Ida Lupino, who is being honored this weekend with an American Cinematheque retrospective at the Directors Guild, has made an indelible mark on American movies and television as a producer, director and actress.
Bette Davis may have been the queen of Warner Bros. but that did not prevent Lupino, born of an old and distinguished English acting family, from creating a memorable gallery of women that attest to her versatility. Nobody who ever saw her as a nightclub singer with that poignant catch in her voice in "Road House" will ever forget her. Lupino's image was that of a tough, sexy but ultimately vulnerable dame, yet she was also a creditable Emily Bronte opposite Olivia de Havilland's Charlotte in "Devotion"; one of her finest roles was in "Deep Valley" as a poor farm girl who falls for Dane Clark's escaped convict.
Having been brought to America by pioneer director Allan Dwan, Lupino was directed by such masters as Raoul Walsh, Henry Hathaway, Robert Aldrich, Nicholas Ray, Fritz Lang and later on, Sam Peckinpah. In 1950, she turned to directing herself, creating a series of terse, modestly budgeted melodramas that dealt honestly and compassionately--but never sensationally--with such then-taboo subjects as unwed motherhood and bigamy; it is impossible to convey today the impact they had at the time. She then turned to television with the successful sophisticated comedy series "Mr. Adams and Eve," co-starring her former husband Howard Duff.
Lupino was such a consistently good actress who made so many unpretentious yet worthy pictures that her work offers the constant pleasure of discovery. One example is "On Dangerous Ground" (1951), one of the 11 Lupino films being shown tonight through Sunday. It's one of Nicholas Ray's lesser-known yet finest films, due in large measure to Lupino's deft, understated portrayal of a lonely, gentle country woman, who because of her near-total blindness, feels she must trust everyone.
* Today, "The Light That Failed," 7 p.m. "High Sierra" and "They Drive by Night," 9 p.m.
* Saturday: "The Man I Love" and "Road House," 6 p.m. "On Dangerous Ground" and "Beware My Lovely," 9:15 p.m.
* Sunday: "The Big Knife" and "While the City Sleeps," 4 p.m. "The Hitch-Hiker" and "The Bigamist."
Information: (213) 466-FILM.