In our culture today, we have grown almost callous to the slaughter of families by a serial killer. So many movies have been made on the subject in the last ten years that such plots seem only appropriate for direct-to-video, low budget films. But it was not that way in 1951.


LUPINO AT END OF HIGH SIERRABilly Cook kidnapped two hunters and held them captive for eight days in Baja. Before that, he had murdered five members of a family, including three children. He had killed a traveling salesman as well. All this earned him three hundred years in Alcatraz. Ida Lupino, the only female director of any significance working in the 50's, decided she wanted to make a film based on Cook's life.But in the 1950's the Production Code forbade the depiction of notorious living criminals. Ida Lupino was not one to be easily dissuaded, and once having gotten both the kidnapped hunters' permission, and even Billy Cook's rights to do the film, she continued to work on the project. THE HITCH-HIKER, made in Lone Pine's Alabamas, went on to become her best film as a director, and certainly one of Lone Pine's more interesting non-westerns. But the road to that success was challenging for Ida Lupino who had already achieved fame in another Lone Pine film ten years earlier.Ida was born in London on February 4, 1918, a member of a family of entertainers for many generations. Her father Stanley was a very famous stage comedian, her mother Connie an actress as well. From a very early age, against her family's wishes, Ida worked very hard to become an actress. She was picked by visiting American film director Allan Dwan for a part her mother had attempted. After several minor roles, Ida came to the United States to play in Alice in Wonderland. She was simply too mature and sexy at 16 and the studio decided to create another Jean Harlow, platinum hair and all.


LUPINO DIRECTING THE HITCH-HIKERIt wasn't until she was offered HIGH SIERRA that her reputation as a star was established. How Humphrey Bogart got the role of Roy Earle is legend; but a more prosaic explanation is he probably was signed after several leading actors had turned down the role. Ida and Humphrey had a difficult relationship on the set, although things improved during the shoot. Ida stated, "I have a way of kidding with a straight face; so has Bogie. Neither of us recognized the trait in the other. Each of us thought the other was being nasty, and we were both offended."But playing the bad girl Marie made Ida Lupino's name a household word. The film stands between two genres, the fading gangster genre had run its course since the end of the Depression and the film noir style that was just beginning. Subsequently, Ida found herself cast into many of the film noir classics, but she never found real satisfaction with her acting. One time she called herself the "poor man's Bette Davis."She decided to go into production and writing and became a director almost by accident when Elmer Clifton, the director of her first production NOT WANTED, became ill. She did not receive screen credit, but she had discovered she had a real gift for directing.Ida's getting the release from Billy Cook for his story greatly angered James V. Bennett of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons who wrote to Joseph Breen head of the Production Code Office, urging him to withhold authorization. Ida and her partner, ex-husband Collier Young, argued, "We first became interested in the subject due to the compelling nature of the moral and religious experiences of their captivity." Still, the answer came back negative and Ida Lupino had to fictionalize the account and leave out Cook's name and exact crimes. Still, the similarities survive in the film.Available both in VHS and DVD formats, THE HITCH-HIKER remains a taut and suspenseful thriller even by today's standards. And, of course, the Lone Pine rocks are magnificent.Richard Boone greatly admired Ida Lupino's work in THE HITCH-HIKER; he hired her to direct three HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL segments, a show, which frequently filmed in Lone Pine.Miss Lupino spent her last active years in the industry directing television but, with the collapse of her third marriage to Howard Duff in 1972, withdrew more and more into seclusion. She died in August of 1995.Today Ida Lupino is remembered as a glamorous star of the 30's and 40's, and as a woman breaking into Hollywood directing in the 1950's by herself. She is remembered today especially for her two roles in two Lone Pine films, as the star of HIGH SIERRA and the director and writer of THE HITCH-HIKER.Chris Langley, Executive Director, Beverly and Jim Rogers Museum of Lone Pine Film History