Connecting to Film Director Joseph Losey

Posted by Scott on August 14, 2015

(written by David Kranz, Archives staff)

People in La Crosse recognize the name Losey – if only because it’s the name of one of our major streets. You can visit the LPL Archives to learn why there’s a street named after Joseph Walton Losey. But the original Joseph Losey, who died in 1901, was not the only Losey family member to make a mark. His grandson, also named Joseph Walton Losey, was a major film director in the mid-20th century. We can look to collections at the LPL Archives to connect with the younger Losey’s life here, too.


(1612 Ferry Street - 2015)

Joseph Losey (1909-1984) grew up at 1612 Ferry St. The Loseys did not build the house, though. It was built in 1887 for a man named Edward J. Roth, valued at $3,500. This specific information about the original construction comes from the year-end report of new buildings in town that our local newspapers once printed each December.


(1612 Ferry Street - 1965 Sanborn fire insurance map)

We can see the outline of the house at 1612 Ferry St. on Sanborn fire insurance maps. The house appears the same on Sanborn maps from 1906 to 1965. So the additions we see today to the south – nearly to the alley – and the wing to the west were added after that, and long after the Loseys had moved.


(Central High School yearbook 1925)

Young Joseph Losey graduated from Central High School in June 1925. We can look up his photo and senior quote, and if you’re diligent you can find his pet peeve, too. We can see that our film-director-to-be was on the honor roll, as was his younger sister, Mary.

Joseph’s and Mary’s father, also named Joseph Walton Losey, died in Feburary 1925. His widow, Ina Losey, had moved by 1930. She died in 1958 and is buried next to her husband in Oak Grove Cemetery.


(La Crosse Tribune June 22 1984)


Ina Losey probably didn’t see her son Joseph much in the intervening years. He attended Dartmouth, and gravitated to work in the theater, spending some time in the Soviet Union studying. In the 1950s, young Joseph was blacklisted in Hollywood as a communist, so he picked up stakes and moved to England, where he had a successful career directing films. He died in 1984, never fully repatriating to America.

Two of Joseph Losey’s most well-known films are being shown at the library in August as part of a local directors film series. See FilmFreaks: Nicholas Ray & Joseph Losey blog post from July 31 for more details.