Trailblazing Through the Decades: Ida Lupino (1950s)

In honor of Women’s History Month, NYWIFT looks back at some of the remarkable women who have shaped the film, television and digital media industries through the decades.

By Kathryn O’Kane

British-American actress and producer Ida Lupino, got her start directing when the director of the 1949 film Not Wanted suffered a heart attack during pre-production.  Lupino stepped in and shot the film guerilla style to keep the movie on budget and on schedule. Budgeted at just over $150,000, the film grossed $1 million, and Lupino’s reputation spread through Hollywood studios even though the original director retained credit.

Before she caught the directing bug, Lupino made a name for herself as an actress, starring opposite Humphrey Bogart in High Sierra in 1941. Standing at 5 feet 2 inches, Ida Lupino often helmed an all-male crew when she directed films with feminist themes about sensitive issues like rape, illegitimacy, and murder. Lupino was the first woman to direct film noir with The Hitch-Hiker in 1953.

Ida Lupino

Ida Lupino with Robert Ryan in On Dangerous Ground (1952). (Credit:Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

In the 1950s Lupino expanded into television. She directed multiple episodes of Alfred Hitchock Presents, Have Gun, Will Travel, and The Untouchables*. Lupino has the distinguished honor of being the only woman to direct episodes of the original The Twilight Zone series, as well as the only director to have starred in the show.

Lupino insisted she was not a born actress, saying “I study and work hard. I take a script and mull over it and underline the bits I want to emphasize. When I go on the set, I know exactly what I want to do and how I want to do it.”


*The Untouchables was a production of Desilu, which was run by Lucille Ball, who was featured in last year’s NYWIFT blog celebrating women in film and television history.


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