You don’t know Hollywood

Curator's Note

These episodes of Batman (“The Entrancing Doctor Cassandra,” 1968) and Charlie’s Angels (“I Will Be Remembered,” 1977) eerily predict Ida Lupino’s disappearance from film history. But not only is she largely forgotten as Hollywood film and television star: the films she directed, co-wrote, and co-produced are also barely known and rarely circulated.

Here her invisibility in history is visibly marked: the self-proclaimed “world famous alchemist, occult science practitioner, and all-around evil-doing swinger” Doctor Cassandra facilitates her own disappearance, while former star Gloria Gibson has simply been “forgotten” by the industry who knew her. Yet Lupino’s reappearance, decades later, offers us the opportunity to see her – and her career – anew. Nostalgia networks and syndicated reruns allow for a recontextualization of television series: on “TV Land,” Batman and Charlie’s Angels appear in new time slots, with contemporary ads and different series surrounding them. In this collision of history and the present-day, we have the chance not just to see Lupino on-screen again, but to see how these appearances, re-appearances, and disappearances might comment on her place in history. Already this history seems embedded in the sequences – for instance, in the suggestion that Gloria Gibson might be “flashing back on her old films,” in the idea that she’s being “gaslighted,” or even in her name itself, recalling Gloria Swanson’s role as the prototypical aging star in Sunset Boulevard.

Lupino comes to us as camp, as tragedy, and ultimately as part of a larger cultural nostalgia: from film to prime-time television to late-night syndication, and now available on the web. As “Angel” Kelly Garrett tells us, “I saw one of her pictures last week on TV.” And here she is again…and again…and again. Might these appearances direct us to seek out her other work, resituate it in our present-day, and make visible anew our “foremother” Lupino?

Comments

Christian Keathley's picture

Amelie -- I think this is

Amelie — I think this is terrific — a most provocative way to consider not only the “disappearance” of Ida Lupino, but also the ongoing vexed relationship between cinema and tv, and the way the latter both erases and allows for the reappearance of the former. With a bit of expansion, it could be turned into a video essay, slightly de-emphasizing the explanatory accompaniment. See my proposal, La camera-stylo, for more on this.

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