Apr 18, 2015

Ida Lupino, The Hard Way

Won: New York Film Critics Circle - Best Actress

The Role: as a woman from a humble background who deceives and manipulates her way up to the top so that her sister can become a big star, Helen Chernen is a character who's completely in contrast with the ladies that were nominated by Oscar in '43. With an acclaimed scientist, three innocent teenaged girls and an actress in a lighthearted comedy, it wouldn't seem like '43 was the year for Oscar to take to a scheming showbiz woman. What's more, it is alleged that Ida Lupino was not very revered by her studio--so there's irony there in the idea of a difficult actress playing a morally difficult woman. So thank god the critics of New York were smart enough to acknowledge Lupino that year, for she is worth recognizing here to say the least.

What I Liked: It is said that Lupino often refused to take on roles that were "beneath her dignity" as an actress, and as a result she spent much of her time at Warner Bros. suspended. She only got to play Helen Chernen after the likes of Bette Davis and Ginger Rogers somehow opted out of taking on the role (I can't even imagine Davis in this character, or at least bringing something fresh to it, so thank god she rejected it...). So what I loved most about this performance was that you can literally see Lupino juicing this role for all it's worth, to take this rare opportunity to show the world what she's worth. All those long-winded monologues Helen spews out are riveting, not only because of the amount of dedication she's pumping into her performance, but also because you're witnessing an actress taking advantage of her studio-suppressed talents and breathing life and vivacity onto this unlikable Erin Brockovich-gone bad character. I think that being an outsider suited Lupino superbly here, not just because the role itself is quite literally so different from the types Oscar nominated but also just watching how she almost desperately tries (and succeeds) to command our attention is exactly what an actress obsessive like myself lives for. She's most definitely an old-school actress, and there were times towards the end where the traditional style of quick-fire line uttering tired me out a little, but that didn't take away from the fact that Helen Chernen is an excellent role for an actress who wants to act, and Lupino excels so wonderfully here. So wonderful that it's kind of tragic that an Oscar nomination wasn't in the cards for her, nor did the talent displayed here ever nab her more dramatic opportunities that were afforded the likes Davis all too excessively. There is emotion that oozes out of her with such breathtaking ease, such as the scene early in which she bitches out her husband, or the scene in which she discovers that Katie and Paul are now an item--Lupino's eyes speaks so much to how Helen feels in those very moments. I liked that it this performance is a showcase; it's refreshing, Lupino's very presence and fired up staunchness is refreshing, and it all packs a punch that all the other tired, studio-pimped Oscar-nominated female performances don't. And for these reasons I give this

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic performance! I think I should bump her up to a five as well.