Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ida Lupino vs. Bette Davis

As part of Ida Lupino's day in TCM's Summer Under the Stars, you can watch The Hard Way at 10:00 PM ET tonight.

Lupino stars as a woman jumping off a bridge, with a seeming case of amnesia. When the doctors revive her in the hospital, she eventually starts revealing who she is in a flashback.... Years earlier, she had lived in a grimy midwestern industrial town with a husband who had little prospects of greatness. Her kid sister (Joan Leslie) had a bit of talent, and when a travelling vaudeville team (Dennis Morgan and the always-underrated Jack Carson) show up, Lupino decides that if she can't make a name for herself, she'll make a name for her kid sister by being the world's most overprotective stage sister.

And boy is Lupino pushy. She has no qualms about stepping on anybody's toes, first getting her sister a job with the vaudeville troupe, where Leslie falls in love with and marries Carson, and then getting Leslie to leave her husband because dammit, Broadway beckons. Eventually, Lupino and Leslie do make it to what seems like the top, but as is so often the case, life at the top isn't all it's cracked up to be.

There are quite a few parallels here. The story sounds a good deal like All About Eve, as Leslie's rise to the top is bound to push out of the way people already at the top, much like Eve Harrington took over Margot Channing's job. Bette Davis had to fight for everything she got, along the lines of Lupino in The Hard Way, and it's interesting to note that the epitaph at Davis' grave reads "She did it the hard way". What might be more interesting, though, is that legend generally has it that Bette Davis' career is not the allegory for the movie. Instead, that "honor" is generally given to Ginger Rogers, who had a very active stage mother.

The Hard Way is not a perfect movie by any means, but Lupino's performance is quite good, and the movie is never less than entertaining. Sadly, it doesn't seem to have been released to DVD.

No comments: