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Ida Lupino's Directing Career

Actress Ida Lupino is remembered most for her on screen performances as “Lana Carlsen” in “They Drive By Night” (1940) and “Marie” in “High Sierra” (1941). However, it is a little-known fact to some people that Lupino exhibited talents outside of acting that she was able to use behind-the-scenes as well. Lupino was in fact an actress, writer, and director in her forty-seven year career span.

Lupino’s directorial debut came during the filming of her first film “Not Wanted” (1949). It was in the event of director Elmer Clifton’s sudden illness that Lupino, co-writer of the screenplay, stepped in and finished directing the film. Lupino found a passion for directing and her films were not what would be expected of a female director.

Her films exposed a deep underground of issues and subjects such as rape and murder, which had been skirted over by Hollywood for a number of years. For example, “Not Wanted” (1949), co-written by Lupino herself, was about an unwed mother who gives up her baby for adoption, regrets her decision and decides to kidnap her child. “The Hitch-Hiker” (1953) is about one man’s killing spree through America and Mexico. Co-written by Lupino and her husband Collier Young, the script makes an otherwise predictable plot interesting to watch. With Lupino in the director’s chair, her vision is gritty and dark.

Although Lupino had some reservations about directing television, she agreed to direct an episode of “Screen Director’s Playhouse” titled “Number 5 Checks Out”, of which the plot was Lupino’s. The episode starred actor Peter Lorre and actress Teresa Wright. Lupino made use of the new medium. Her television career varied through different shows but always with a large emphasis on directing episodes for action/suspense shows such as “The Twilight Zone," “The Virginian," “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”, and “Have Gun - Will Travel."

Lupino squeezed in a final feature film titled “The Trouble With Angels” (1966). She directed an ensemble cast of Rosalind Russell, Mary Wickes and Hayley Mills in a film about two female students who comically challenge the authority figures of St. Francis Academy For Girls. Lupino continued to direct television until her last episode, which was an episode of “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” (1968). Lupino directed nearly eighty-two episodes throughout the spectrum of television.

When Lupino reflected on her career and how it was viewed as an ultra-feminist move, Lupino was quoted saying, “I had no desire to crash a man’s world” and at another time said, “I didn’t see myself as any advance guard or feminist.” However, Lupino always wanted to see more female directors, “I'd love to see more women working as directors and producers. Today it's almost impossible to do it unless you are an actress or writer with power.” After director Dorothy Lazner, Lupino is the second woman ever to be accepted into the Director’s Guild for her work in film.

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