The Hard Way (1943) Poster

(1943)

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8/10
Ida Lupino excels in archetypal tinsel-and-ashes melodrama
bmacv19 November 2001
The siren lure of show business must have had a more irresistible song in the days when stars, in the flesh, came right to towns like Pocatello, Idaho and Biloxi, Mississippi. The dreams were delivered fresh and piping hot, not through the many scrims of television and movie screens, and not through the machinations of crafty publicists and a fawning press. That's the milieu of Green Hill, a sooty steeltown where Helen Chernen (Ida Lupino) has cut her losses and her hopes until her little sister (Joan Leslie) gets a whiff of the greasepaint and hears the roar of the crowd. Lupino up and leaves her laborer husband to propel sis right to the boulevard of broken dreams. First steps on the stampede to the top are the mediocre vaudeville duo of Jack Carson and Dennis Morgan; Leslie marries Carson but leaves him in the dust at Lupino's bidding. Soon Leslie is poised to be the toast of all Broadway, but the tinsel is turning to ashes, and she's turning against her unstoppable bulldozer of a big sister. The bookends of this story told in flashback involve an ermine wrap, a pier on New York's waterfront, and a couple of New York cops....You get the idea. The Hard Way still packs a punch (after all these years), if a punch somewhat softened with a tinge of nostalgia. This is one of Lupino's strongest roles (along with Lily in Road House), and at her best she makes you wonder why she didn't achieve the superstardom of a Davis, a Hepburn, or a Stanwyck. She's just that good.
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9/10
Superb Acting Better than Script!!
churei10 March 2005
Rarely seen these days, and unavailable on tape, THE HARD WAY is a melodramatic gem, vaulted by five strong performances. True, the beginning looks as if we are going to watch 'Mildred Pierce', and, true, the ending is totally false if you know anything about the theater at all. Despite the script's weaknesses, this is a film to see, and I am glad that I have been able to obtain a copy. Ida Lupino is excellent as the grasping, obsessive, manipulative elder sister who pushes her younger sibling into show biz prominence. Lupino won the N.Y. Film Critics' honors but, surprisingly, was not nominated for an Oscar. It is a strong performance that, perhaps, needs a little shading here and there. Joan Leslie has an even more demanding role, however, in that her personality and growth is altered throughout the film. She is exquisite even though, as it often was in films of the 40's, the show-within-a-show sequences really are weak. Leslie's career ended because she was essentially blacklisted after she sued to get out of her Warner Bros. contract. (She had been considered to be the lead in 'The Constant Nymph' so some saw her emerging talents!). Jack Carson is remarkable, as he would be later in such films as 'The Tattered Dress'; Dennis Morgan gives his best acting work; and Gladys George, in a cameo, is wonderful even though it is evident the character is out-of-focus in terms of the way in which Broadway works (she never would have been given just one song in a revue). Vincent Sherman's direction is uniformly good in that it often leaps over plot contrivances and zeroes in on the performances. Leslie's acting abilities would be wasted until she free-lanced in REPEAT PERFORMANCE, BORN TO BE BAD (a better look at Broadway), and others. THE HARD WAY remains a forgotten and generally fine film.
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Great film; surprising acting from Jack Carson
JulieKelleher574 May 2000
This was a terrific film. I was riveted as I watched the story unfold. Ida Lupino, fast becoming one of my favorites, was absolutely magnificent as the stage sister, a "Svengali" using her sibling to propel both of them out of poverty. No wonder I don't go to the movies much -- I'd rather stay home and watch performances such as Miss Lupino's!

I was a bit confused by the blossoming relationship between Leslie's and Morgan's characters (though they both gave noteworthy performances). It could have been built up more, since I thought I missed something when the relationship evolved to its resolution. A small flaw.

But the best part of the film was an unusually strong and moving performance from Jack Carson. He is known more for his comic relief (I hate comic relief!) roles in such films as "Mildred Pierce." Heres, Mr. Carson presented a three-dimensional character that you could not help but feel bad for. A pleasant surprise which only added to a must-see film.
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Ida Lupino & Joan Leslie excellent in brilliant, bitter minor gem...
Doylenf16 April 2001
Warning: Spoilers
If ever a fine film deserved the term "neglected", it's the rarely seen 'The Hard Way' with Ida Lupino, Joan Leslie, Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson all giving strong, believable performances. It's a gripping story, a well-told tale (in flashback) of a manipulative older sister (Lupino) who pushes her younger sister (Leslie) into a show biz career and proceeds to destroy the girl's relationship with the man who loves her (Jack Carson) because he doesn't have the status her sister deserves. Carson creates a sympathetic character of a man who is heartbroken when he loses the woman he truly loves. All four stars are at their best--and Lupino won the Best Actress citation from the prestigious New York Film Critics circle for her work. She herself wasn't at all sure how far to go to portray the woman's dark side and needed lots of assurance from director Victor Sherman that she was on track. He was more optimistic about her performance and proved right when she won the N.Y. Critics award. Equally impressive is Joan Leslie, only seventeen at the time, who had to become a bitter and dissolute woman of the world toward the end. By all means, a gritty film that established Victor Sherman as a director to be reckoned with and led to other meaty assignments. Watch for my article on Ida Lupino due for publication in FILMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE later this year.
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7/10
Lupino as barracuda
blanche-221 August 2005
Ida Lupino plays the ruthless, ambitious, domineering sister of Joan Leslie in "The Hard Way." The film starts with Lupino attempting suicide by jumping off a bridge, and the resulting story is one big flashback. Unhappily married in an ugly industrial town, Lupino sees a way out for herself and her sister, played by Joan Leslie, when two vaudevillians, Jack Carson and Dennis Morgan, come into town. Carson soon is married to Leslie and Lupino joins everyone on the road, beginning her path of destruction to make way for Leslie in the big time.

Ida Lupino does a terrific job, as does the entire cast, including a wonderful appearance by Gladys George. Leslie is fresh and young but no phenomenal musical talent, so one has to attribute Lupino's drive to her success! A very good Warners Bros. offering.
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An Excellent cast that's hard to resist!
steveareno2 May 2000
This is a forgotten classic.It shows the dark side of fame and fortune.Ida Lupino and Joan Leslie were great and this is the best dramatic film I've ever seen Jack Carson in.He really got a chance to show his acting talent being dramatic.Dennis Morgan was excellent and I was glad to see him sing a little even in a drama.I recommend that you see this movie and see all these actors at their best!
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8/10
Exceptional--sort of like Film Noir combined with A STAR IS BORN
MartinHafer9 November 2007
This was an exceptional film--one that nearly earned a 9 and the deciding factor for me were the musical numbers which actually seemed to sometimes get in the way of the exceptional plot and acting. While this film was quite the coup for a young Joan Leslie, the real star of this film was Ida Lupino and this might just be her best performance. She plays an amoral and conniving woman who will do just about anything to make her younger sister (Leslie) a star--even use nice people like Jack Carson and Dennis Morgan to make it big. The fact that the script is so unrelenting in its way that it shows the depths to which Lupino would go made this a real standout film. Many other films of the day would have tried to soften her character more or give her a shot at redemption towards the end--a big mistake had they chosen to follow the typical formula of the day.

Aside from Lupino, the other standout actor in the film seemed to be Jack Carson, as his character had much more depth and was much more sympathetic than the usual brash character he played. Also, while their acting wasn't a huge standout, Morgan really belted out some excellent songs and I was surprised to see Leslie dance as well as she did (though I wonder if it really was her doing all the flips--you CAN'T see her face and it could have been a double).

Good, gritty entertainment--it's well worth a look.
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10/10
An unforgettable movie-it still holds up after 56 years
none-8514 December 1998
The stars- Lupino, Leslie, Morgan and Carson give great performances. Leslie was only 17 when she made this movie- she gives the best performance of her career. Morgan was always underrated as both a singer and actor. Lupino should have gotten the Academy Award for this. The movie has drama plus good songs from an earlier time. It's surprising, but Leslie was essentially finished as a star at 25. She was delectable.
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8/10
Ida Lupino was Outstanding
whpratt114 June 2007
Greatly enjoyed this 1942 film starring Ida Lupino,(Mrs.Helen Chernen) who was married to a man who worked in a coal mine and Helen took care of her younger sister, Katie Chernen,(Joan Leslie). Helen hated the town they lived in and also her husband and wanted a bigger and better future for Katie. Katie met up with Albert Runkel, (Jack Carson) who worked on the stage as a song and dance team with Paul Collins, (Dennis Morgan). Katie has a great singing voice and can dance and Albert falls in love with her and gets her into his act. However, behind the scenes is Helen who is scheming to get her sister into big time show business and decides to get her sister married to Albert and runs off and leaves her husband and goes away with her sister and Albert. This story is really about the great actress Ginger Rogers and how her mother pushed her daughter into show business at all costs. They even offered Ginger Rogers a part in this picture, but she refused. Great Classic film, don't miss seeing it on TV.
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7/10
Joan Leslie cartwheels her way to fame!
David-2406 September 2001
This is a very enjoyable film, with a terrific central performance from Ida Lupino. But there are times when she seems to be working harder than she needs to, so that we see her acting. This is not surprising given the very light-weight performance given by Joan Leslie. Ida has to work very hard to get anything out of her. It's a shame, because I think a great actress in the Leslie role might have turned this film into an unforgettable exploration of sisterhood. Just imagine someone like Anne Baxter or Susan Hayward in the role. The really laughable sequence is the musical number that launches Leslie to stardom. It's a horrible piece of choreography and a very ordinary song, and the routine climaxes in Leslie doing some truly ridiculous cartwheels, that would have made her the laughing stock of Broadway. Instead she is the toast of the town, and a top playwright immediately offers to write a play for her! The climax of the film is also very silly, as anyone who has worked in the theatre would know. The actions of Morgan and Leslie here are completely unbelievable.

There are shades of ALL ABOUT EVE in THE HARD WAY - although the dialogue lacks the wit of Mankiewicz. It's good to see Carson and Morgan playing more meaty roles than usual - they were both top notch performers. But the best performance in the film is given by the wonderful Gladys George, who plays an ageing stage star manipulated out of her lead role by Lupino, to be replaced by Leslie. She is funny, touching and utterly convincing in a powerhouse cameo - can't imagine her doing those cartwheels though!
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7/10
To escape a life of pity; a sisterly push.
michaelRokeefe7 November 2000
This movie is highly under rated. At the time of production, director Vincent Sherman agreed with his star, Ida Lupino; will this project hold up? The answer is...yes. The finale could be reworked a bit, but this film is appreciated more now with age.

Joan Leslie plays a young woman that has suffered a dismal life until it is discovered that she has enough talent to try the stage. Lupino is the overbearing, older sister that pushes her little sister to stardom. Soon the two woman are competing for the glory.

Good song and dance movie, evocative of the times.

Also features; Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson and Paul Cavanagh.
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9/10
Feminism and the American Dream in One Movie!
BENNYTI21 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The viewpoint of the movie was one of disapproval of Ida Lupino's character's selfish and manipulative actions to elevate herself out of a hopeless existence. But she was in fact a valiant feminist who was ahead of her time. Remember, Ida in real life was a trailblazer herself in a time when movie production was a men's only club.

Most of the reviews take the 1940s view that Ida depicted a monster who forced her sister to become a star. But in fact Ida didn't force anyone to do anything against their will. The key scene is at the audition where Joan Leslie's character wants to be a star but is too bashful to charge up to the stage after the drunk aging star bombs out. In that moment Ida's character provides the literal push Joan needed to get up on stage and become a star. Joan wanted to be a star and she proves in that moment that she had the talent. She only lacked the confidence, savvy and connections that her sister provided in spades.

Ida's character in "The Hard Way" is flawed, but in the prism of post-modern feminist society, is hardly a monster. Like many successful men and women in real life, captains of industry, CEOs, union leaders, politicians, star athletes and lawyers, Ida's character didn't know when to turn off the drive the succeed after she had succeeded (like sports star Michael Jordan).

Joan Leslie's character had attained fame and riches and wanted to stop and smell the roses and live happily ever after with the Prince Charming-like Dennis Morgan, but Ida's character couldn't stop competing. That was the real tragedy of the movie and it happens in real life to successful people every day across capitalistic America. These people rise out of humble beginnings and are driven towards the goal of attaining The American Dream, but there is no joy, only relief and the need to keep going in the same manic manner, with no peace of mind.

I have met many Ida's in my life and they are tortured souls. They just can't let up and relax. They can't play fair when there is nothing at stake. They can't stop manipulating when they come home from the office. They alienate friends and family. The thing that gives them career success gives them personal failure.

This movie accurately captures a true human experience, the dark side of achieving your dreams. This dark side is now experienced in the 2000s by both men and women. That's why this movie is still so contemporary and fresh when so many acclaimed movies of that era, like "The Little Foxes", fade like a prom corsage. "The Hard Way" is a neglected classic.
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9/10
Hard edged view of a climber who let's nothing stand in her way
jjnxn-113 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Not quite as good as "The Man I Love", with a real Hayes office cop out of an ending, but Ida offers her usual superior performance.

Joan Leslie isn't bad but if a stronger actress with more musical talent than she had played the other sister this would have been a better film. The character, the object of Ida's burning ambition, is supposed to be a marvel of the age-talented beyond measure. Joan's odd cartwheel dancing and average singing voice tend to make the viewer feel Ida is somewhat deluded. Judy Garland would have been ideal and a fascinating screen partner for Ida. She was the right age at the time and this would have certainly offered more of a challenge than the films she turned out at MGM that year. It would have made the movie something special but Metro never would have loaned her out so put that down to wishful thinking.

Ida is one hard grasping number in this, amazingly this is the one performance that she ever won any prestigious award for, the New York Film Critics Circle Award incredibly not followed by an Oscar nod, she was never recognized by that body to their discredit. Her fine work is matched by Jack Carson and in a career best performance Dennis Morgan. Gladys George shines bright in a small role stealing her too few scenes.

The script could be better but this is worth watching for all the terrific acting it contains.
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5/10
Geat Lupino performance.
haroldg-213 August 2001
Vincent Sherman's 1943 'The Hard Way' stars Ida Lupino as an ambitious, manipulative woman who pushes her younger sister into a musical theater career, stopping at nothing to get her sister to the top. Despite her strong central performance, the film is a disappointment. It would have worked a lot better if it had been a backstage Hollywood story, like the original 'A Star Is Born,' rather then set in the world of vaudeville and the musical theater. The musical numbers were simply at odds with the typically gritty Warner Brothers 1940's production values. The film looked very noirish, and all that singing and dancing just didn't fit into the atmosphere director Sherman created. The film can't seem to make up it's mind what it wants to be, much to it's detriment.

However, Ida Lupino is first rate as the domineering older sister, who's single-minded determination to push her kid sister to the top ruins several lives, including her own. She's a perfect Warner Brothers actress, with a forceful screen personality that dominates a film much like the way Davis and Crawford did. I would not have named her best actress of the year, as the New York Film Critics did. But she's very good.

Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson also do marvelous work as a song and dance team, and the terrific Gladys George has a sad, touching vignette as an aging musical performer on the downside of her once successful career. She nearly steals the film right out from under Lupino with her moving performance in the small but flashy role. And while Joan Leslie, as the younger sister, was pretty enough and a competent actress, she's no Judy Garland (or even June Allyson, for that matter). It's quite hard to believe that she would be proclaimed the sensation of the New York musical theater world. More believable casting in the important role would have helped the film immeasurably.

All in all, the film is worth seeing for fans of the Warner Brothers melodramas of the 1940's. But as a star vehicle for one of their top studio actresses, it's not in the same league with Crawford's 'Mildred Pierce,' Davis' 'Now, Voyager,' or Lupino's final Warners film, 'Deep Valley.'
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9/10
Great Behind The Scenes Melodrama
prometheeus1 February 2008
Joan Leslie was 18 when this movie got released. She'd already worked with Bogart at 15 in High Sierra, Cooper at 16 in Sergeant York, and Cagney at 17 in Yankee Doodle Dandy. This was her first film following Yankee.

Ida Lupino the Brit born actress who owned her part as the Big Wicked Sister from Hell in this film. Ida won the NY Film Critic's Circle Award for Best Actress with her performance herein.

Along with wonderful cinematography by the legendary James Wong Howe.

Gladys and Paul were really good with their roles. Dennis was perfect as Jack's show biz partner. Same with Sam who played the father to the Joan and Ida in his small role as a hard working man without much money.

But Jack Carson was poignant, powerful, and completely believable as Joan's suffering husband. You could feel that he wanted to make it on his own but that his own ego also wouldn't let him get a free ride by living off of Joan's newfound, popular, and increasing fame.

All that got shown in this film version of behind the scenes backstabbing is well acted out. Everyone knows that this environment does exist.

I saw this film last Friday night Jan 25 with Joan in the audience. Before this movie started she got interviewed on-stage. What an exciting life she's had. She even mimicked Ida's Britsh accent for a few moments having us in the audience laughing along with her.

The last thing she was given before she walked off the stage was for everyone in attendance ~probably more than 1,000 ~ to stand up and sing to her "Happy Birthday to Joan" since the Sat Jan 26th was her 83rd birthday.

Hopefully, Warner Bros. will give this great film it's proper release soon! The fans that keep coming out more and more in droves to watch Film Noir are wanting more a whole lot more.
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8/10
Ida's Finest Performance
reader411 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
(May contain slight spoilers.)

Although the ending is rather contrived (otherwise I would have given it a 9), this movie is a gripping classic.

No light-hearted comedy, as you might guess from looking at the cast names, this movie is a tragedy that grinds with almost Greek relentlessness towards its final denouement.

Ida Lupino is at her best as an impoverished woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. She doesn't care who she has to step on along the way. She is gorgeous and utterly heartless. A true Dragon Lady.

Yet she is not, in spite of her unrelenting Machiavellianism, a one-dimensional villain. In fact, in many ways, she is not a villain at all. She even has a soft side, which shows through the cracks in her steel-and-ice crust on occasion. This makes her a rounded, believable, perhaps even slightly sympathetic character, although at the same time you can't help but hate her, and be appalled at the lengths to which she is willing to go as she wreaks the destruction of every life she touches, including, eventually, her own.

I found this her finest and most memorable role, including her more famous "High Sierra."

Joan Leslie is excellent as the good-hearted sister rather helplessly caught up in it all. I was surprised to discover she was only 17 when she created this role. Her acting is far more mature than one would expect from a girl that age.

Dennis Morgan plays a shallow, sarcastic, amoral playboy who sees right through Helen from the start. At one point, he even calls her "Lady Macbeth" in front of one of her friends. All in all, I found him a rather unsavory character, which is unusual for him in my acquaintance with his career. What happens with him is one reason I didn't like the ending.

But the real surprise for me was Jack Carson. Although I have not seen anywhere near every movie in which he acted, I've admired him somewhat over the years, all the way up through his appearance in an episode of "The Twilight Zone." This is the most serious role he ever had, to my knowledge. He's usually rather happy-go-lucky. In "The Hard Way," he gets to demonstrate the depth of his acting talent, playing the most respectable character in the film, the only one I found truly likable. The staunchness with which Albert attempts to face the destruction being wrought to his world by Helen is admirable, and the way Carson portrays his slow deterioration is quite moving.

This is one of those movies that makes you say, "They sure don't make them like that any more!"
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10/10
Not Hard Enough
PTConnor3339 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Joan Leslie's character is NOT an innocent, and she is complicit in everything the two sisters do, yet ultimately refuses to take any responsibility, either for wanting so much more than their rotten existence has to offer, or for destroying her husband, or for ultimately betraying her sister. I felt nothing but sympathy for Ida Lupino's character, didn't think she did anything inappropriate (perhaps unethical, but did ethics ever get anyone out of a mill town and on Broadway or anywhere for that matter?), and thought she got a raw deal, as dictated by 1940s morality and the Breen office. Dennis Morgan's character is just there to preach, moralize and make certain the man/woman status quo is maintained. It could have been a brilliant film if it had been allowed to be honest. Ida, as always, is magnificent, and is really the only reason for viewing this film.
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9/10
Devil likes company
karlooop-112 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
WHAT A TREAT to find this rarely seen gem of a tale about over ambition and how it destroys lives. The story basically revolves around two lower-class sisters and the lure of the theater world. Ida Lupino is great as a dragon lady relentlessly ready to keep "going for it", while the young Joan Leslie (an actress I was unfamiliar with) is fresh and appealing as a young stage star with some sane reservations. Not an unusual situation by the way! Supporting characters add depth and charm to the movie. Some of the scenes seem a bit contrived, even far fetched - but maybe not! Supposedly "based" on a true life story or so they say. Definitely worth a look!
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9/10
Mesmerizing Ida!!!
kidboots19 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Although "The Hard Way" won no Oscars, Ida Lupino did win the 1943 New York Film Critic's Award for Best Actress. After three pictures as a sympathetic character Ida relished the challenge of tapping into the negative aspects of the human psyche. It was the story of a single minded female Svengali and while Bette Davis rejected it, Olivia De Havilland expected the role to be hers. Ida jumped at this plum role and hid her natural warmth beneath the character's brittle phoniness and single minded calculations. With an opening very similar to "Mildred Pierce" and with the murky sets that were used for "Out of the Fog" Ida Lupino as a despondent Helen attempts suicide. Rescued from the river, a kindly policeman asks a dying Helen why she did it and the rest of the movie resorts to a flashback to tell her story.

Unhappily married Helen can't even convince her husband (Roman Bohnen) to pay $8 to buy her kid sister Katie (Joan Leslie) a graduation dress. As a humiliated Katie is forced to wear a short dowdy dress, Helen utters those immortal words - "I'm gonna get you out of here if it's the last thing I do"!!!Ida Lupino dazzles as the ruthless embittered Helen who is determined that Katie will succeed where she has failed. That Joan Leslie is less than spectacular in her role, to me, was the whole point. Helen was magnetic and Katie just happened to be a pretty girl with a sprinkling of song and dance talent, oh and Helen's sister, that was all Helen needed to give an outlet to her frustrations.

People are littered by the wayside, including Jack Carson in a wonderful performance as Albert, Katie's husband, a good humoured but sensitive song and dance man who wants what's best for Katie and only asks for her love and friendship. When Helen assures him he is not going to get it, Albert shoots himself and Katie finds that a spark has gone out of her personality. Then there is ageing diva Lily (Gladys George is just marvelous). Helen is determined that Katie gets an opportunity and tapping into Lily's insecurities, gets her drunk while posing as a friend and sympathetic listener - of course Lily is too drunk to complete her audition and Katie gets the part.

I admit the ending is less than ideal. Helen is too grim and relentless to capture the only man she has ever fallen for - Paul Collins - and why would she want him anyway!! He is played in a very superficial and lack lustre way by Dennis Morgan, initially coming across as a very "love 'em and leave 'em" type of guy as opposed to Carson's sincere playing of Albert. Yet at the end the audience is supposed to believe that he had loved Katie from the first moment he saw her. The film belongs to spellbinding Ida!!!
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9/10
the psychology of ambition...
MarieGabrielle4 September 2009
Ida Lupino shines here, as Mrs Helen Chernin, sister to Katie (Joan Leslie) an aspiring theater actress.Katie is satisfied at first to have a small-town vaudeville career, and perform with the Runkel brothers, including Jack Carson who soon marries her.

(He story has depth and intrigue, as we see how fame and fortune affect the two sisters differently. Katie, a good-natured but rather naive girl, trusts her sister to bolster her career, but loses control and starts drinking when the fame is overwhelming.

Mrs Chernin (Lupino) is at first skeptical, then driven, almost manic to see her sister excel on Broadway. She networks, eliminates and manipulates in cut-throat fashion.

Katie eventually falls for the second half of the "Runkel Brothers" troupe (poor Jack Carson as the first husband is succinctly eliminated, he has no chance against the likes of Lupino).

There is a surprise ending, Lupino pays for her sins an ambitious woman in 1943 gets her comeuppance. Stellar performance by Ms. Lupino.9/10.
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8/10
Smash-Up, the Story of a Neurotic....
mark.waltz10 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Stage mothers have always been a driving force in the entertainment field to get their children ahead, but here, that role becomes stage sister. Who better to portray the ultimate monster sister than the veteran neurotic of the silver screen, Ida Lupino, the one major dramatic actress who never even got as much as an Academy Award Nomination? For this film, Ida received the New York Film Critics award, but was overlooked by Mr. Oscar. (The same thing happened with 1944's NY Films Critics Best Actress Winner, Tallulah Bankhead...) Perhaps their performances were too theatrical, and in Ida's case, her character way too unsympathetic, especially for a leading performance.

Lupino is the world-weary wife of the uncouth Roman Bohnen, struggling to make ends meet for them and her younger sister (Joan Leslie) who attracts the attention of two visiting vaudevillians (Jack Carson and Dennis Morgan). Ms. Leslie wants to get out of the small provincial community and Lupino doesn't waste any moment in taking them up on their offer to add her sister into their act. She hopes that the road from vaudeville will take them to New York, and her ambitions push Carson and Leslie into a loveless marriage. When her efforts pay off, Lupino schemes even more, watching the troubled star of a musical revue (Gladys George) become more and more despondent, leading her into a bar where she proceeds to get the star drunker and drunker, finally getting Leslie to take over the part and become the most unlikely Broadway star ever.

Having dumped her husband without even ever mentioning him again, Lupino falls in love with Morgan, but he thinks she's a cold-hearted lover. It's years later when Leslie, now preparing to star in a new play, learns the truth about her sister's machinations and prepares to cut her out of her life. Without so much as an "I thought you did it for me, sis!", Leslie moves on, and before she can break into "Rose's Turn", Lupino heads to a bridge where everything she did comes back to haunt her and leaves her with only one conclusion.

This is fascinating as a study of one woman's ambitions and the realization that she doesn't have what it takes to reach them so she pushes somebody else into that place. Lupino has a few moments of nastiness, but basically, she's very passive/aggressive in her manner, and never is truly an in your face villain. This subtlety makes her perfect for the part. Bette Davis would have eaten the role alive and the hidden aspirations of the character would not have been prevalent. Morgan and Carson offer a good look at a failing vaudeville team, performing many songs heard previously in Warner Brothers musicals of the 1930's. Even "On Your Toes" is heard as the overture to Leslie's play. She's fine except when she sings. Her big production number ends up being extremely campy because she's just so unbelievable.

Gladys George is excellent as the drunken Broadway star, sort of a mixture of her characters from "The Roaring Twenties" and "Lullaby of Broadway", but with a bit of Sophie Tucker thrown in (plus a lot of vermouth for all those "martunis"....). Excellent direction by Vincent Sherman also makes the film move at a quick pace. Still, it's Lupino's show, and for how ruthless she is, you really empathize with her and feel extremely sorry for her that somehow she missed the boat.
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8/10
Thanks...
WarnersBrother7 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Confession: I am a (Long)life-long Warners junkie, a huge Ida Lupino fan and have been in love with Joan Leslie since I was a kid. And somehow I managed to miss The Hard Way until today, for which I am deeply regretful. Many of my own thoughts are presented in earlier reviews so I will add only a few, particularly that Jack Carson is given his second best dramatic role at Warners after Mildred Pierce plus he is given the shortest, most poignant and best delivered line in the picture, which you can easily miss: "Thanks." Dennis Morgan has his by far best dramatic performance, period. Makes you wonder if he might have done some later '40's noir. And the big "IF", was Vincent Sherman not the best choice to helm this? I sat here longing for the whip-hand of Michael Curtiz...the edges and pacing under Sherman are too soft. That might have been a 10, but as is an essential 8 at least. WB never failed and this is from the golden age. Happy 88 to Miss Joan Leslie!
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7/10
Solid performances
gbill-7487722 September 2018
A couple of sisters in a grimy little town (Ida Lupino and Joan Leslie) see a chance at a way out in the form of a couple of travelling performers (Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson) who pass through. It's an interesting study in contrasts for both pairs, with Lupino being the ambitious older sister who will do most anything as an agent for her fresh-faced and innocent sister. Meanwhile, Morgan is a cynical philandering entertainer who sees right through Lupino's ambition, and Carson is his big-hearted partner who falls for Leslie.

This 'rise to fame' story is not all that original, and we go through what are some pretty predictable phases: being discovered in an ice cream shop, playing bit parts and small towns, getting a break but having to choose between 'going solo' and remaining part of an act, the inevitable strain on relationships, and living to excess once one has 'made it'. We see behind the scenes looks at rehearsals, back-biting, aging stars, and agents with casting couches.

Ida Lupino is excellent, and there is truth in the directness with which her character operates in an industry with so much falseness, but as she tramples over people in her quest to make her sister a star, we can't help but cringe a little. On the other hand, Lupino is wisely measured in her portrayal of manipulation, so that we have a degree of empathy for her, and realize she's just a business woman. In one scene, after exchanging glances with an agent who one woman warns is a "very fast man with his hands" she disappears into his office, and the next thing we know, her sister has the part. It's quietly very creepy, and perhaps more effective because nothing's actually shown. Lupino knows what's expected in the industry, and does it without ever betraying any angst about it. On the other hand, she's pretty ruthless in trying to maintain her control over his sister.

Joan Leslie was just 18 when the film was released, and turns in a reasonably good performance as well, with youthful enthusiasm coming through. The song and dance numbers she performs are decent but not outstanding, but I think this adds to the realism of the film; we see just how difficult it is to stand out as a true talent. Her cartwheel sequence in a flowy dress is perhaps her best, but even this smacks of an amateur.

The film has a bit of a B-movie vibe, and I think this adds to the realism as well. It gets a tad melodramatic so I wouldn't call it a great film, but the performances are strong, including those of Carson and Morgan, and there are no lulls in the story-telling. I thought it was interesting that a film that shows some of the ugly side of the business stars an 18-year-old who would later be blacklisted by powerful studio executive Jack Warner just 3 or 4 years later, and after she had worked in films starring Bogart, Cooper, and Cagney as a teenager. It was also interesting to read that it was based on Ginger Rogers's relationships with her stage-mother, Lela E. Rogers, and first husband. Worth watching.
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10/10
Lupino and Leslie take centre stage in story about the pitfalls of success.
alexanderdavies-9938230 August 2017
"The Hard Way" just about sums up the plot of the film. It is an exercise in how achieving success can come with its own price tag. The events that unfold, take place via a flashback after the opening scene shows Ida Lupino being picked up by the police. Lupino plays a character who's life and that of her younger sister (Joan Leslie), is confined to being stuck in a rut in a small, unimportant town. They both struggle on a daily basis until Leslie displays a natural talent for singing and dancing. As a result, Lupino uses every trick and advantage at her disposal in pushing her sister to the top in show business. The older sister doesn't care who she has to use or who gets hurt in the process. After a while, Leslie begins to develop a conscience regarding her sister's behaviour and the problems begin..... We are given a more accurate portrayal of how showbusiness tends to function in an undiluted form. Jack Carson and Dennis Morgan play a vaudeville act who are initially of some use to Lupino. Carson does very well as he is successfully cast against type. He usually was cast in light-hearted films at "Warner Bros" as well- meaning but clumsy characters. In "The Hard Way," he is a more tragic character and a victim to the scheming that goes on. Ida Lupino gives one of the best performances of her career and she bristles with a fiery passion. Joan Leslie compliments her fellow lead perfectly and is given a more mature role to play. The writing is of a high calibre, as is the direction.
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7/10
Stage Sister
bkoganbing24 August 2017
Ida Lupino and Joan Leslie play a pair of sisters in The Hard Way. Leslie's your ordinary American teenager from the 30s and Lupino is her older sister and acts more like a mother. Both are from a sleepy small town and would dearly like to escape it. Leslie with her talents of singing and dancing and Lupino as her Jo Van Fleet like stage sister.

Their meal ticket turns out to be traveling song and dance team Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson. Lupino pushes Leslie into marriage with Carson, but Morgan sees right through her schemes always.

The Hard Way boasts a lot of musical numbers some just portions showing the rise of Leslie. When she does do her dancing it was very reminiscent of Marilyn Miller who had died in 1936. Having seen all three of Miller's films two of them were versions of stage musicals she starred on Broadway I could see the resemblance quite clearly. So would have a 1943 studio audience. Leslie becomes quite the party animal as Miller was reputed to be.

There's a great bit in the film for Gladys George who plays an over the hill musical comedy star. In her rehearsal scene on stage and later in a bar with Lupino, Lupino achieves her desired result.

Structurally the film is told in flashback the same way another 1943 Warner Brothers film The Big Shot. Both are told from the same perspective by the top billed player Ida Lupino here and Humphrey Bogart in the other film.

Ida Lupino really shines in this movie and the rest of the cast gives her great support.
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