Ida Lupino on the set of The Man I Love (1946)

Ida Lupino (American, b. Great Britain, 1918–1995) was branded the “English Jean Harlow” when she arrived in Hollywood in 1932, but as part of a distinguished British theatrical dynasty, she aspired to be more than an ingénue or femme fatale. A box-office-proven actress with a lucrative contract at Warner Bros., Lupino conscientiously studied the work of the directors for whom she acted, and before long she found her way behind the camera. Her career as a feature film director (albeit an uncredited one) began in 1949, when she stepped in for the ailing Elmer Clifton on the set of Not Wanted.

Soon thereafter Lupino established her own production company, The Filmmakers, and from 1949 to 1966 she nurtured a successful dual career as an A-list actress and a pioneering filmmaker dedicated to the production of films investigating the social condition of women in contemporary society. Lupino—who referred to herself as Mother on set and had a director’s chair with “Mother of Us All” embroidered on the back—commenced a directorial career at a time when Hollywood was unaccustomed to women powerbrokers. The American cinema of the late 1940s was booming with directors like Samuel Fuller and Nicholas Ray, who were attracted to stories about thorny social issues and ordinary folk. These narratives fascinated Lupino, who later made half a dozen films focusing on topics once considered taboo for the commercial film industry—unwanted pregnancy, polio, bigamy, and women competing in a world of men. Ida Lupino: Mother Directs presents select films from 1949 through 1966, when she managed to brilliantly balance careers in front of and behind the camera. All films are form the U.S.

Organized by Anne Morra, Associate Curator, Department of Film. Presented in conjunction with MoMA’s publication of Modern Women: Women Artists at The Museum of Modern Art in June 2010. Thank you to Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, The Academy Film Archive, Wade Williams, and Martin Scorsese.

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