Private Hell 36 / by KirstenStudio

Ida Lupino co-wrote and starred in the film noir story, Private Hell 36 (1954). A drama around two police officers who take a bad turn when they decide to keep some counterfeit funds they came across following a high speed chase.  MoMA's Sunday evening's showing of this little seen gem is part of their Ida Lupino: Mother Directs, organized by Anne Morra, Associate Curator, Department of Film. A retrospective of Ida Lupino's work both in front and behind the camera.  Although this is the only screening I attended in this series and the series ends tonight, Ida Lupino is an often overlooked, but important part of cinema and television history, for she is the only woman to ever direct a film noir, The Hitch-Hiker (1953), which she also co-wrote. Ms. Lupino has a long list of acting credits and she was quite a screen siren in her hey day as an actress, but she also worked as a writer, director and also a few times as producer, predominately in the late 40's and early 50's. By the mid-50's she transferred to skills to television and began directing episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Screen Director's Playhouse and Have Gun - Will Travel.

Her screenplays were often co-written with her second husband Collier Young and they formed the independent production company, The Filmmakers. Ms. Lupino was drawn to dark subject matter which made her a very interesting female artist in Hollywood. Under The Filmmakers, Ms. Lupino made a series of b-films that were well received, both critically and at the box office.  She addressed some risque social issues at a time when many films steered away such topics.

A prime example of Ms. Lupino's tackling of taboo subjects is the film Outrage, which she co-wrote the screenplay for and directed. Outrage is about Ann, an engaged woman who is raped, and as a result flees her family and fiancée and relocates where no one knows her.  When a man tries to kiss her she psychologically relives the attack and almost kills him.  This isn't exactly typical movie fare of the day, not even for a film noir.

Although MoMA's Ida Lupino: Mother Directs ended Monday night, there are a number of her films out on DVD.  The Hitch-Hiker is one of them. I think it's a terrific example of her work and I love that it's a "guys" movie, directed by a woman.  The Bigamist (1953) and Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951) are some of her other director credits available on DVD.

So even if you missed the MoMA series, you can still find a few of her great works and then you should champaign to get her films restored and preserved.