Ida Lupino was destined for Hollywood. But the miserable child actress turned legend surpassed all expectations despite the tragedy and drama that stalked her at every turn. This is the shocking and inspiring life of a forgotten icon. Hollywood would never be the same again.
1. She Was Destined For Hollywood
Show business was in Ida’s DNA. Her parents were actress Connie O’Shea and England’s top comedian Stanley Lupino. Both hailed from families of performers. But that’s not all.
Since Renaissance Italy, the Lupinos had been legendary for producing famous entertainers. However, it was Ida who’d surpass her illustrious ancestors and become the greatest Lupino of all.
2. Her Birth Was Crazy
It was a scene straight out of a horror movie. On February 4, 1918, Germans terrorized London with aircraft. In the midst of terror and destruction, Ida’s father raced home to find another nightmare: His wife, in pitch darkness and in labor, hiding underneath a table. Neither mother nor daughter was expected to make it.
Against all odds, both survived this chilling birth story. It was a chaotic beginning, but perfectly suited the dramatic and chaotic woman Ida would become.
3. She Had A Lavish Childhood
Having famous and rich parents has its perks! After her father’s breakthrough success, the Lupinos upgraded their modest home to a Tudor estate. Ida and her sister Rita grew up in an eclectic mansion filled with curiosities and indulgent family members. From the outside, their childhood was a fairytale. In reality, it was actually filled with heartbreak.
4. Her Parents Scarred Her
Ida’s parents were wealthy and kind, but it wasn’t enough. Their careers demanded regularly leaving Ida behind for extended durations. The unpredictability and separation devastated Ida. She developed intense separation issues. Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of a lifetime’s worth of abandonment for this poor little rich girl.
4. Her Dad Predicted Her Future
Did her father have a crystal ball? Stanley once told Ida, “You will write, direct and produce”. Her dad turned out to be completely right! But this wasn’t just happenstance. Stanley’s greatest desire was for his daughters to continue the Lupino legacy in entertainment. He stopped at nothing to transform this dream into reality.
5. She Had A Mega Stage Dad
All parents have hopes and dreams for their children, but Ida’s father took it to a whole new level. He wasn’t just supportive of his daughters becoming actresses, he pushed them into it. Being born into the Lupino family had its benefits, but it came with lofty expectations. Stanley even built a custom stage at home for Ida and Rita to rehearse and train.
But sometimes this intense pressure led to dangerous situations.
6. Her Home Movie Went Horribly Wrong
Despite the family pressure, young Ida genuinely enjoyed creating home movies with Rita and their cousins. Her parents were supportive and delighted by her interest. But one day, it ended in disaster. While play-acting as a burglar breaking into a neighbor’s window, Ida came face to face with an officer. He caught her red-handed—but what she did next was unbelievable.
7. She Confessed
Caught in an incriminating situation, she made the worst possible decision: Ida told the officer she was breaking in. He took it seriously and escorted her to the station.
Finally, Ida frantically broke character and admitted she was acting. But it was too late: Stanley had to collect the wannabe thief. It turns out a real burglar had recently robbed this house. Oops! What are the odds? This incident was just one of Ida’s countless childhood lies. But it wasn’t even close to being her most ridiculous falsehood.
8. She Told Nasty Lies
Ida was an incredibly strange and naughty child. She destroyed clothes to tell her most absurd lie. Wearing these tattered garments, she went around the neighborhood sobbing and begging for help from starvation and mistreatment. Except… the pampered girl made it all up! Ida’s penchant for lies turned out to be the secret to her future success.
8. She Had A Secret Acting Hack
Why did Ida take these incidents so far? Well, she’d already unlocked her superpower: lying to herself. She once said, “I believed my own lies completely so that others believed me”. Call it whatever you want, delusion or genius, it might have been the secret to her acting. But this self-determination and penchant for dramatics later sparkled turmoil for Ida and everyone around her.
9. She Never Had A Normal Childhood
As Ida’s father increased the pressure and expectations, her childhood became even more unstable and dysfunctional. That was hard to top, but somehow they managed to do it. She underwent Olympic-level acting training. Any semblance of predictability disappeared after the child actress began touring with a traveling group. However, Ida harbored a secret that would’ve devastated her entire family.
10. She Hated Acting
Yes, you read that right! Fun home movies were one thing, but Ida never actually liked professional acting. Instead, she longed to be a writer. But Ida was desperately eager to please her parents, particularly Stanley. She forced herself to fulfill the destiny he dreamed for her. But not following her heart would lead to endless drama and despair throughout Ida’s life.
11. She Dropped Out of School
She lasted less than a year in school. In 1933, fifteen-year-old Ida dropped out of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts to pursue one audition. That seems insane, but it was not an ordinary role: It was for the lead role in Alice in Wonderland. Becoming a dropout and moving from London to Hollywood was a gamble, but it came with a potential jackpot.
12. Her Gamble Didn’t Pay Off
Teenage Ida and her stage took a massive risk: She dropped out of a prestigious school in hopes of landing the lead in Alice in Wonderland. Unfortunately, Ida failed to secure what would’ve been a life-changing role. But she was unphased and joked, “I would have played her as a hooker and danced on the table tops”. This was merely one of many obstacles Ida faced.
13. She Was Too Beautiful
Turns out, being too beautiful is an actual problem! A lithe frame, elegant hair, mesmerizing eyes, and a piercing gaze…Teenage Ida was already a stunner. She was radiant to the point where a director axed her from his movie because she outshone the lead. Yes, this new adolescent actress snatched the show from leading ladies. But this wasn’t just a one-time problem.
14. She Paid The Price For Beauty
Ida’s beauty dragged her down again. And again. And again. Eventually, Ida became notorious for being too beautiful; she was cursed with good looks. Young Ida couldn’t help but steal the limelight from grown leading actresses—even from one of the most important women in her life…Her own mother.
15. She Outshone Her
When fourteen-year-old Ida accompanied her mom to an audition for Allan Dwan’s Her First Affaire, no one could have predicted what happened. Instead of casting Connie, the director cast her teenage daughter instead. Uncomfortably, it was a movie about a scandalous affair.
Unfortunately for young Ida, her next dramatic fiasco almost took her life.
16. She Was In A Terrible Accident
Filming Money for Speed almost ended fourteen-year-old Ida’s burgeoning career. In a freak accident, a car smashed into the young actress and sent her soaring in the air. She crumpled face first onto the ground.
Ida spent agonizing weeks covered in bandages, praying the accident didn’t permanently disfigure her. However, there was lifelong damage Ida kept under wraps.
17. She Had A Secret Scar
Ida’s prayers were answered: The freak accident did not mutilate her face for life. Only one scar turned out to be permanent. Luckily, it was a small mark on her forehead. However, she was able to hide it with her hair. Even her biggest fans were none the wiser! But Ida knew.
Every time she looked in the mirror, the tiny scar was a massive reminder of that horrible day. However, another near-fatal experience would leave a much bigger mark.
18. She Almost Lost Her Life (Again)
Because one accident wasn’t painful enough, sixteen-year-old Ida contracted polio. The paralyzing disease could have spelled the end. Ida wasn’t sure what she was more scared of: dying, losing her career, or disappointing Stanley. She even considered ending her life. Miraculously, she recovered and learned a life-changing lesson.
19. She Found Out What Really Mattered
A life-threatening illness has a way of putting things into perspective! She revealed her epiphany: “I realized that my life and my courage and my hopes did not lie in my body. If that body was paralyzed, my brain could still work industriously…If I weren’t able to act, I would be able to write”.
Polio turned out to be a blessing and a curse. Ida realized there was so much more to her career and life than her looks. But although Ida managed to outwit the grim reaper on multiple occasions, she couldn’t save her first love from his tragic end.
20. Her First Love Ended Tragically
The day had finally come: Ida was finally strong enough to travel from the United States to England. She couldn’t wait to see her beloved boyfriend Johnny waiting for her at the pier. Ida waited. And waited. He never showed.
As it turned out, Johnny passed in a freak bicycling accident. This was the first of many doomed relationships and yet another abandonment, albeit unintentional. But the damage was done.
21. She Couldn’t Enjoy Her Peak
In 1938, Ida took another crack at love and married actor Louis Hayward. She seemed to have it all: the career, fortune, fame, and a doting husband. Yet, she couldn’t escape feelings of stress and misery. It was understandable though.
Back in Europe, WWII raged on. She feared for, not only her home country, but for her father. He risked his life every day. Things didn’t seem like they could get any worse…Only, they did.
22. She Could Talk To Ghosts
Stanley—her father, mentor, and biggest supporter—died of cancer an ocean away. After his passing, she broke down. Ida was not only convinced of the supernatural, but she insisted she could communicate with his spirit. Her fame and fortune couldn’t save Stanley. It was also useless against the global conflict, which showed no signs of ending.
It wouldn’t save her husband or marriage either. But Ida refused to surrender without a fight.
21. She Was Ready To Fight
Glamorous Hollywood couple Louis and Ida prepared to fight. They were even ready to give up their luxurious lifestyles. Maybe even sacrifice their lives. With the same intensity she approached film roles, Ida devoted herself to studying medicine and enlisted as a nurse.
While she never ended up fighting in Europe, Ida certainly proved that she had beauty, brains, and bravery.
22. Louis Abandoned Her
Ida was spared from fighting, but Louis was not. He was one of the only survivors of a horrifying battle—and the consequences were heartbreaking. The once glamorous actor came back a shell of his former self.
While Ida was supportive, it was not enough. Louis demanded a divorce and dipped. This was devastating for a woman with abandonment issues who’d already lost her first love and father. Afterward, Ida married producer Collier Young, but it was another doomed marriage. Soon, discontent overtook her professional life too.
23. She Hated Her Roles
Like Stanley, Hollywood and its male leaders forced Ida down a miserable road. Ida hated the roles Warner Bros. gave her: They were too shallow and beneath her. Despite her fame and fortune, she wasn’t satisfied. Ida knew she was destined for more. Unfortunately, it would take a lot more blood, sweat, and tears until she got there.
24. She Called Out Hollywood
Ida wasn’t just unhappy with her career, she had issues with the entire film industry. By the late 1940s, she was calling out Hollywood for excluding women. After all, directing, writing, and producing were still male fields. In order to get the career she coveted, Ida would have to shatter the glass ceiling. And she did.
25. She Was A Diva
Ida refused to accept the scraps that Warner Bros. threw her way. She rejected most roles for being too lightweight. She made unacceptable revisions to scripts. The studio saw her as a total diva! But the headstrong actress didn’t care: She hungered for more and knew exactly what she wanted. But sadly, she paid the price for it.
26. She Was Punished
Warner Bros. refused to let Ida get away with these antics. They repeatedly suspended her—but she was undeterred. Ida turned lemons into lemonade. During her suspensions, she developed the writing and filmmaking skills that turned her ambitions into reality. Ironically, suspending her enabled Ida to eventually break free from big Hollywood’s tightening grip.
27. She Refused a Fortune
Ida Lupino was never in it just for the money. She wanted glory too, maybe even more. Ida rejected lucrative and stable film contracts because she was sick of the disappointing roles. She even turned down a $1,700 a week contract in 1937. That’s almost $35,000 a week today! Ida looked fortune and stability in the eye and walked away to make a leap of faith that changed Hollywood forever.
28. She Took A Gigantic Risk
Ida chose the path less traveled. Moreover, it was a journey no woman had ever embarked on before. Ida and her husband Collier founded an independent production company. They specialized in low-budget, provocative films addressing taboo issues. While Ida had the creativity, talent, and ambition, she soon discovered that making movies required much more.
29. Her First Film Almost Failed
A lot was riding on 1949’s Not Wanted, Ida’s first film as a producer and writer. Naturally, disaster struck: Director Elmer Clifton dropped out after a heart attack. Her dreams were collapsing before they even got off the ground! However, she managed to swoop in and save the day.
Ida took over as director and finished the movie. She even refused directorial credits. Unbelievably, this happened again.
30. She Secretly Directed ANOTHER Film
Ida didn’t just star in 1951’s On Dangerous Ground, she secretly directed it after director Nicholas Ray suffered a mental breakdown. Once again, she didn’t receive any directing credits. Seriously, what are the odds of this happening twice? And when was she finally going to get the proper recognition for her hard work?
31. She Made Films About Taboos
Ida was one of a kind. She wasn’t just one of the only female directors and producers, she made movies about untouchable topics. These included gender violence, bigamy, and unwanted pregnancies. Her magnum opus is thought to be The Hitchhiker, a movie about a serial killer. At the time, this topic was taboo. Ida didn’t just make it work, she made herself into a legend.
32. She Was Way Ahead Of Her Time
Ida’s subject matter was not only unprecedented, but her handling of them was also advanced. Ida tackled challenging topics and rejected the easy way out. She refused to blame the women characters. Rather, Ida commented and critiqued society as a whole. Some works, particularly, Outrage—which is about gender violence—remains just as, if not more, relevant today. Ida really was a woman out of time.
33. She Had An Insane Work Ethic
You name it, Ida could do it! She was a renowned actress, writer, producer, and director. Throughout her career, she directed at least a hundred television episodes and appeared in 59 films. Her work spans decades and genres. While Ida came from a legendary Renaissance family, she surpassed them all and became the ultimate Lupino and Renaissance woman.
However, sometimes she had to tap into her dark side in order to get her movies made.
34. She Hustled For Money
Ida did wild things to fund her movies. After all, independent films about taboo topics weren’t exactly enticing to investors. She had to sexualize her film proposals to entice business partner Howard Hughes—a notorious ladies’ man—to fund them. Ida also pretended she was a damsel in distress to sway industry men. It worked.
35. She Was A Cheapskate
It was the Golden Era of Hollywood, but you’d have no idea from Ida’s movies. Due to the nature of her movies—independent and risqué—the budgets were tragic. Consequently, Ida became a master of budgeting and cutting costs. With these financial constraints in mind, her film contributions were even more impressive.
However, this frugality did not extend to her outlandish personal life.
36. Her House Was Wild
When a house earns the nickname “the Hotel,” you know it’s crazy. Ida’s house, or hotel, was open 24/7 to her friends. As a result, there was a chaotic stream of celebrities, parties, cocktails, and even a zoo’s worth of pets. Ida’s house exemplified the glamor, excess, and drama of Hollywood’s Golden Era. It was mind-blowing fun for everyone.
Ida really was the life of the party, that is, until politics got involved.
37. President Reagan Betrayed Her
One of Ida’s most famous friends was Ronald Reagan. Yes, that Ronald Reagan. The Hollywood stars were extremely close friends until he became a traitor. You see, Ida was a devoted Democrat. So she viewed Reagan abandoning their party and joining the Republicans as treacherous. Is having bad blood with a president a flaw or a flex?
38. She Learned The Hard Way
Ida learned firsthand why you should not mix business with pleasure. She constantly clashed with her husband Collier over creative differences and business decisions. Notably, his incompetence led to near financial ruin. Business conflicts, impossible to separate, invaded their marriage. Don’t worry, Ida got back at Collier in the ultimate way.
39. She Betrayed Her Husband
Once again, all that glitters is not gold. The Hollywood power couple’s marriage was miserable—professionally and personally. She desperately wanted children, but he was infertile. The fights, resentment, and issues piled up over time—and the rocky marriage collapsed after Ida met actor Howard Duff. Collier screwed up, but what she did was unforgivable.
40. She Was Naughty
Ida behaved just as scandalously as her characters. Swept away by Howard’s suave charm, she embarked on a passionate affair. Before the divorce was even finalized, Ida was already pregnant. Any hope of salvaging her marriage vanished into thin air. This time, Ida did the abandoning. Poor Collier. But for Ida, the third time’s the charm, right? Well, not quite.
41. Her Third Marriage Was Messy
Unfortunately, Ida and Howard’s relationship captivated Tinseltown for all the wrong reasons. The hot-headed pair were notorious for unhinged fights. Wherever they went, drama and destruction followed. As a result, everyone—from celebrities to fans—eagerly anticipated what they would do next. And no one could have guessed their next move.
42. She Trolled The Paparazzi
One night, the couple turned the tables on the tabloids. They went with friends to a restaurant swarming with paparazzi. Suddenly, the group started screaming and fighting. There was yelling! Fighting! Kissing! Dancing! Onlookers gawked at the shocking spectacle. It was hilarious but equally rooted in reality. Ida and Howard’s relationship really was that chaotic.
43. Howard Abandoned Her Again and Again
Turns out, you can’t trust anything in the land of make-believe. Ida may have left Collier, but Howard abandoned her a hundred times over. One day, he randomly walked out on Ida and their daughter Bridget. Howard eventually returned but his reckless abandonment became a disturbing habit, that is, until the day he never came back.
Ida was alone all over again, but that wasn’t the only part of her life going up in flames.
44. Her Business Fell Apart
Ida’s production company went bankrupt due to business decisions beyond her control. She’d wanted nothing more than to make movies in her vision. This was a devastating loss for Ida and American independent cinema. She fought and defeated goliath industry bosses to make it happen. Now? Ida could no longer work independently. This bad luck invaded every part of her life.
45. She Destroyed Her Relationship With Her Daughter
History repeated itself. A pushy Ida Lupino began pressuring her daughter into the family business. This time, it didn’t end well. Ida insisted that Bridget join her in Hollywood. After all, it was a centuries-old family tradition. It was practically destiny. However, Bridget refused. She hated Hollywood and fled.
A devastated Ida viewed this as yet another abandonment. With her family nowhere to be found, she turned down an even darker road.
46. Everything Was Out Of Control
By the 1970s, Ida’s life was a disaster. Every single part of it. She was a triple divorcée estranged from her only child. At this point, she’d been abandoned by her first love, father, mother, countless friends, and multiple husbands. Ida became a recluse and pushed away everyone else. She was broke, depressed, and struggling with a drinking problem.
But once you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s only one way to go…up.
47. A New Friend Saved Her
An angel came into Ida’s life just before it was too late. Mary Anderson—the daughter of an actress herself—rescued Ida just as she was falling apart. She saved her finances, health, home, legacy, career, and more! They even wrote her memoir together. Most of Ida’s circle had passed or abandoned her: It was the two of them against the world. Mary wasn’t just Ida’s best friend, she was her salvation.
48. She Surrendered Control Over Her Life
Mary was so good at managing her friend’s life, Ida demonstrated her trust in the biggest way. She appointed Mary as her conservator. Basically, Ida gave up control of her life, everything, to Mary. She became entirely dependent on her friend. This was major for the hermit with abandonment issues. This time, Mary stayed until the very end.
Tragically, it was Ida’s turn to leave a loved one.
49. She Didn’t Deserve Her Ending
The years leading up to Ida’s demise in 1995 were depressing and unbecoming of a legend. She struggled with mental illnesses, cognitive decline, a decaying body, and cancer. Working—Ida’s passion—was no longer possible as she could no longer remember lines. After repeatedly evading her demise, a stroke ended her dramatic life.
50. She Passed At The Worst Time
Ida’s decline and passing could not have occurred at a more unfortunate time. After falling into relative obscurity, her work underwent a Renaissance. More film buffs began appreciating her work, while historians realized her contributions to cinema and television. However, she never got to fully reap the rewards of her genius.
Ida Lupino’s legacy lives on in the amazing actresses and female directors she paved the way for. Thank you, Ida.