She was born in Ardbeg Road, Herne Hill in 1918 – 100 years ago this year. Since 2016 it has been marked by a blue plaque.
She was the self-confessed ‘poor man’s Bette Davis’ – but in my opinion she was so much better…
She then became (as director) the ‘poor man’s Don Siegel’ – but without mentioning she was the ONLY WOMAN DIRECTOR in Hollywood in the 50s.
Jazz pianist Paul Bley recorded a track called Ida Lupino in 1965 (it’s good!).
She died from a stroke in 1995.
Road House (not to be confused with the inferior Patrick Swayze picture) was directed by the Romanian Jean Negulesco. I’d seen a couple of his films before (The Boy On A Dolphin and How To Marry A Millionaire), without thinking he was any great shakes. But this is different.
Ida plays a nightclub singer who gets a residency at Jefty’s Road House, on the Canadian border. Richard Widmark (only a year after his debut in Kiss Of Death) is Jefty, Cornel Wilde his partner (he looks like a deflated version of Victor Mature, says L) and Celeste Holm the cashier. I’d only seen Celeste in All About Eve and High Society before, and she’s fab (and this was only 2 years after HER debut).
She and Ida are instant rivals for the affections of Cornel Wilde (who was good when he was SUPPOSED to be weak, as in Leave Her To Heaven, but is the movie’s one lacklustre actor).
Their first exchange is fab: Ida has an extraordinary haircut with an ultra-short fringe. When she meets Celeste, she says: ‘We already have something in common: same barber.’ She says it as if she KNOWS her haircut’s crap. And the next time we see Celeste, she’s changed her fringe! Details, details…
Ida has another tic: she puts her cigarettes on the side of the table, even when there’s an ashtray handy. It’s used as an index of time passing: a cut from one cigarette burn on the lid of the piano – to ten or so.
Her songs are FANTASTIC, delivered realistically with her own piano playing. Notably One For My Baby – which is also a song sung in similar circumstances by Frank Sinatra in Young At Heart. (It makes me want to see The Man I Love again, made the previous year.)
The film abruptly lurches into melodrama – and into the woods – when Widmark and Wilde fall out.
But still, it’s a gem for Ida Lupino – and a hint of further pleasures to come from Negulesco.
Last but not least: the script (and production) is by Edward Chodorov, whom I hadn’t heard of, but also wrote (uncredited, according to IMDb) Devotion (1946) about the Bronte sisters, with Ida as Emily – which is also on YouTube, but bizarrely dubbed into French!