• Ida Lupino directed and starred in The Bigamist

Tomorrow night at the Portage Theater Northwest Chicago Film Society will screen The Bigamist (1953), the last film Ida Lupino directed for the independent production company she cofounded in the late 1940s. For this reason alone, The Bigamist holds a significant place in American movie history: when it was made Lupino was literally the only female writer-director-actress in Hollywood. Film scholar Wheeler Winston Dixon has noted (in an informative essay he wrote for Senses of Cinema in 2009) that before Lupino first took directorial credit on a film—the 1949 noir Never Fear—it had been six years since any woman in Hollywood had done so.

Clearly it wasn’t easy for women to direct in this era: it speaks volumes that Lupino had to produce her films outside the studio system in order to make them at all. According to Dixon, her production company (simply named The Filmmakers) also had to distribute her films independently until Howard Hughes offered, in 1950, to release them through RKO Pictures. Even then Lupino was limited in her creativity by low budgets and short shooting schedules. These constraints made feature filmmaking difficult, but they provided excellent training for directing television, which she did prolifically from the mid-50s to the late 60s.