatest cinematic achievement is the story of two friends (Edmond O’Brien and Frank Lovejoy) who go fishing in Mexico and pick up a hitchhiker, Myers, who turns out to be a psychopath. (He is played with rare menace by William Talman, who readers of a certain age will remember as the district attorney who lost every case he fought against Perry Mason). Myers is wanted by the police after robbing and killing other drivers who made the mistake of coming for him, and he is desperate.

He takes the two harmless men hostage; and the film shows the psychological games he plays with them, and their increasingly frantic attempts to escape. Myers is the classic weak and pathetic man who wields his power through the threat of deadly violence and believes “you can get anything at the end of a gun.” Towards the film’s climax, we see the police, both American and Mexican, closing in on the criminal. Eventually he is caught and his two victims escape with their lives – fair.


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