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To mark Ida Lupino’s birthday today, we’re watching The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

In celebration of Ida Lupino’s birthday, We at Birds’ Eye View will be watching The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

Ida Lupino was an English-American actress, singer, director, and producer. She is widely regarded as one of the most prominent female filmmakers working during the 1950s in the Hollywood studio system.

 “As a screenwriter and director, Lupino had an eye for the emotional truth hidden within the taboo or mundane, making a series of B-styled pictures which featured sympathetic, honest portrayals of such controversial subjects as unmarried mothers, bigamy, and rape … in The Hitch-Hiker, arguably Lupino’s best film and the only true noir directed by a woman, two utterly average middle-class American men are held at gunpoint and slowly psychologically broken by a serial killer. In addition to her critical but compassionate sensibility, Lupino had a great filmmaker’s eye, using the starkly beautiful street scenes in Not Wanted and the gorgeous, ever-present loneliness of empty highways in The Hitch-Hiker to set her characters apart.”  – Critic John Krewson

The Hitch-Hiker is a 1953 film noir directed by Ida Lupino, about two fishing buddies who pick up a mysterious hitchhiker during a trip to Mexico.

Inspired by the crime spree of the psychopathic murderer Billy Cook (1928–1952), the screenplay was written by Lupino and her former husband Collier Young, based on a story by Daniel Mainwaring which was adapted by Robert L. Joseph. Mainwaring did not receive a screen credit due to his then being on the Hollywood blacklist.

The Hitch-Hiker is The Hitch-Hiker is regarded as the first American mainstream film noir directed by a woman and was selected in 1998 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”

The inspiration for The Hitch-Hiker is the true-life story of Billy Cook, who in California in 1950, murdered a family of five and a traveling salesman, then kidnapped Deputy Sheriff Homer Waldrip from Blythe, California. Cook ordered his captive to drive into the desert, where he tied Deputy Waldrip up with blanket strips and took his police cruiser, leaving Waldrip to die. Waldrip got loose, however, walked to the main road, and got a ride back to Blythe. Cook also took two men hostage who were on a hunting trip. Cook was tried, convicted, and received the death penalty. On December 12, 1952, Cook was executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin State Prison in California

Back in March 2018, to celebrate 100 years since her birth, We hosted an illustrated talk (at Curzon Goldsmiths) about Lupino’s journey from S.E London to Hollywood stardom as an actress then director, and on the female gaze in film noir

 In Women Make Film, a documentary film by the British-Irish filmmaker and film critic Mark Cousins, Lupino shows up a number of times for her FRAMING and POV for The Hitch-Hiker, FRAMING and ENDINGS for Hard, Fast and beautiful, and FRAMING for Outrage.Women Make Film premiered on 1 September 2018 at the Venice Film Festival, and was released on the BFI Player in May 2020. The film is divided into 40 chapters over 14 hours and features the work of 183 directors.

We here at Birds’ Eye View hosted weekly viewing parties and Facebook Live responses and debates on Women Make Film, from womxn filmmakers for audiences at home during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.

“Absolutely assured in her creation of the bleak, noir atmosphere – whether in the claustrophobic confines of the car, or lost in the arid expanses of the desert – Lupino never relaxes the tension for one moment. Yet her emotional sensitivity is also upfront: charting the changes in the menaced men’s relationship as they bicker about how to deal with their captor, stressing that only through friendship can they survive. Taut, tough, and entirely without macho-glorification, it’s a gem, with first-class performances from its three protagonists, deftly characterised without resort to cliché.”  – Time Out Film Guide

Critics Bob Porfiero and Alain Silver, in a review and analysis of the film, praised Lupino’s use of shooting locations. They wrote, “The Hitch-Hiker’s desert locale, although not so graphically dark as a cityscape at night, isolates the protagonists in a milieu as uninviting and potentially deadly as any in film noir.”

In January 2014, a restored 35mm print was premiered by the Film Noir Foundation at Noir City 12 at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco.

On April 6, 2014 The Hitch-Hiker was shown again at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Mary Ann Anderson author of The Making of The Hitch-Hiker appeared at this event.

The film is in the public domain.

FOR MORE ABOUT IDA LUPINO AND HER FILMS CLICK BFI LISTS HERE

THE HITCH-HIKER WHERE TO BUY, WATCH, STREAM CLICK HERE

WOMEN MAKE FILM WHERE TO WATCH CLICK HERE

Women Make Film, Mark Cousins’ epic documentary, executive produced by Tilda Swinton and Clara Glynn, offers a completely fresh take on film history, exploring the development of the medium exclusively through work directed by women. The first of five programmes explores how directors achieve tone, introduce characters, capture conversations and handle framing and tracking shots. The examples used range across the decades and around the globe, including the pioneering Hollywood director Dorothy Arzner, Elaine May, Agnès Varda, Vĕra Chytilová, Maren Ade and Yuliya Solntseva.

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