|Above: Ida Lupino with Dane Clark in Jean Negulesco's Deep Valley (1947).|
No matter how glossy, tough or crazy the veneer that Ida Lupino‘s characters donned in her movies in the ’40s, there was, it seems to me, something achingly vulnerable and alone about this woman. The characters’ palpable loneliness seems to exist even when they are the lynchpin in their often dysfunctional family.
The actress was a tiny woman, only about 5’4″, with burning, sad eyes who appears to have had a habit of biting her lip when she thought no one was looking. Despite this slight frame and occasionally tentative manner in real life, her most vivid characters often pay the spiritual price of getting on with life. Among these portraits is the supposedly hard-bitten striver in The Hard Way (1942), who will literally do anything for her sister (Joan Leslie), the girl overwhelmed with the problems of her alcoholic thespian father (Monty Woolley) in Life Begins at Eight-Thirty (1942), the housekeeper trying to protect her eccentric sisters in Ladies in Retirement (1941), or the young Emily Bronte in Devotion (1946) trying to save her brother Branwell (Arthur Kennedy), from his own self-destruction, are often trying to keep the family intact, despite the odds and the cost.
While praised for the tenacity and intensity of her performances, few observers of Ida Lupino‘s films seem to acknowledge two things about the actress: the theme of familial loyalty and conflict that runs through her work and the singular way that–almost isolated from the more conventional acting around her–her performances seem to be shaped by some idiosyncratic rhythm in her head. Andrea King, who acted with Lupino in The Hollywood Canteen (1944) and The Man I Love (1947) was awed by her artistry and felt that the actress had “a magic glow.”...More on the TCM Movie Morlocks