Sunday, February 4, 2018

CELEBRATING THE CENTENARY OF IDA LUPINO'S BIRTH: Miss Lupino, Television Cowgirl

Ida Lupino
February 4, 1918 - August 3, 1995

Pictured above is the strong and talented actress, director, and writer Ida Lupino. Born into a show business family, London born Ida began acting in her teens and eventually made her mark in Hollywood. Time-tested performances in many films including Ladies in Retirement, They Drive by Night, On Dangerous Ground, and Road House make Ida's a career worthy of admiration. However, performing proved not to be enough for this powerhouse of talent. When the opportunity arrived, she added directing to her CV. Independent stories told through a woman's voice were Miss Lupino's metier. See Outrage, Never Fear and Hard, Fast and Beautiful.

During the 1950s when the movie industry was shaken by the burgeoning popularity of television, some executives and performers ran scared. Among those who embraced the opportunities of the new medium were Ida Lupino and Dick Powell. In 1955 Dick Powell, along with David Niven, Charles Boyer, and Joel McCrea founded Four Star Productions, with McCrea bowing out of the corporation early to be replaced by Ida Lupino.

Ida worked consistently as a television actress in the 1950s including appearing in 19 episodes of Four Star Playhouse, and her own Four Star series Mr. Adams and Eve, created by ex-husband Collier Young and co-starring then current husband Howard Duff.

Westerns emerged as the most popular television programming in this decade. Let's look at two examples of Ida's talent used in this genre and medium beginning with a guest appearance on Zane Grey Theatre, an anthology series hosted by Dick Powell. 

Zane Grey Theatre: Fearful Courage
Air date: October 12, 1956

Michael Pate (McLintock!) plays a gunfighter who pursues the settler he has just widowed to a cabin occupied by one lone man attempting to keep away from trouble. Louise Brandon played by Ida Lupino is a woman thrown into a seemingly impossible situation. Suppressing her shock and grief at the loss of her husband, her first thought is to hold onto the land they both struggled to maintain. Once her conflict includes another, Jeb played by James Whitmore, she is willing to give up the land in exchange for their lives, but the gunfighter is not someone with whom they can reason.

James Whitmore, Ida Lupino

Written by Arthur A. Ross (Poe and WGA winner, Oscar nominee) Fearful Courage is a suspenseful story of danger and a fine character study worthy of its leading actors. The director of the episode was Bernard Girard whose 20 year career in television included Emmy and DGA nominations. The anthology series which sadly disappeared in ensuing decades provided many opportunities for creative minds to practice their craft and entertain television audiences.

Ida was 38 years old the year of this project with 24 years of professional acting to her credit. In the fast-paced world of television, it is the job of the performer to bring a fully realized character to life within a few days of rehearsal and shooting. Fans of the classic programs of the era can marvel at the talent on display, both the veteran and the newcomers.

Have Gun - Will Travel: First, Catch a Tiger
Air date: September 12, 1959

Director Ida Lupino with actors Don Megowan and Richard Boone

"Ida stimulates me as an actor because she knows acting. In a weekly show you get into acting patterns. Ida gets you out of them." - Richard Boone

Paladin, the hired troubleshooter played by Richard Boone in Have Gun - Will Travel roamed the television range from 1957 to 1963, and John Dehner starred in a radio spinoff from 1958 to 1960. Freelancer Paladin could travel anywhere and face many different dangers and adventures. In 1959, the year this episode aired, the series was nominated for Best Western Series, the only year of that Emmy Award.

This well-regarded episode written by Harry Julian Fink features our Paladin racing to meet trouble before it reaches him. A man called Fred Horn is credited with the murders of two men, a sheriff, and a judge, involved in the execution of a murderer. Paladin had captured the guilty party and that man's father, Mordain played by Harry Bartell, has hired a gunfighter to kill all those he deems responsible. 

Don Megowan, Harry Bartell, John Anderson

The small town of Mordain is where Paladin goes to meet destiny. Which of the men is Horn, the killer? It could be the drummer played by Stacy Harris, the veteran who owes Mordain played by Don Megowan, the ramrod played by John Anderson or the hotelier played by King Calder. Complicating the situation is an indentured servant, Mary played by Pamela Lincoln, who seeks Paladin's help.

Richard Boone, the shadow of Stacy Harris

A strong sense of tension permeates the episode as a game of cat and mouse escalates between Paladin and the enemies who surround him. Horn is known for shooting his victims in the back and Paladin will not wait for that to happen. He will draw his foe out into the open.

Don Megowan, Richard Boone
John Anderson, Harry Bartell on staircase

The dialogue-heavy scenes are filmed by Miss Lupino with memorable close-ups and a sense of movement, and the emotion behind each line. The action sequence takes full advantage of the physicality of the actors and stuntmen. There is a forboding and noirish look to the episode.

Director Ida Lupino, a young 41 at the time of this assignment, had successfully directed 7 feature films of the 8 to her credit, and 8 television episodes of an eventual 33 in her career. Have Gun - Will Travel would eventually include 8 of those credits.










16 comments:

  1. I'm kinda surprised no one did a blogathon for her.

    One thing I've always wondered about Lupino: did she ever make a movie with her natural British accent or did she always play Americans?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess Ida's centenary sneaked up on us.

      Your question is a puzzler for my memory. I think she was pure Brit in Ladies in Retirement and Forever and a Day. Maybe in The Sea Wolf as well.

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    2. here ya go: [ ffwd to 16.00]
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6CBncTclI4
      The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939 Classic Film)
      Tsnore
      ...This film features...
      Ida Lupino as a wronged woman in search of her brother's murderer whom she suspects may be her fiance...'

      Delete
    3. D'oh! Thanks. How could I forget Miss Ann Brandon?

      http://www.caftanwoman.com/2017/01/spending-time-with-sherlock-adventures.html

      Delete
  2. She was a fine actress, but her success as a female director of mainstream films and television series was amazing. Can you imagine the barriers she had to overcome? The number of minority directors in Hollywood now is still ridiculously low. Ida Lupino was a true trail blazer and, as you pointed out, a visionary in terms of television's potential.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Such a delicate looking woman, you know her strength must have been formidable.

      Delete
  3. I'm bad at placing people - I always thought she was an Italian-American from NYC! Anyway, great write up. She was also great in 16mm shrine (Twilight Zone) and as Bogie's main squeeze in "High Sierra". My favorite of her directing gigs is "The trouble with angels".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love her character's name in that Twilight Zone - Barbara Jean Trenton - it sounds like a movie star.

      I can understand your fondness for The Trouble With Angels. I think it holds up beautifully. It is really a nice look at the lives of women, of all ages, and the choices made. A funny and touching film.

      Delete
  4. Hi Caftan Woman/Paddy Lee,

    I stumbled on your blog again after quite a while. Nice work!
    I don't know if you remember me from the imdb Classic Film and the Noir board. I used to go by the my other alias, "Jessica Rabbit". :)
    I changed my name to Margot Shelby. Too many Jessica Rabbits around.

    A couple of weeks ago I too started my own Noir blog and now I'm trying to get into contact with other enthusiasts. Here it is:

    https://downthesemeanstreetsblog.blogspot.com

    Just wanted to say hi. I'd like to take part in some upcoming blogathons.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Certainly I recall Jessica Rabbit, but the name Margot Shelby works even better; a name to stiffen the spine of any noir afficionado.

      I've added your blog to my blog list to the right here. Great work!

      Delete
    2. Thanks so much. I am working my way through your blog. I also got in contact with Maddy on her blog. I'll add a link to your blog to mine too.

      Let's keep in touch. :)

      Delete
  5. Fitting tribute to Ida Lupino and her important role in television history. I watched those shows as a kid and they were great. Thanks for this post Caftan Woman.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much.

      I enjoy watching the shows of my youth with the newfound appreciation of my, um, shall we say - maturity?

      Delete
  6. You ought to create a personal movie database that is reasonable for your requirements. find this for more about gomovies.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Iconic! Great write-up.
    Love her work. The Hitch-hiker is a favorite.

    Carol

    ReplyDelete

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