The timeliness of Ida Lupino’s ‘Outrage’

Ida Lupino was a very special person. As you know if you read my blog, I only recently discovered Ida and in my last post I covered Ida’s acting, which was stupendous in its own right. However, she was a female director in a time when that was basically unheard of and the most incredible thing is that she didn’t just make fluff. Like one of her female predecessors, Lois Weber, Ida wanted to make films about social issues, things that mattered and she did.

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These old film cameras are everything!

I saw Outrage at the TCM Film Festival this year and was blown away by how modern it feels. Yes, there are certain period things that make you remember it’s an old movie, but the subject matter and how Lupino deals with it, are more topical than ever today.

Outrage follows Ann Walton (Mala Powers), a young woman recently engaged to a man she loves.

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Happy Ann 

Everything seems to be going well, except for one slightly annoying thing: a man who runs the food cart at her work verbally harasses her on an almost daily basis. Like most women, Ann deals with it because what else could she do?

However, one night, when walking to her car, that man goes from verbal harassment to rape, leaving Ann shameful and confused. The rest of the film finds Anne running from her shame, unable to come to terms with what’s happened to her.

Here are a few reasons you need to check out this film!

 

Ida Lupino, Ida Lupino, um did I mention Ida Lupino?

As a young woman trying to make it in this business, I bow down to the goddess that is Ida Lupino. I’m currently in the midst of reading a biography of her life and am so fascinated at the way she carried herself, despite the heartache and the struggle she endured.

She found her way into directing when the director of one of the film’s she was producing fell ill early into the shoot. Ida simply took over to save the film and the rest is history. She wanted to make films outside the studio system, what we would now call independent film. Thus, her films were filled with unknown actors.

Ida tackled difficult subject matter with patience and didn’t believe in traditional happy endings, one of the many things I love her movies for.

This tribute is a great introduction to Ida. 🙂

Mala Powers

This film hinged on whether or not you believed in Ann’s distress, her psychological trauma. Many dramatic moments in Outrage simply focus on Ann’s face. Mala Powers is exceptional in the role; she almost feels like a stand-in for Lupino had she acted the part. You feel Ida in Mala Power’s performance. And quite honestly, she moved me to tears.

She didn’t go on to many other projects of note, but continued to work well into her 70s.

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Literally bawling 😭

The Direction and Cinematography

I know I already said Ida Lupino, but for a film not shot in the studio system, with a very low budget, the direction and noir-esque shots are gorgeous and suspenseful.

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Terrifying!

Sadly, it’s just as relevant today as it was then. Even, more so. 

This movie doesn’t preach to its audience. It doesn’t tell women how to feel or how to cope or even that you ever really heal from an experience like this. However, I feel like one message the movie sends loud and clear is that victims of sexual assault should not feel shameful. They didn’t bring it on themselves by wearing too short a skirt or being too nice or leading someone on. The blame lies with the person who assaulted them and I think that for 1950, when no one was paying attention to this issue, that message is radical.

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Get ready to be emotional

Just in the past year, we’ve finally seen some strides being taken in society to not only discuss this issue but say clear and unequivocally that harassment is wrong and will no longer be tolerated. I’m an idealistic person and I’d like to believe things will change, but too often, movements fade and people forget the fervor that incited it.

Ida Lupino made this film seventy years ago, because even then, sexual harassment and assault was an unspoken thing many women had to deal with, often with shame and secrecy. I hope in another seventy years this status quo will not exist.

I was gonna link the trailer below, but the whole film is on youtube. You’re welcome. 🙂

If you watch the film and like it, drop me a comment or send me an email at thegirlwhoknewtoomuch46@gmail.com!

 

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Why ‘West Side Story’ is Still Relevant

I’ve mentioned several times before how much I love living in LA…mostly because of the cool movie events which are held all year round.On Monday, July 18th, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences screened a 70mm print of the 1961 movie musical West Side Story. Better yet, there was a panel with Walter Mirisch (the producer), George Chakiris (Bernardo), Russ Tamblyn (Riff), and Maria Jimenez Henley (one of the dancers).

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Walter Mirisch (Producer), George Chakiris (Bernardo), Russ Tamblyn (Riff), and Maria Jimenez Henley (dancer) at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Monday, July 18th 2016

Before we get to the panel, though, let me talk about the film. I was introduced to West Side Story as a little girl and though I don’t remember exactly how old I was, I do remember how affected I was by it. I also remember wanting to sing and dance like they could. At my young age, I didn’t realize how unrealistic a goal that was. The dancing was so intricate, the movie had months of rehearsal and of course, the singing of the main stars was dubbed.

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Man, those JETS. #DanceGoals

On a purely cinematic level, this film falls into the same category as Gone with the Wind. West Side Story is a film made to be seen on the big screen. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still great on a television. But, being in an audience, watching this film is a totally different experience. It’s a shared experience: people cheer, people cry. It’s completely absorbing. The film is, of course, based on the Broadway show of the same name. Walter Mirisch, the producer, saw the show with his wife and knew he had to make it. It may, story-wise, be a musical version of Romeo and Juliet, but at the same time, it’s so much more. The songs are still good, even almost sixty years later.

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This song was EVERYTHING to me.

If you’ve never seen West Side Story, here are just a few reasons you might want to get watch it…LIKE NOW.

The Cast

Natalie Wood was 23 years old when she played Maria. Her latest movie, Elia Kazan’s Splendor in the Grass, caught the attention of producer Walter Mirisch. It is said that Natalie desperately wanted her Splendor co-star, Warren Beatty to get the part of Tony. As such, during filming, there was apparently some resentment towards Richard Beymer who ended up playing Tony. Still, Natalie’s performance sells the film. She had something truly special, some sort of an indescribable “it” factor that made her appealing, truthful and memorable.

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That dress though! #FashionGoals

Truly, Beymer was probably a bit miscast, but looking back on the film, his not being an exact fit doesn’t mar it. Russ Tamblyn is wonderful as Riff, the leader of the Jets. Side note: Russ has a famous daughter, one Amber Tamblyn – she starred in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. George Chakiris won an Oscar for his performance as Bernardo, Maria’s Puerto Rican brother and the leader of the Sharks. Finally, Rita Moreno won on Oscar for her role as Anita, Bernardo’s girlfriend and Maria’s confidante.

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Just look at that color! 

The Romance

True, Maria and Tony only know each other for about five minutes before deciding that their love is FOREVER, but I personally can’t help but swoon. The songs help…

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Aw, first love and all that!

The Songs

The music, to me, is still the best part of West Side Story. The songs are catchy and sweeping and meaningful. Besides Ragtime, West Side Story is my favorite musical – Somewhere, I feel Pretty, Tonight, Maria…THEY’RE ALL AMAZING.

Shout Out to Marni Nixon who just passed away. She was the singing voice for Natalie Wood in the film. She also sung for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady and Debra Kerr in The King and I. The video below illustrates Natalie’s voice versus Marni’s. Natalie wasn’t bad, but Marni was incredible!

My FAVORITE Song:

The Message

During the panel, Walter Mirisch was asked about what he’s most proud of with the film. This was his brilliant response:

“I thought this was an extraordinary opportunity to say something about racial relations in America and to say it in a way that would bring audiences in to see it, and perhaps benefit from the lesson of West Side Story. As you see it now, and connect it with what is happening every week now, it is more topical I think, even than it was at that time. My efforts in this direction also included my film In The Heat Of The Night, which I hoped would also reach people with the necessity for the races to come together and stop this senseless warfare. It is discouraging that this lesson still not has been learned and I hope others will continue to fight that battle.” – Walter Mirisch, Producer

 Watching the film in a theater, I found that certain lines had a new connotation. For instance, when Lieutenant Schrank, breaks up the Jets and the Sharks’ war council. He tells Bernardo and the Sharks to get out and says, “Oh, I know. It’s a free country and I ain’t got the right. But I got a badge. What’ve you got?” The audience audibly gasped when he said that, no doubt thinking of recent events and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

I got a badge

When Anita goes to give Tony a message at Doc’s store and is harassed, the audience also responded, disgusted.

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One of the most powerful scenes in the film.
In these past few months of crazy violence and the horrific Orlando shooting, West Side Story is more relevant than its ever been. The film’s true message is tolerance and unfortunately, that’s a lesson that still desperately needs to be taught today.
You can sub in any race, ethnicity, sexual orientation…and the story still works. To me, that’s the mark of a true classic film. Yes, it’s rooted in the time it was made, of course. But, young people can still watch the movie today and relate and that’s pretty special.
The film’s last scene always gets me, especially Natalie Wood’s performance. I can’t NOT cry. 😭
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An illustration of how destructive hate is…
What I Learned from the Panel
  • George Chikiras (aka Bernardo) actually played Riff originally in the musical’s London production. For the film, he auditioned for both, but they felt he was more right for Bernardo.
  • Similarly, Russ Tamblyn (aka Riff) originally auditioned for Tony. It was down to Richard Beymer and himself for the part. When Beymer got it, they offered Russ the role of Riff.
  • Maria  Jimenez Henley (one of the dancers) gave the audience an amazing treat when she told her story. She was a young dancer, just 17, somehow got in to audition for West Side Story. After months of auditions, she got the part. That night, her appendix burst and she was rushed into surgery. Her mom told her she needed time to recover, but Maria knew that if she lost this opportunity, she would regret it. So, that Monday, she went to the first rehearsal and danced so hard that at the end of the day, she noticed blood on the floor. She had ripped all her stitches. They let her stay in it and she said it was the biggest blessing for her – she grew up with her West Side family, went through marriages, divorces, kids, death, all of it. She also told the audience never to give up on your dreams or think you can’t accomplish something. It’s fair to say everyone was moved by her story.
  • Jerome Robbins, the film’s choreographer, wanted to shoot the film completely on a stage. Theater was his medium and that’s where he felt most comfortable. However, Mirisch knew that the film would have more impact if it was shot on real streets. So, he told Jerome that if he wasn’t satisfied with the way the scenes turned out, they would pay to go back and shoot them on a stage. Mirisch added – little did Jerome know, they didn’t have the money for that!

I’ve loved this movie since I was a child. It is a true example of what film can do and its messages are just as relevant today as they ever were. If you’ve never seen it, I highly urge you to give it a try. I swear, you won’t be disappointed. Seriously, if you are disappointed…take it up with me!  Ha.

Vintage trailer below:

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If only gangs were like this, just snapping their fingers, singing a song…