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The Hard Way (1943)

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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 630 users  
Reviews: 25 user | 2 critic

Embittered, ambitious Helen Sherman sees an opportunity to escape her drab small-town life by becoming a 'stage mother' to her musically-talented younger sister.



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Title: The Hard Way (1943)

The Hard Way (1943) on IMDb 7.3/10

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Complete credited cast:
Mrs. Helen Chernen
Dennis Morgan ...
Paul Collins
Katherine 'Katie' Blaine
Albert Runkel
Lily Emery
Faye Emerson ...
Ice Cream Parlor Waitress
Paul Cavanagh ...
John 'Jack' Shagrue


Ambitious Helen Chernin (Ida Lupino) pushes her talented younger sister Katherine (Joan Leslie) into marriage with broken down song-and-dance man Albert Runkel (Jack Carson) so that the two women can leave the dirty steel town where they live. Runkel's partner Paul Collins (Dennis Morgan), however, sees through Helen's plan. Helen continues driving her sister's career and eventually Katherine becomes a star on Broadway, while Runkel and Collins' act flounders. Success soon goes to Katherine's head and she becomes a fast-living party girl. Time passes and Helen and Katherine run into Paul, now a successful band leader. He and Katherine soon fall in love. The two sisters eventually have a showdown on opening night of Katherine's latest show when Katherine discovers that Helen is also in love with Paul. Written by Daniel Bubbeo <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Sister LOVE...and HATE! See more »


Drama | Musical | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

20 February 1943 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Hard Way  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Bette Davis was originally the first choice for the role of Helen Chernin but turned it down. Upon seeing the finished product, however, she mused, "How did I let that one get away?" See more »


Just moments after the opening night performance of a Broadway musical, several characters look at a print review of the show that appeared in weekly Variety. At that time, the publication did not run reviews of previews so there is now way this review could have appeared in print before curtain went down for first public performance. See more »


Laura Britton: [With unintentioned irony to Helen and Katie] You know, you're the only two sisters I've met who never quarrel. It's a beautiful thing!
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Referenced in American Me (1992) See more »


Youth Must Have Its Fling
(1942) (uncredited)
Music by M.K. Jerome
Lyrics by Jack Scholl
Played during the opening credits and at the end
Sung by Gladys George at rehearsal with piano accompaniment
Reprised at a show and sung and danced by Joan Leslie (dubbed by Sally Sweetland) and chorus
Sung on a record by Leslie
Played as background music often
See more »

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User Reviews

Geat Lupino performance.
13 August 2001 | by (Philadelphia, PA) – See all my reviews

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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