Ida Lupino Beyond the Camera

Ida Lupino Beyond the Camera
Most classic film lovers know about Ida Lupino. She starred in over 60 films and was one of the first women to become a director in an industry that venerated men and considered women those pretty things that dressed up room. She moved from film to television seamlessly as an actress, director, writer, and producer.

For many young women with a desire to break into work behind the camera, Ida Lupino remains a true role model.

During her career, she carved out a reputation of being someone who wasn’t afraid of taking on “bad girl” roles in her acting – at age 14, her first full film role was that of a prostitute – and as a director, she only pursued projects for which she had a passion regardless of how risky or unpopular the subject matter.

Her memoir Beyond the Camera was published in 2011 and then again in 2018 as a Special Edition for what would have been Lupino’s 100th birthday.

The forward, written by Lupino, offers a candid summary of her career with emphasis on her work as a female director in the man’s world of movie making. It is an inspiring jump start to what promised to be a deep-dive into her directorial career, told in her own straightforward, no-nonsense manner.

However, as the book progresses, it doesn’t weigh her directorial or her writing career any heavier than that of her acting career, which was a slightly disappointing given the substance of the forward.

Instead, she begins by revisiting most of her film roles one-by-one, adding how she felt about her co-stars or the studio. There isn’t a lot of Hollywood insider gossip, just Lupino sharing her experiences.

As a director, she shares stories from the set – like why she had to film actor Ronald Reagan from the back (he couldn’t remember his lines.) or which of her ex-husbands was her favorite.

Still, there are plenty of publicity shots, celebrity photos, correspondence and show cards included in the book which is fun. There is a copy of a type-written letter from her friend Olivia de Havilland which is absolutely charming. There are also excerpts from Lupino’s FBI file from when she was writing/directing The Hitch-Hiker, a story based on a real life serial killer.

The completed memoir was co-written by Mary Ann Anderson who edited and published the memoir 16 years after Lupino’s death. Anderson was Lupino’s friend, assistant, and ultimately her conservator.

While reading, it was clear that the book had two distinct voices – Anderson’s as well as Lupino’s. Throughout, Anderson interjects facts and tidbits to link together Lupino’s recount of a story, but it takes some getting used to flipping from Lupino’s voice to Anderson’s and back again.

Having said that, there are two chapters near the end of the book where it is clearly Anderson relating events that occurred in which she was personally involved. Those chapters were delightful and informative, and easy to read. There is also a well-organized filmography of Lupino’s career at the back of the book.

Memoirs, especially those published posthumously, can be difficult to organize. If choosing a memoir to read, Beyond the Camera isn’t a bad choice. It reveals a strong, talented visionary, whose life wasn’t perfect but lived as she chose and that is worth the price of admission.

** I purchased this book myself and did not receive any remuneration of any kind for this review.

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