The Hard Way (1943 film)

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The Hard Way
The Hard Way 1943 movie poster.jpg
Theatrical Poster
Directed by Vincent Sherman
Screenplay by Daniel Fuchs
Peter Viertel
Story by Jerry Wald
Produced byJerry Wald
Starring Ida Lupino
Dennis Morgan
Joan Leslie
Cinematography James Wong Howe
Edited by Thomas Pratt
Music by Heinz Roemheld
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • February 20, 1943 (1943-02-20)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Language English
Box office$2.3 million (US rentals) [1]

The Hard Way is a 1943 Warner Bros. musical drama film directed by Vincent Sherman and starring Ida Lupino. The film was based on a story by Irwin Shaw which was reportedly based on Ginger Rogers' relationship with her first husband, Jack Pepper (whom she married in 1928 at age 17) and her own mother, Lela. [2]



Ida Lupino as Mrs. Helen Chernen Ida Lupino in The Hard Way trailer cropped.jpg
Ida Lupino as Mrs. Helen Chernen

Helen Chernen (Ida Lupino) is an ambitious woman, determined to escape poverty. She 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 is desperate to leave the poor conditions that she and her sister live in, in a dirty steel town. Runkel's partner Paul Collins (Dennis Morgan) realizes Helen's deeper intentions and tries to stop her from breaking Runkel's heart.

Now living in wealthier surroundings, Helen tries to make a start on Katie's career. After showcasing her in Runkel's act, she is able to put her in a Broadway production. Katie soon becomes a successful singer and actress, and Collins and Runkel's act flounders. Runkel can't bear being away from his wife on tour and refuses to live off her earnings or even use his wife's name to promote himself. He eventually commits suicide.

Meanwhile, Katie's popularity goes to her head, and she becomes a wild party girl, losing an important opportunity. She later meets with Paul, who is now a successful band leader. He falls in love with Katie, and they start a relationship. However, Katie is forced to choose between him and appearing in Helen's first play. She chooses the play over Paul, who has asked her to marry him, and he leaves. Before the play, Paul comes to see Katie to wish her luck, but Helen runs him off and the sisters fight over the motivation for Katie's success.

During the play, Katie forgets lines and has to be cued several times before collapsing in the middle of the production. Later that evening, after recovering from her collapse, Katie tells Helen that she never wants to see her again. Paul appears and the two profess their love for each other.


Ida Lupino in The Hard Way trailer 2.jpg Ida Lupino as Mrs. Helen Chernen Joan Leslie in The Hard Way trailer.jpg Joan Leslie as 'Katie' Blaine
Dennis Morgan in The Hard Way trailer.jpg Dennis Morgan as Paul Collins Jack Carson in The Hard Way trailer.jpg Jack Carson as Albert Runkel


Both Bette Davis and Ginger Rogers initially were offered the role of Helen, but both declined. Ida Lupino was cast. Shaw wanted Howard Hawks or William Wyler to direct the film, but because they were busy with other projects, producer Jerry Wald hired Vincent Sherman. Portions of a documentary film 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 film's first and last scenes were added at Jack L. Warner's insistence that Lupino appear more glamorous in the opening scene. [ citation needed ]



Ida Lupino was awarded a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress for her role in the film.


"Unconvincing but well mounted drama."
Leslie Halliwell Halliwell's Film Guide, Eighth edition, revised and updated, edited by John Walker, © 1992 Ruth Halliwell and John Walker. HarperCollinsPublishers, Inc.

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  1. "Top Grossers of the Season", Variety, 5 January 1944 p 54
  2. Studio Affairs: My Life as a Film Director, by Vincent Sherman, page 110