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Museum of Modern Art Celebrates Pioneering Filmmaker Ida Lupino
Ida Lupino on the set of Never Fear (The Young Lovers) (9150), Los Angeles, 1949. The Estate of Ida Lupino.

NEW YORK, NY.- Ida Lupino: Mother Directs, a comprehensive selection of films by actress and filmmaker Ida Lupino (American, b. Great Britain, 1918–1995) runs August 26 through September 20, 2010, at The Museum of Modern Art, presenting select films from 1949 to 1966, including her directorial debut Never Fear (1950). The series highlights the filmmaker’s brilliantly balanced career both in front of the camera, acting in over 100 productions for film and television, and behind the camera as a pioneering director who pushed the limits of social taboos and become the second woman to be admitted to the Director’s Guild. The 14 film exhibition is organized by Anne Morra, Associate Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.

Ida Lupino 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 just an ingénue or femme fatale. A box-office-proven actress with a lucrative contract at Warner Bros., Lupino starred in such films as High Sierra (1941) and Woman in Hiding (1949). She conscientiously studied the work of the directors for whom she acted, and before long 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 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, coincides with the publication by MoMA of Modern Women: Women Artists at The Museum of Modern Art (June 2010), which includes an essay by Anne Morra that examines Lupino’s transition from Hollywood starlet to film director and head of a thriving independent film production company. Morra also dissects Lupino’s directorial debut Never Fear, a film whose subject matter parallels that of the directors own life; the protagonist’s struggle to conquer Polio is analogous to Lupino’s own battle with and eventual conquering of the disease.

The Museum of Modern Art | Ida Lupino | Anne Morra | Ida Lupino: Mother Directs |

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