Hard Way, The (1943): Ida Lupino Wins Best Actress from N.Y. Film Critics Circle for this Family Melodrama with Songs

Ida Lupino won the 1943 Best Actress Award from the New York Film Critics Circle for her feisty role in The Hard Way, a siblings melodrama with songs, directed by Vincent Sherman.

Bette Davis, queen of Warner at the time, and Ginger Rogers, then at RKO, were initially offered the role of Helen, but both declined.

Shaw wanted Howard Hawks or William Wyler to direct, but both were busy and so producer Jerry Wald hired Vincent Sherman.

Some footage of a docu by Pare Lorentz were used to show the drab mining town of Green Hill.  Also in the name of realism, neither Lupino nor Leslie wore makeup.

The first and last scenes of the film, which is narrated by Helen, were added at the demand of studio head Jack Warner, who felt that Lupino should look more glamorous.

The film was based on a story by Irwin Shaw, inspired by Ginger Rogers’ relationship with her first husband, Jack Pepper (whom she married in 1928 at age 17) and her own mother, Lela.

Lupino plays Helen Chernen, an ambitious upwardly mobile woman, who pushes her younger sister Katie (Joan Leslie) into a marriage with singer-dancer Albert Runkel (Jack Carson).

Katie has no interest in the man, but she is desperate to leave the poor conditions she and her sister live in steel town.

Runkel’s partner Paul Collins (Dennis Morgan) sees what Helen’s real intentions are and tries to stop her from breaking Runkel’s heart.

Living in better surroundings, Helen launches Katie’s career by putting her on a Broadway play. Katie soon becomes a successful singer- actress, while Collins and Runkel’s act flounders. Runkel can’t stand that his wife is more successful, and upset by Helen’s efforts to destroy his marriage, he kills himself.

As Katie’s popularity rises, she becomes a wild party girl, and her misconduct has negative impact on her career. She wants to leave showbiz behind and go back to being “ice cream parlor girl.”

Paul, who is now a band leader, falls in love with Katie, which annoys Helen who is also in love with him.

In the next to last scene, there is a big emotional confrontation between the two sisters, about their past and present situation, after Helen prevents Paul from seeing Katie before the opening night.

The soundtrack consists of a dozen or so popular tunes, such as “Am I Blue?” or “You’re Getting to Be a Habit With Me”



Ida Lupino as Helen Chernen

Dennis Morgan as Paul Collins

Joan Leslie as ‘Katie’ Blaine

Gladys George as Lily Emery

Faye Emerson as Ice Cream Parlor Waitress

Paul Cavanagh as John “Jack” Shagrue

Jack Carson as Albert Runkel