“My agent had told me that he was going to make me the Janet Gaynor of England – I was going to play all the sweet roles. Whereupon, at the tender age of thirteen, I set upon the path of playing nothing but hookers.”
In addition to being one of the most under-appreciated actresses of the 20th-century, the great Ida Lupino was also a Hollywood trailblazer and maverick director/writer/producer at a time when women did not often achieve even one of these hyphenate roles, let alone all three. In tandem with the brilliant Myrna Loy, Lupino is arguably the greatest actress to never have even been nominated for an Oscar. Apparently she also made a lovely plum cake!
Lupino was one of the biggest stars at Warner Bros in the 1940s. An actress of great range—equally adept at evoking sympathy or playing tough cookies—Ida’s comely looks were strikingly offset by her obvious intelligence and a certain naturalistic, modern quality to her acting style which gives many of her films a sense of relatability to contemporary audiences. Lupino stars in some of my favorite films of the period, like Raoul Walsh’s They Drive By Night (1940), John Huston’s High Sierra (1941)—both with Humphrey Bogart, Jean Negulesco’s Road House (1948), and Nicholas Ray’s On Dangerous Ground (1952), to name but a few. The fact that Lupino was never even nominated for an Oscar continues to disturb me almost 20 years after her death probably says at least as much about me as it does about the Academy.
In the late 1940s Ida moved into directing for both the big screen and, later on, for TV. Her film work, mosty issue-oriented “B” pictures like Outrage (1950) and The Hitch-Hiker (1953), the first film noir directed by a woman. She also directed extensively for TV, inluding a particularly beloved episode of Twighlight Zone.
And after all is said and done there was the plum cake! I found this recipe in a book from 1948, making it the oldest celebrity recipe I’ve shared thus far. Judging from ingredients, it seems entirely plausible that some of Ida’s original plum cakes are still roaming the earth—what with the candied this and that.
Even if I cannot personally recommend lu‘plum cake, I can definitely recommend the movies. There was only one Lupino!
Ida Lupino’s Plum Cake
41/2 cups sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup dried currants
1 3-ounce package mixed diced candied fruits
1 1/2 cups sultana raisins
1/2 cup diced candied orange peel
1/2 cup chopped candied cherries
1/2 cup choppped, blanced almonds
4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk
Mix and sift 4 cups flour, spices, and salt. Rub in shortening. Add sugar. Combine remaining flour with fruits; add with almonds. Add eggs; mix well. Dissolve baking soda in milk; add; mix thoroughly. Pour batter into large greased and floured tube pan. Garnish top with whole candied cherries if desired. Cover top with waxed paper. Bake in very slow oven (250 degrees F.) for 1 1/2 hours. Remove waxed paper. Bake 1 1/2 hours longer.
Check out the rest of my Eating With the Stars recipes!