University of Nevada, Las Vegas adjunct professor William Donati’s books have focused on controversies. His career was launched when he researched a theory that Errol Flynn was a Nazi spy while co-writing “My Days with Errol Flynn: The Autobiography of Stuntman Buster Wiles.” Donati concluded that Flynn was not a spy and that a prominent biographer had doctored documents to support the claim.
Researching Flynn’s life led Donati to Ida Lupino, one of Hollywood’s first female directors. “I went to her home for an interview on Oct. 23, 1983,” Donati said. “I intended to stay for only an hour, but she was absolutely enchanting, and I stayed about eight hours.”
The two stayed friends, and Donati later agreed to write “Ida Lupino: A Biography.” The book was completed shortly before Lupino’s death in 1995. Donati was given an opportunity to rewrite the end to include her final days. Donati is also author of “Lucky Luciano: The Rise and Fall of a Mob Boss” and “The Life and Death of Thelma Todd.”
Donati, a Las Vegas biographer who earned four university degrees — three in English and one in Italian literature — also recently completed his first novel.
Excerpt from ‘Ida Lupino: A Biography’
Capturing the essence of Ida Lupino is a formidable task. Her screen image is that of a magnificent actress who portrayed mad and bad dames; she is known as an accomplished director and is also widely admired for her courage in daring to stand behind the camera and take charge.
The private Lupino is somewhat harder to bring into focus. Her lively personality resembles a pendulum, constantly swinging in an arc between points of wild hilarity and high fury. Between these two extreme lies a brooding intensity and a magical charm. At times she seems to be two distinct women: Lupi, the eccentric, and Ida, the brilliant charmer. When the two halves blend, a unique woman emerges. This is Ida Lupino.
By the time I spoke with Lupino in 1981 she was retired. Ida enjoyed discussing the past, and I eagerly listened to her stories. She was a hypnotic speaker. I soon grasped an essential fact: Lupino took great pleasure in being singled out as different. I found her to be one of the most intriguing women I have ever met.