I’m a big Ida Lupino fan. She was a true Hollywood maverick. She was a writer, producer and director who formed her own company. She was the first woman to direct film noir(The Hitch-Hiker 1953) She played everything from sassy comediennes, treacherous femme fatales to author Emily Bronte. While there are many Lupino films that I hold in great esteem, there are several films of Lupino's that are so good that whenever I see them turn up on Turner Classic Movies, I never miss the chance to watch them again. The Hard Way (1943) Starring Ida Lupino, Joan Leslie, Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson is one of those films. The Hard Way starts off in classic film noir style. A despondent, immaculately dressed Lupino is walking by the pier late at night. She removes her expensive white fur coat...lays it gently across one of the pilings...and jumps into the ocean. A homeless man sees her jump and calls the police. We then see in flashback the events that lead to this desperate decision.
|Ida Lupino (left) and Joan Leslie in The Hard Way|
|Dennis Morgan and Ida Lupino in The Hard Way|
|Joan Leslie, Dennis Morgan and Ida Lupino|
|Lupino tries to sway Joan Leslie in The Hard Way|
|The always classy Ida Lupino|
Lupino is more complex, more subtle, more polished, more natural than I have ever seen her before. It amazes me that she didn't even get an Oscar nomination. Lupino’s performance is certainly more engaging and more complex than some other nominees of that year such as Joan Fontaine in The Constant Nymph. Everyone turns in solid performances, including Joan Leslie whom I always thought rather limited and certainly didn't think she had the depth to pull off a role like this. Leslie is fascinating to watch as the little sister who is every bit as ambitious as Lupino while at the same time she is more than happy to let Lupino do the dirty work while she plays the innocent. While Lupino uses Leslie to achieve her dreams, Leslie quietly and rather insidiously uses Lupino in turn. The film is also beautifully shot by legendary cinematographer James Wong Howe.
|From left to right--Lupino, Jack Carson Joan Leslie and Dennis Morgan in The Hard Way|
The story is also interesting in that it is loosely based on the life of Ginger Rogers, her first husband and Gingers mother. Even though the Hollywood community of the day knew it was based on "someone in Hollywood", it didn't come out until years later when director Vincent Sherman spilled the beans (one has to wonder if Rogers knew who it was about, as she was offered the Leslie role and turned it down) While not a musical per se, there is plenty of great music in this from Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer. Not just a great Lupino film, but a great film period.
Turner Classic Movies will be showing The Hard Way on Tuesday March 5th at 10:00 pm. Don't miss this rarely seen gem!