Illuminating Cinema: The Hitch-Hiker
Directed by Ida Lupino. US. 1953. NR. 1 hour 11 minutes. Kino. Digital.
Sun., March 31, 2019
Ida Lupino had always disliked the superficially feminine roles she was often offered as a screen actress, yet it is surprising that the only female member of the Hollywood Director’s Guild in the early 1950s would make a film with no women in it at all. The plot of The Hitch-Hiker is simple: a gritty noir about a criminal (William Talman) who kidnaps two friends (Edmond O’Brien and Frank Lovejoy) on a fishing trip, the film nonetheless deals with issues of deep concern to postwar society, aligning the runaway killer’s instability with anxieties about suburban masculinity expressed by the male leads. The result is a suspenseful genre picture based on the true story of serial killer William “Billy” Cook that, strangely enough, uses the flatness of the highway and the vastness of the desert to portray the feeling of being trapped. Shooting on location in Mexico, Lupino transforms wide-open landscapes into stages for the struggle to define the 1950s American man.
“The Hitch-Hiker is a brutal story handled by Ms. Lupino, one of Hollywood’s very few female directors, with the same steely determination and emotional sensitivity found in her strongest performances.” – J. Hoberman, The New York Times
About the Talk & Conversation
The same year Ida Lupino released The Hitch-Hiker she also directed The Bigamist, a film about a gentle traveling salesman played by Edmond O’Brien who, almost inadvertently, ends up marrying two women. That Lupino would find a way to have audiences sympathize with a two-timing husband resonates with her approach to film production more broadly. As is true of Kathryn Bigelow, Lupino had no desire to be received as a “woman director,” instead wanting to be taken on her own terms. Her films have rarely been interpreted with a feminist lens, yet when considered more closely, they all contain complex representations of women’s experiences, from childbirth to mother-daughter relationships to the distinctiveness of female friendships. We will discuss The Hitch-Hiker in the context of Lupino’s work: her maternal melodramas Not Wanted (1949) and Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951) and the school-girl comedy The Trouble With Angels (1966), in order to analyze her gender preoccupations and filmmaking style.
The talk will also address the historical possibilities for and barriers to women’s participation in the film industry. Lupino began her career as an actress under contract to Warner Bros., but when Hollywood opened up opportunities for independent film production at the end of the 1940s, Lupino got the chance to direct. Bucking the regulations of Hollywood’s Production Code Administration, Lupino visited Billy Cook in San Quentin prison, hoping to get details that would make her film more true-to-life, and in the process, she contradicted the glamorous image Warner Bros. had wanted her to fulfill. A figure who can’t be pinned down to a single ideological position, Ida Lupino was an independent filmmaker in every sense of the word.
About the Speaker
Jennifer Fleeger is an associate professor in the Department of Media and Communication Studies and coordinator of the film studies program at Ursinus College. She is the author of Mismatched Women: The Siren’s Song Through the Machine and Sounding American: Hollywood, Opera, and Jazz, both published by Oxford University Press. She lives in Phoenxiville.
1:00PM – Pre-Show Talk in the Garden Suite
1:30PM – Film Screening in the 1903 Theatre
2:45PM – Post-Show Conversation in the Garden Suite
Members, Seniors & Students: $20
Click HERE to purchase a ticket to the The Hitch-Hiker film screening only.
In addition to admission to the film screening and the pre- and post-film discussions, your Illuminating Cinema ticket includes a free small popcorn, a free small soda, a complimentary theatre cup. Plus $5 beer or wine (at this event only).
A limited number of tickets are available for each Illuminating Cinema presentation so we encourage advance purchases.
Discounts are available when you purchase tickets for all current Illuminating Cinema selections during the same transaction.
Member Passes are not accepted for this program.
About Illuminating Cinema
When the credits end that’s when the conversation begins!
Illuminating Cinema connects you with film fans of all ages for fun, refreshments and engaging conversation. Each presentation begins in our beautiful Garden Suite with a pre-show introduction from a guest speaker who offers insight and observation to help sharpen your focus on the respective film. After the lights go up in the historic 1903 auditorium, we’ll gather in the Garden Suite for a convivial post-film conversation with the speaker and each other.
In addition to admission to the film screening and the pre- and post-film discussions, your Illuminating Cinema ticket includes a free small popcorn, a free small soda, a complimentary theatre cup. Plus $5 beer or wine (at the Illuminating Cinema event only).
Focus your appreciation for film with Illuminating Cinema!