Ida Lupino Biography

Ida Lupino was born in London England on Friday February 4th, 1918.  She was the first born of British stage comedy players Stanley and Connie Emerald Lupino

Ida’s two great uncles Mark and Harry almost made their living on the stage.  As did her grandfather George Lupino who had a great influence on Ida’s life.

Because Ida’s parents were often out due to their performing schedule, Ida was baby sat by her grandfather.  He taught her to paint, sing and recite Shakespearean passages despite being an invalid (he was felled by a stroke in his sixtieth year).  When Ida was 7 her grandfather passed away.

Ida was then sent off to school at Clarence House in Hove, England.  She wrote and produced a play called Mademoiselle which convinced her she should become a writer.  She also began acting out scenes with her sister.

When she was 12 she made her first professional stage appearance at the Tom Thumb Theatre in London.  When she was 13 she auditioned for and was accepted into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

After working in several plays she decided to try her hand at movies.  Her cousin Lupino Lane, a comedy actor, helped her obtain work as an extra at British International Studios.Ida Lupino

The first picture in which she had a starring role was Her First Affaire came about when her mother auditioned for the role (taking Ida along).  The role was for a girl around 14 years old.  Her mother was 35 at the time, but looked very young.

The director, Alan Dwan, however took one look at Ida and said he wanted her for the part.  At the time in England, it was unusual for a young girl to play a young girl on the screen.  The roles usually went to older girls who looked young.

Soon after Ida was publicized as the “English Jean Harlow”. 

Her next film was Money for Speed (1933).  She played a heartless gold digger.  She also played a money-hungry blonde in High Finance also released in 1933.

In The Ghost Camera (1933) she played the sister of a detective (John Mills).  Mill’s character is searching for a camera that contains film that shows a murder taking place.

Ivor Novello was her co-star for her next picture I Live with You (1933).  Novello, an English move matinee idol, also happened to be Ida’s godfather

Ida made one more British film, 1933’s Prince of Arcadia before making the trip to Hollywood.

Ida Lupino Paramount Pictures’ British agent Donovan Pedelty saw Ida’s performance in Money for Speed and thought she would be perfect the role of Alice in Alice in Wonderland.

He signed her to a six month contract at $650 per month.

When she arrived in Hollywood, Paramount executives took one look at her and instantly new she was not right for the role. She was too “mature”. The role went to Charlotte Henry.

For the next six months Ida was given the “starlet treatment”. She made the round of the nightclubs accompanied by studio-selected dates. One of her frequent escorts was Howard Hughes.

Her American film debut was Search for Beauty (1934). Her co-star was Larry “Buster” Crabbe. The New York Times labelled it “depressing”.  Ida once reflected that “the greatest thing about it was that I met my best girlfriend Ann Sheridan, We were both homesick. We didn’t want to be stars. We just wanted to meet some nice guy and settle down.”   

Her second Paramount film was Come on Marines (1934) which also had Ann Sheridan in the cast. In Variety’s review of the movie they said “Miss Lupino, while not getting much of an opportunity so far at Paramount, still suggests fine possibilities". 

Her next film was Ready for Love (1934) (which also featured Ann Sheridan in a tiny bit part). 

She followed Ready for Love with a farce called Paris in Spring (1935). In it Ida’s character contemplates jumping off the Eiffel Tower because her betrothed has stopped loving her.

Next Ida starred in a comedy called Smart Girl (1935) where she played a rich girl who is forced to go to work after she loses her wealth.

Afterwards Ida said “I’m not funny, I’ll never be funny. If I can’t get a part I can sink my teeth into I’m going back home.”Ida Lupino

Ida’s option with Paramount was about to expire and she was hoping to get roles that were more suited to her talent.

Ida’s next film was Peter Ibbetson. The Hollywood Reporter announced that it was Ida’s “best role to date” even though she appeared in only two scenes.

The film was directed by Henry Hathaway and starred Gary Cooper. On the strength of her performance Paramount signed her to a 52-week contract at $1750 per month.

In autumn of 1935, Ida’s father paid a visit to Hollywood. On December 14th, he threw a party at the Trocadero Club with Ida acting as hostess.

The guest of honor was actress Thelma Todd who Stanley knew from working with her on the British-made film You Made Me Love You (1933).

Following the party, Thelma Todd was found dead in her garage. Her murderer was never found and the case today remains one of Hollywood’s unsolved mysteries. 

Ida’s next film was Anything Goes (1936) a loose adaption of ColePorter’s Broadway musical hit.

Paramount then loaned her out to the production team of Mary Pickford and Jesse Lasky for 1936’s One Rainy Afternoon in which she played an ice-skating instructor.

Her next film was Yours for the Asking (1936), a film that also featured James Gleason, George Raft, Edgar Kennedy and Delores Costello Barrymore.

Ida LupinoThen once again she was loaned out to Mary Pickford and Jesse Lasky for 1936’s The Gay Desperado.  The New York Times said it was a “first-rate musical” and the New York Herald Tribune called Ida “comically effective”.

She was then loaned out to RKO for the low budget film Sea Devils (1937) and to Columbia for the B-film Let’s Get Married (1937) opposite RalphBellamy.

At around this time she composed a musical score called Aladdin’s Lamp. It was performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the summer of 1937.

Ida actually preferred music to acting and said she hoped to one day be able to devote allher energies to it.

Next up for Ida was the Raoul Walsh-directed, extremely popular Artists and Models (1937).

The film starred Jack Benny and also featured the talents of Louis Armstrong, Martha Raye, Judy Canova, and Richard Arlen – not to mention 40 of America’s most beautiful models.

Ida’s role was not fulfilling as it was just a support role for Jack Benny and Richard Arlen’s characters. Fed up, she demanded to be released from her contract.

Paramount agreed and told their gate-man to make sure she never again set foot on the Paramount lot.

Her next film, for RKO, was a very forgettable picture called Fight for your Lady (1937). Afterwards she returned to England to visit her father. In late 1937, she returned to California.

She got a job reading the female lead’s part of The 39 Steps for Cecil B. DeMille’s Lux Radio Theatre.

She didn’t work for most of 1938.

On November 17th, 1938 she married actor Louis Hayward. She was 20. Hayward was 29.

After 16 months off, she returned to movies with The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt and The Lady and the Mob both for Columbia Studios and both released in 1939.

Next up was The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for Twentieth Century-Fox.Ida Lupino

On September 18th, she joined Barbara Stanwyck and Brian Aherne for another segment of Lux Radio Theatre this time featuring Wuthering Heights.

Meanwhile Ida found out that Paramount was producing Rudyard Kipling’s The Light that Failed. Ronald Colman was cast as the star.
Ida, still banned from the Paramount set, called up the film’s director William A. Wellman and asked if she could read for the part.

“He told me to get my ass over there. Over I went, read, and he told me I had the part”, she said.

Years later Ida recounted that “he brought me back to Paramount at three times my former salary and got me a dressing room on the first floor. Nothing could have been sweeter. It wasn’t such a large role but it was colorful.”

Colman, who had his heart set on Vivien Leigh for the part, at first displayed not altogether friendly behaviour towards Ida. He soon adjusted his demeanour and he and Ida eventually became friends.

Frank S. Nugent in The New York Times said “her Bessie (Ida’s character name) is another of the surprised we get when a little ingénue suddenly bursts forth as a great actress.” 

Howard Barnes in The New York Herald-Tribune wrote Ida lupino, who I never have thought had much talent, is extremely fine as Bessie, the streetwalker who poses for the hero and destroys his masterpiece in a moment of pique…”

Warner Brothers seeking a back up to their main female star Bette Davis signed Ida to a long term contract.
Ida LupinoHer first assignment was a secondary role in They Drive By Night (1940) starring George Raft, Humphrey Bogart and Ann Sheridan. She played the wife of Ed Carlson (played by Alan Hale) an ex-trucker who now owns a trucking company. Ida ends up murdering her husband in hope of reigniting a romance with Raft’s character who is head over heals for Cassie played by Ann Sheridan.

Due to her performance, Warner Brothers heralded Ida as“another Bette Davis”. Newsweek said she “stole the show with her arresting performance”.

Her elevated status resulted in her being given the role of Marie Garson, a dance hall girl turned gun moll, in High Sierra (1941).

Her co-star was Humphrey Bogart who played the role of “Mad Dog” Roy Earle and aging gangster who wants to retire and settle down.

Ida’s next film was The Sea Wolf (1941). Directed by Michael Curtiz and based on a Jack London story it also starred Edward G. Robinson, John Garfield and Alexander Knox. It was to be one of Warner Brothers most memorable films of 1941.

She was then matched up with John Garfield again in 1941’s Out of the Fog. Bosley Crowther said Out of the Fog “doesn’t’ even come close tobeing a really good film” and claimed that Ida’s performance was “much too rigid and dour”. 

However Howard Barness from The New York Herald-Tribune said Ida Lupino, as I have said so many times in the past, is one of the great actresses of the screen, and she does not fall down in this instance.”

Humphrey Bogart had been the studio’s first choice for the role of George Leach in The Sea Wolf, but Ida and Bogart weren’t on good terms. It started on the set of They Drive by Night when Bogart accidentally kicked her script across the floor. It elevated during High Sierra when they had an argument over politics. John Garfieldgot the part instead.

In Ladies of Retirement (1941) the 23 year old Ida played 45-year-old house keeper Ellen Creed. The film also featured her husband Louis Hayward, Evelyn Keyes and Elsa Lanchester. Ida Lupino

Ladies in Retirement was Ida’s favorite film of hers.  The New York Times said “Give Ida Lupino the largest measure of credit, for her role is the clue to suspense. Perhaps she is too slight to portray the stolid threat that lay in Flora Robson’s original performance, but she is nonetheless the thin ribbon of intensity that makes the film hair-raising.” 

Twentieth Century Fox borrowed Ida to star opposite French actor Jean Gabin in Moontide (1942). This was Gabin’s American film debut.

 (May 17th 1904 –November 15th, 1976) did not catch on with American audiences and after Moontide he starred in only one more American film (The Imposter (1944)) before heading back to France.

In 1942, Ida was commissioned a lieutenant by the American Ambulance Corps. She was place in charge of dispatching emergency air raid ambulances in the Los Angeles area. She had a special switchboard installed in her house. She took this assignment seriously.

On July 12th 1942, her father Stanley died in London. Unfortunately Ida, her mother and her sister could not attend Stanley’s last rites due to wartime travel restrictions.

Next up for Ida film-wise was 1942’s The Hard Way of which Ida said, “Though The Hard Way did a great deal for my career as an actress, when I sawthe picture at a preview I couldn’t stand looking at my own scenes. I thought the other actors were magnificent but that my own performance was incredibly bad. I walked out in the middle of the picture.”

Time Magazine did not agree saying she deserved the “top acting honors” and adding that she “plays the most hateful jade since Bette Davis in The Little Foxes."

The NewYork World-Telegram said Miss Lupino joins Ruth Chatterton and Bette Davis in the right to be a Great American Actress.”

Ida LupinoHer next film was Twentieth Century Fox’s Life Begins at 8:30 (1942). Bosley Crowther in The New York Times said Ida plays “a crippled daughter with compassion and simplicity.” 

Ida’s next screen appearance was in Forever and a Day (1943) a multi-episode story that featured the talents of 7 directors and producers and 79 name actors. Ida appeared in the third episode playing a maid. 

New York Film Critics gave Ida their best actress award of 1943 to Ida for her performance in The Hard Way.  Ida also appeared in Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) performing a number called The Dreamer. 

Ida’s next film In Our Time (1943) was not well-received by the critics. Bosley Crowther said In Our Time “is as stale in its methods as the things that it tells."  She also appeared in Hollywood Canteen released in 1944.

When her husband, Louis Hayward, came back from serving in the war he told Ida that he “didn’t want to be tied down to one woman.” 

They were divorced May 11th, 1945.

Soon after she suffered a nervous breakdown. For the next year she lived on her friend Sandra Perry’s 42-foot yawl in Newport Beach (located 30 miles away for L.A.).

Later she would say, “There was nothing bitter when we parted. He’s a darling, wonderful man. It was just that he was more mature than I. I was too young and full of life to have married then.”

Her next film to hit the theatres was the comedy Pillow to Post (1945) directed by Vincent Sherman.  It was filmed before she went on her Newport Beach hiatus. James Agee in Time Magazine said it was “corn”, but added “fortunately, however, corn is edible and the serious thinkers turn out to have a nice knack forfoolishness. 

Newsweek didn’t quite see it that way writing, “Although Miss Lupino clowns courageously to invigorate a shop-worn theme, the spontaneous laughs are few and far between.”

In April of 1946, Devotion was released. It was a fictionalized account of the relationship between the Bronte sisters. It also starred Olivia de Havilland. Bosley Crowther in The New York Times said it was “a ridiculous tax upon reason and an insult to plain intelligence."

Next Ida played a blues singer in the 1946 release The Man I Love. In 1947, she played a youngIda Lupino lady with a speech defect in Deep Valley.

Her next film featured Eleanor Parker and Errol Flynn. In Escape MeNever (1947) Ida sings (dubbed by Peg La Centra) an Erich Wolfgang Korngold composition Love for Love.  Bosley Crowther did not approve of the film accusing it of being “something harsh and unbelievable, like a terrible faux pas in a grade-school play.”

In 1947, Ida split from Warner Brothers.

She recounted how it happened to James R. Silke in his book “Here’s Looking at You,Kid” (1976):

“One night towards the end of my contract, there was Hal Wallis and Jack (Warner) coming out of his office.  Jack saw me and said, “Ida why are you here?”

“I’m about to be chewed out”

“Oh Ida, Ida, Ida sweet as apple cida…” he sang and we went into a soft-shoe routine.
Then he asked me to sign a four-year exclusive contract and I said, “No no, no! I want a home, a husband, a child and I don’t want to be told someday  that I will be replaced by some starlet as I was told I would replace Bette (Davis).

He told me, “If you don’t’ sign you’ll never work for Warners again.” And I didn’t.

The beautiful thing about Warner Brothers when I was there was I only worked with great people, actors, directors, producers.  But when I left, nobody said goodbye."

On June 25th, 1948, Ida became an American citizen.

On August 5th, 1948 she married Collier H. Young, a Columbia Pictures film executive (he had been her ex-hubbie’s best friend). Ida was 30. Young was 39.

Prior to her marriage, she starred in Road House (1948) for Twentieth Century Fox. Road House also starred Cornel Wilde, Richard Widmark and Celeste Holm.

Next she starred in Columbia Pictures’ Lust for Gold (1949) with Glenn Ford. This film marked a downward trend for Ida’s movie career.

To capitalize on the growing television craze (in 1949 there were approximately one million TV sets in America), Ida wrote and produced (but did not act in) a film made for TV called Not Wanted

Also in 1949 she starred with stage actor Howard Duff in Woman in Hiding.

In 1950, she directed and co-wrote (but did not act in) Never Fear (actor Hugh O’Brien’s first film).

Ida LupinoIda and her husband then partnered with Howard Hughes RKO pictures.  They would get access to RKO’s financing, distribution and facilities for 50% of the profits from the films they made.

The first result was 1950’s Outrage, followed by Hard, Fast and Beautiful in 1951.  Both films were directed by Ida, with her appearing only in bit parts.

On October 20th, 1951 she divorced Collier Young.  The next day she married Howard Duff.  Ida was 33.  Duff was 36.  It was her third marriage, his first. 

At the time, Ida was the only active female writer/director in Hollywood.  However she also wanted to keep acting where she routinely charged $70,000 per picture. 

She then acted in two pictures with Robert Ryan, On Dangerous Ground and Beware My Lovely both release in 1952.  Of Beware My Lovely the Saturday Review said, “Just too many things keep happening at the wrong time, and the final explanation of the hero’s aberration is altogether too naïve for belief.”

On April 23rd, 1952, Ida gave birth to a 4 pound, 3 ounce daughter Bridget

Next up she directed Edmond O’Brien and Frank Lovejoy in the box-office sleeper The Hitchhiker (1953).  She also co-wrote it.  After that she starred in the film Jennifer (1953) with her husband.  During this time she and Howard Duff separately briefly.

In 1953 she also direct and co-starred in The Bigamist.  It featured Edmond O’Brien and Joan Fontaine (who at the time was married to Ida’s ex-husband Collier Young).

With Dick Powell, Charles Boyer, and David Niven, Ida formed the company Four StarIda Lupino Productions.  They produced the Four Star Playhouse which debuted December 31st, 1953.  Ida starred in 19 episodes.

The film Private Hell 36 was released in 1954.  It was from a script Ida co-wrote with her ex-husband Collier Young and starred Ida, Howard Duff and Steve Cochran.  The following year she co-starred again with Duff in Women’s Prison (1955).

Robert Aldrich then signed Ida to star opposite Jack Palance in 1955’s anti-Hollywood story The Big Knife based on a Clifford Odets play.

She then appeared in 1956’s Fritz Lang-directed While the City Sleeps about a serial killer who preys on women.  The cast also included Dana Andrews, Rhonda Fleming, George Sanders, Vincent Price, Thomas Mitchell and John Barrymore Jr.

In 1956 her TV-directing career started with the Joseph Cotton-produced On Trial series for NBC.

On January 4th, 1957 Ida and her husband Howard Duff appeared for the first time in the CBS situation comedy Mr. Adams and Eve (they were to appear in 66 episodes together).

During the next nine years, her sole business focus was television, directing series such as Have Gun Will Travel, Sam Benedict, The Untouchables, Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  And acting in such series as Bonanza and The Virginian.

In 1966 she returned to theatre-released films when she directed The Trouble with Angels starring Rosalind Russell.

In 1972 she played Steve McQueen’s mother in Junior Bonner directed by Sam PeckinpahKathleen Carroll wrote in The New York Daily Times, “What a joy it is to watch seasoned pros like (Robert) Preston and Miss Lupino at work.” 

In September of 1972 Ida told columnist Pat Campbell, “I love that old man of mine.  We’ve been married for twenty-one years, and I’m still crazy about him.”

Ida LupinoA few weeks later, Duff moved out of their Brentwood home and into the Bel Air Sands Hotel

“I’ve been dropped like a lump of ice,” Ida said.  She later told Al Coombes of The National Enquirer that “I feel so cheated.  Everyone knew he was going out with other girls—everyone except me.  Now all I have left is my black cat Dollywood.”

In the 1970’s, Ida continued to make appearances in films such as I Love a Mystery (TV) (1973) The Letter (TV) (1973) and the low-budget thriller The Devil’s Rain (1975). 

Her last film as 1978’s My Boys are Good co-starring Ralph Meeker.

Throughout the 80’s and early 90’s she kept a low profile saying “I am happier now, leading a more peaceful existence…I am very suspicious of my fellow human beings.  I have retreated from the whole Hollywood scene.”

While battling colon cancer, Ida Lupino succumbed to a stroke on August 3rd, 1995.  Her remains are interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California where she is buried beside Errol Flynn.

- T.J. (webmaster)

Return from Ida Lupino Biography to Ida Lupino Main Page