Hard Way, The (1943): Vincent Sherman’s Melodrama

Ida Lupino won the Best Actress kudo from the New York Film Critics Circle for playing a tough and demanding role in the dark, backstage family melodrama, The Hard Way, directed by Vincent Sherman.

Irwin Shaw’s story was reportedly loosely based on Ginger Rogers’ relationship with her first husband, Jack Pepper (whom she married in 1928 at age 17) and her own domineering mother, Lela.

Lupino plays Helen Chernen, the iron-willed older sister forcibly thrusts her only modestly talented younger sister into a Broadway career.

The movie begins with a shot of a woman attempting suicide. Saved, she is taken to the hospital, and interrogated: Why? Why? Why? In flashbacks, she narrates her life story.

Unhappily married herself, she is desperately trying to keep her little sister, Katherine (Joan Lesley) from falling into the same small-town trap of marriage to a dull working-stiff, taking care of babies and household drudgery.
Helen gets her chance when two handsome vaudevillians come to town. Seeing that one of the fellows eyes her younger sibling, she connives to get the two together. The scheme works and the smitten performer dumps his long-time partner in exchange for a

career with his new love.

In one of many confrontations, Helen tells Katherine point blank, “You’ve got something I don’t have. Me. Somebody to guide you, and natural resources.”

But the ambitious Helen wants more for her sister and convinces her to become a solo act. As a result, the cheap levitra professional deeply upset jilted partner commits suicide.

Still, Helen refuses to stop pushing until finally the younger girl gets fed up and rebels in a bitter confrontation that results in further tragedy.

Gladys George has a memorably touching scene as an boozy aging star, fumbling her lines and screwing one audition after another.

Lupino was cast after both Bette Davis and Ginger Rogers turned down the role of Helen, but both declined.

The film’s first and last scenes were added at Jack L. Warner’s insistence that Lupino appear more glamorous in the opening scene.

Some footage of a documentary by Pare Lorentz were used to represent the mining town of Green Hill.

To achieve a more realistic feel during the scenes that took place in Green Hill, neither Lupino nor Leslie wore makeup.

The movie was a commercial hit, earning $2.3 million in film rentals.


Ida Lupino as Helen Chernen

Joan Leslie as ‘Katie’ Blaine

Dennis Morgan as Paul Collins

Jack Carson as Albert Runkel

Gladys George as Lily Emery

Faye Emerson as Ice Cream Parlor Waitress

Paul Cavanagh as John “Jack” Shagrue



Running time: 109 Minutes.
Directed by Vincent Sherman
Released: February 20, 1943.