Happy DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr. Day
Today, January 18th, marks my blog’s first birthday and Cary Grant’s 112th birthday and my own ____ th birthday. ( A-hem! ) There’s a slew of other CAPRICORNS born today too. I say we’re ALL keeping rather good company this day.
This weekend I am hosting my first-ever blogathon: “CLASSIC SYMBIOTIC COLLABORATIONS: The Star – Director Blogathon.” I can’t wait to receive and present the bloggers and their posts here at CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch. Click on the silhouette above of one of the most famous collaborations, Hitchcock and Cary Grant to see the roster.
First let me give you my two guest writers: First up, Trudy Ring writing about director George Cukor in her piece: ‘George Cukor & the Men in His Life’ in conjunction with this week-end’s blogathon. Also, in his cute little corner of my blog, go to Fernando’s Corner where he writes one of his pithy reviews on a William Wellman classic, “The Light That Fails” starring Ronald Colman and the subject of my choice in this blogathon: Ida Lupino. All you need do is click on the photos above.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
My own entry for my blogathon will look at the movies a two-fisted director makes with a powerhouse actress:
At first blush this might sound like a rough sexist remark. But it’s RAOUL WALSH folks. No babies allowed. Anything this rough and tumble director dishes out to Cagney or Gable or Bogart or Flynn or Mitchum or Kirk or Holden he could dish out to IDA LUPINO and she’d be just as capable and powerful and successful. Walsh had a long career before he crossed paths with Ida. But he first crossed paths with a jackrabbit during the making of “In Old Arizona” which resulted in the car accident that cost half his sight. By career’s end though, Walsh had his hand in many genres including: westerns, musicals, war movies, drama or action adventure; with an eyepatch over his right eye.
Ida Lupino’s movie career started in 1931 but she’s not new to show business. Her family’s last name ~ Lupino ~ stretches back to the 17th century, as her Italian fore-bearers (Luppino) were puppet makers who emigrated to England and continued to work in the theatre. I’d say 1939 was the year that Lupino’s career really gained traction with “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” and especially “The Light That Failed.” Her characterizations and career at this point are generally associated with Bette Davis…sometimes rather ungraciously known as “the poor man’s Bette Davis”. That’s so unfair. Lupino was her own person. Lupino adds another weapon to her arsenal of talent. When the director of the script she wrote ( “Not Wanted” ) became ill, Lupino went behind the camera to direct it. This started, in effect, a parallel career path for her as a director.
certainly puts Lupino through her paces as a woman in love with men she’ll never really have. And Lupino had it in her to make each woman very different in each of her films. So lets look at the three films these two powerhouses made together:
* * * * * * * * * * *
IS this the face of a girl who might scratch your eyes out.
YOU BET IT IS!
This section will be full of spoilers because if you haven’t seen “They Drive By Night” already, kid…I can’t help you.
I unequivocably and unqualifyingly LOVE this movie. What a great cast. Naaaaah, we’d never see the likes of a big-named cast all in one film today. ( No, I’m not counting that vanity project of sequels: “Oceans 11” “Oceans 12” and “Oceans 15 To The Nth Power.” ) For me, this is one of Warner Brothers’ best – Warner Brothers hijinks at their hi-jinxiest doing what they do: a film peppered with character actors allowed to do their thing.
Here is the first meeting of Raoul Walsh and Ida Lupino and gets a blistering performance out of her. She spits out her lines like a crackling
whip. I’ll get into Ida in a moment. Walsh seamlessly melds two movies into one with “They Drive By Night.” On one hand you have the testerone of Raft and Bogart, truckers who haul freight up and down the California coast. They fight to get paid, and fight to stay awake on the road. Walsh also gives you the romantic angle. A young couple falling in love and ex-lovers who don’t end amicably. Walsh handles both tones with equal aplomb. I thought Raft was a pip in this role. Smart, confident and those mascara-looking smoky eyes of his. Yea! I love his scenes and banter with Ann Sheridan. She’s a swell dream girl of a leading lady for him (and any leading man). It’s interesting for me to see the same actress play a nice girl (“Kings Row”–1942 ) and then a diva ( “The Man Who Came to Dinner”–1942 ) or vice versa. I like knowing that they all can ramp it up…or coooool it down.
But for me, “They Drive By Night” is strictly Ida Ida-Idolize Ya-Lupino.
I think she was driven to murder. All men should know by now that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Especially when you twist the knife. And pour salt in the wound. Whaddya expect? What would YOU do if you married Alan Hale on the rebound from being with George Raft? ( See…she doesn’t seem so crazy now, right? ) Before Ida goes down in flames, she’s tart, full of fire, pepper and vinegar. I can see why she’s ready to step into the Queen of the Lot’s angry lethal little shoes at the drop of a gun. ( The queen of the WB lot? Why, Bette Davis you silly goose! ) In fact, this movie is a bit of a re-make of an older Bette Davis film: “Bordertown” with the same Mad as a Hatter courtoom breakdown scene. In “They Drive…” Lupino marries the big lovable blowhard, Alan Hale, but wants to rekindle her affair with our Georgie. He wants none of it since he’s been dating “that redhead.” I like Georgie’s faithfulness, but was a teensy miffed at him turning the salty dagger into her heart every time he passive aggressively said “Mrs. Carlsen.” ( Ow!!! ) Too much to ask to take her out to a nice dinner and explain that Hale is his friend and he’s really interested in making a go of it with the Oomph Girl? Yea. Too much to ask. But…the better the fireworks for us in the audience!
“I COMMITTED MURDER TO GET YOU!!!”
Her mad scene, over the top? Well…maybe just a teensy weensy leeetle. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Raft’s scenes with Lupino snap, crackle and bites. I think she’s such a consummate actress she keeps him on his toes. Gives-better-than-she-good-gets. And yes my favorite scene in the entire movie is when Raft totally drop kicks Ida’s heart. He tells her he’s marrying Ann Sheridan. She…is…pissed. And she really turns up the heat. One fiery Lupino, comin’ right up!!! She tells Raft where to get off. And believe me, he wants to go. I wait the whole movie for this scene to watch Raft bolt for the door and say “I’m gettin’ outta here!” Great line reading too. These will read like mere words on a page to you, but I urge you to find the film and check out their big confrontation scene. Their eyes are locked the entire scene. They’re in it together. Lupino starts slowly and ramps it up to a fiery finish:
LUPINO: “If it weren’t for me you’d be kicking trucks up and down the coast. I get Ed to take you off the road. I put that clean collar around your dirty neck. I put those creases in your pants. I’m the one that put that money in your pocket. What makes you think you can walk out on me!”
RAFT: “I came here on a business deal. And I’ve done alright for you as well as myself.”
LUPINO: “Don’t talk like a fool. I walked you right into a company that was set and established. I gave you Ed’s insurance money to buy new trucks. I could’ve picked any one off the streets who could add two an two togethr and they’d have done just as well!”
RAFT: “Well anytime you don’t like the set-up I can always check out.”
LUPINO: “Well you’re not getting out. You belong with me and you’re going to stay with me. And if you don’t like it now you’ll learn to like it. Only you’re not going off and marrying that cheap redhead.”
RAFT: “I’m marrying Cassie and I’m not asking anybody what they think about it. That includes you!”
LUPINO: “She hasn’t any right to you. You’re mine and I’m hanging on to you. I commited murder to get you. Understand? Murder.”
And the scene continues with Lupino going through a myriad of emotions as she explodes. Fury, pity, bargaining, begging, threatening. She spits out her lines with venom. I’d have loved to see her work with Cagney or opposite Bette. Last Man Standing. Fellas, you want to see a woman scorned? Better to check out Ida here than face her in person. She loves hard, murders hard and goes down hard. Here’s the trial scene:
She gets you because she winds up not hard and brittle, but a broken pitiable young woman. In his first film directing Ida Lupino I think Walsh sees she is willing to go there. He’s got a comet by the tail. She commits to a characterization. And you’ve got to remember, these actors aren’t doing this in a vacuum, behind closed doors. It is Macy’s window…on set with cast and crew and lights and booms. Walsh gives Lupino his gaze, his camera. When he works with her next time, Walsh swings the emotional pendulum all the way in the opposite direction. Just remember where they both left you off:
POINT OF REFERENCE: Where Lupino was in her career:
- Artist’s Model Bessie Broke in “The Light That Failed” ( 1939 )
- Jealous & Venomous Lana Carlsen in “They Drive By Night” ( 1940 )
- Victimized puppy Marie in “High Sierra” ( 1941 )
* * * * * * * * * * *
LUPINO: “Poor little fella. Got no home. Got nobody, have you?”
BOGART: “Of all the 14-karat saps. Starting out in a caper with a woman and a dog. If he spoils this job, I’ll–”
LUPINO: “Oh you’re full of talk. I think you’re glad.”
[ He smiles. ]
Boy, this poster is all over the map here in representing the movie, but “HIGH SIERRA” is the second collaboration between Lupino and Walsh and he winds up with a pip of a performance from her. ( After you see how she rips George Raft to shreds in “They Drive By Night” the year before, this may be a welcomed relief. ) She plays Marie who has put in her lot with this motley crüe of mamalukes headed by Roy Earle, played wonderfully by Humphrey Bogart. Bogart is on his way to coming into his own in a big way with this film. He’s a few months away from “The Maltese Falcon” and a year away from “Casablanca” ( 1942 ). The movie feels like a Greek tragedy to me in the scope of folly that befalls many of the characters. They just can’t get out of their own way.
Gang includes Cornel Wilde, Arthur Kennedy and Alan Curtis
Walsh shows Lupino’s more vulnerable side in this crime drama. In fact, I think Marie’s story aligns itself most to the little dog Pard who appears in the movie. Marie, like Pard, is sort of kicked around, could be left behind at any moment and picked up again…maybe. It’s tough to see it happen to a cute little pup, and when it’s in human form it especially hits you in the gut. Marie often advocates on Pard’s behalf. If only someone would advocate for her.
There are tangential storylines that surround a big heist Roy and his boys are going to pull. They all seem to involve people not getting what they want. Red ( Arthur Kennedy ) and Babe ( Alan Curtis ) fight over Marie. Marie loves Roy but he’s in love with a sweet little crippled girl named Velma ( Joan Leslie. ) Warnings go unheeded. Ships pass in the night.
HULL: “But Roy I’m giving it to you straight. You’re just sticking your neck out. She’s not yourkind and youknow it. And she’s gong to throw an awful fit when she finds out what kind of a guy you really are.”
BOGART: “Yeah I know.”
HULL: “You may catch lead any minute. What you need is a fast-stepping young filly you can keep up with. Remember what Johnny Dillinger said about guys like you and him? He said you were just rushing towards death. Yeah that’s it. Just rushing towards death.”
But who takes advice when they’re in love. In this film, as in Walsh’s “The Roaring Twenties”, both heroes fall for a girl he aspires to be worthy of, but who really is not meant for him. For a man just out of prison, Bogart’s Roy is a gentle man. Oh he’ll pistol whip you if he has to, no doubt about his toughness, but we see he has heart. He tries to help Velma. He smacks around the guys who rough up Marie. He has nightmares. Marie wants to take care of him. She can also relate, like him, to wanting something better. They are two damaged people who don’t know how to get what they want. She tells her story of leaving an abusive home life and dime-a-dance joint she worked at:
“…When Babe came along I crashed out again. I thought Babe was the right guy. I guess I was never really hooked up with any guy that wasn’t wrong. So I had nothing to go by… ‘till I met you.”
She takes a whole bunch of slings and arrows in this movie point blank, and every one of them goes straight through our heart. She kneels by her cot crying. When he goes to find out what’s wrong, it’s just heart-tugging the way she puts her arms around him, like a child, begging him not to send her away. ( Ack! ) Whereas she feels she’s found better with Roy, though he still thinks he can do better with Velma ( not going to happen, my friend ) and he tries to let Lupino down easy:
“Listen. Listen to me. I’m giving it to you straight. I got plans see. There’s no room in them for you. You could never mean nothing to me. Nothing special that is. You know what I mean.”
She accepts these crumbs. You want to bop him on the head, and take her for an ice cream soda. Nothing works out for almost anyone in the movie, and that’s the tragedy of it all or the Walsh of it all…or the irony. After all, these are bad guys shooting and stealing. We’re wishing for them to be happy? Walsh makes you feel for them. What a scene this is when Roy visits Velma for the last time, to be able to see her walk, and dance…with an old boyfriend. Marie’s right there to witness the takedown. She and Velma give each other that subtle once-over to see how each of them measures up against the other. It’s all hurtful, painful and sad to see. And the boyfriend? It’s 30’s actor John Eldrege. JOHN ELDREDGE? No woman ever picks him.
The inevitable happens in the movie, but I’ve left you enough plot points to unfold for you if you haven’t seen this before. Walsh lets Lupino have the last moments of the movie. He holds the camera on her, and she holds you by the heart. Lupino walks a razor’s edge between neediness and cloying. ( I think of Jean Hagen in “The Asphalt Jungle.” ) Desperation makes you want to run away from her. But she makes you want to take her because you know she’s got your best interests at heart. Wordlessly, just before the fade-out, she shows the sadness and happiness for Roy. All she wants is the best for him. He was finally able to crashout.
POINT OF REFERENCE: Where Lupino was in her career:
- A woman scorned ~ Lana Carlsen in “They Drive By Night” ( 1940 )
- Lost & victimized ~ Marie in “High Sierra” ( 1941 )
- Escaped con ~ Ruth Brewster in “The Sea Wolf” ( 1941 )
* * * * * * * * *
The last time Walsh and Lupino team up will be in 1947. They both have done a couple of films in the meantime. She’s done “Out of the Fog” “The Sea Wolf” and “The Hard Way” while Walsh has “They Died With Their Boots On” “Objective Burma!” “The Horn Blows At Midnight” under his belt.
The Gershwins ( George & Ira ) helmed the famous song “The Man I Love” that the Lupino movie is based on. I love her in this movie. She is nice but tough in the role of chantoozy, Petey Brown. ( What is it about these ol’ classics making a gal a nightclub singer? Pardon me…a chanteuse. ) It sure does put her in the path of unsavory types. I like her Petey Brown; she’s friendly and sassy. She’s good natured, has a good sense of humor and lots of common sense. She meets her little six-year nephew again after a long absence and has this exchange:
Lupino: “You didn’t have that black eye the last time I saw you.”
Nephew: “You didn’t have that color hair the last time I saw you.”
Lupino: “Smart kid. Doesn’t take after anyone in our family.”
Great line reading from that kid too. She’s a pal, but if she has to tell you about yourself, she will…though NOT in the blistering way you know she can tear into you. She’s the head of her family of three siblings ( a no-good kid brother [ Warren Douglas ], a very pretty wallflower [ Martha Vickers ] and a sister who looks like Irene Dunne in “I Remember Mama” [ Andrea King ]. ) She dispenses with the quips and good advice, but takes little of it herself. She lands on her feet…even it sometimes it IS a hard fall.
She scores a job at a nightclub in Long Beach California run by swarthy. large hands, tough guy Nicky Teresca ( played pretty well by Robert Alda. ) He falls for her immediately because you know…Ida. He keeps making a play for her but she rebuffs him several times. She’s not scared of him. Maybe that’s the turn-on for him:
Lupino: “Quite a joint you have here.”
Alda: “You must be new in this town.”
Lupino: “That’s right. Not a bad town either. In fact, the more I see of it , the better I like it.”
Alda: “Is that right.”
Lupino: “That’s right.”
Alda: “I think maybe you ought to stick around.”
Lupino: “You think maybe I should?”
Alda: “I think maybe this town could do a lot for you.”
Lupino: “I think maybe I can do a little something for this town. I’m sort of handy to have around.”
Alda: “Yeah? You might be at that.”
Lupino: “I know quite a few things and I sing.”
Alda: “Oh so you’re a canary too?”
Lupino: “Some people like it. Care for a sample?”
Alda: “Sure go ahead. I’ve got nothing to lose. It’s about time for the joint to close anyhow.”
Lupino: “Thanks. Want to come up and introduce me?” Alda: “Uh-unh. I hear better from back here.”
[ She stands and he’s about to stand as well. ]
Lupino: “Don’t strain yourself. I know you’re a college man.”
She falls for a big lug, ex-musician ( played by Bruce Bennett. ) I know folks talk about George Brent being sort of blah ( not me, I love Georgie Porgie. ) But Bennett has got him beat by a mile. The script saddles her with tall brawny lump o’ clay. ( And though I accept whatever casting movies give me because I have no choice, I still reserve the right to comment on it. )
It’s love at first sight as Lupino bails Bennett out of jail for something her brother’s done. He’s not grateful. He’s glum. He’s been heartbroken by a dame already. ( Their word, not mine. ) He’s not emotionally available. Not that that matters. Lupino goes for him in a big way right then and there on the steps of the police station as the clock strikes the New Year. It’s all in Lupino’s eyes. Moist and melting. These two are both world-weary, but he plays hard to get…she leads with her chin. But they do get to know each other. She connects with him on an emotional level through the music. I could watch Ida just LISTENING to her fellow actor. Walsh keeps the camera on her as she listens to Bennett play…so good, subtly, breathlessly breathing in his playing “The Man I Love.” She so sells it. Dang, I even almost had a ‘moment.’
He tells his sob story and she takes it in.
Lupino: “It’s funny how people always try to change each other. It doesn’t add up, does it…I might’ve known it’d be a dame. Nothing else makes a guy cave in like that.”
Bennett: “She walked out. I tried to forget her by sticking to the music but I cracked up. Didn’t have it anymore.”
Lupino: “She put you through the ringer, didn’t she? I wonder what women like that have got.”
Bennett: “I don’t know. But she had it, whatever it is. Well I hopped a tramp steamer. I didn’t care if I touched a piano again.”
Lupino: “You certainly worked hard at running away from yourself haven’t you? And you’re still unhappy.”
Bennett: “Who’s looking for happiness?! At the present time, my life’s a comfortable blank and that’s okay with me. Maybe now you’ll understand why I didn’t want to see you again.”
Lupino: “Then why did you?”
See how the rest of this plays out for Lupino. This is a great script from Catherine Turney who also wrote “My Reputation.” ( Please read here guest writer Trudy Ring’s account of this Stanwyck film. ) You might read this as a woman’s picture, but that too wouldn’t do justice to Lupino and Walsh’s efforts. And nothing is wrong with using the terminology but it has so much negative sissy baggage to it. In Lupino’s previous fare with Walsh, the boys took the lead, Bogie and Raft. But here she’s the star and gets the big build-up. Walsh guides her with a steady hand. This is no treacly treatment of women.
Cast includes: Warren Douglas, Andrea King, Dolores Moran and Don McGuire
The movie has a soupçon of “The Best Years Of Our Lives” what with the shell shocked vet angle played by John Ridgely. ( Hey, this is Warner Brothers and you can’t have a Warner Bros. picture go out without the requisite and ubiquitous appearance by John Ridgely. ) It also shows different types of women; the homebody wife, the hot-cha wife whose bored and wants to be out of the house ( Dolores Moran fills that bill nicely – you’ve got to check her out on IMDB…what a life! ) with not one maternal bone in her body. And of course, there’s the independent gal. Ida Lupino gets an emotional going over in this, but she’s not all self-sacrificing and weepy. You’ve got to see this whole movie to see how it all pans out for her. I also invite you to go to Sister Celluloid’s blog and read her write up of “The Man I Love” for last year’s 1947 Blogathon to get the full skinny on the entire movie.
POINT OF REFERENCE: Just so you can see where Lupino was in her career:
- 19th century poet Emily Bronte in “Devotion” ( 1946 )
- Nightclub singer Petey Brown in “The Man I Love” ( 1947 )
- Backwoods girl Libby Saul in “Deep Valley” ( 1947 )
I enjoyed the three films Walsh and Lupino made together, and I feel there is a chemistry between these two. I wholly recommend you check these films out ( and others the pair made separately. ) This is my entry for Classic Symbiotic Collaborations. Please check my blog this weekend. You can read more entries for the Star – Director Blogathon then. Thanks for reading.
[ H O M E ]