Ida Lupino: Trailblazing Actor, Director, Producer, and Screenwriter

One of Hollywood's First Female Directors

Ida Lupino
Hollywood, CA: Ida Lupino directs one of the scenes from her latest picture, "Mother of a Champion." She is shown peering through the movie camera. Undated photograph.

Bettmann / Getty Images


Actor, director, screenwriter, and producer Ida Lupino (February 4, 1918 - August 3, 1995) was a pioneering creative force in Hollywood from the 1930s through the 1970s. Lupino was one of the first actresses to make a transition to behind-camera roles, becoming one of the only prominent female directors during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

  • Occupation: Actor, director, producer, and screenwriter
  • Born: February 4, 1918 in London, England, UK
  • Died: August 3, 1995 in Los Angeles, California, United States
  • Education: Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, UK
  • Key Roles: They Drive by Night (1940), High Sierra (1941), The Sea Wolf (1941), The Hard Way (1943), Road House (1948), On Dangerous Ground (1951), The Hitch-Hiker (1953) [director], The Trouble with Angels (1966) [director]
  • Key Accomplishments: In addition to her acting roles, Lupino was one of the first prominent female directors
  • Spouse(s): Louis Hayward (m. 1938-1945), Collier Young (m. 1948-1951), Howard Duff (m. 1951-1984)
  • Fun Fact: Lupina was the second woman to be accepted in the Directors Guild of America.

Ida Lupino's Early Life and Roles

As the daughter of English stage comedian Stanley Lupino and English actress Connie O'Shea, Ida Lupino was born into a performing family whose legacy stretched back to a historical Italian family of performers. In fact, the teenage Lupino made her first film appearance as a teenager in a production made by her family, 1931's The Love Race, directed by her cousin Lupino Lane and starring her father.

After several roles that Lupino filmed at the British Warner Bros. studio, Teddington Studios, in the early 1930s, Lupino was signed by Paramount Pictures and moved to Hollywood. In the late 1930s, Lupino appeared in a variety of Paramount movies, though few of them featured Lupino in substantial roles. It was not until the 1939 film The Light That Failed (which Lupino made at Columbia after her initial five-year contract with Paramount ended) that Lupino began a successful streak of major roles. These included a number of films at Warner Bros., such as They Drive by Night (1940), High Sierra (1941), The Sea Wolf (1941), and The Hard Way (1943), the first two of which she co-starred with Humphrey Bogart and were directed by acclaimed filmmaker Raoul Walsh. Although Lupino received acclaim for her performances (particularly in They Drive by Night), she felt that Warner Bros. treated her as a second-class star, which resulted in Lupino refusing to perform in various roles that the studio cast her in.

Not seeing a bright future for their partnership, Lupino and Warner Bros. parted ways in 1947 at the conclusion of her contract. She made one of her most acclaimed performances in the 1948 film Road House, released by 20th Century Fox.

English-American actress and director Ida Lupino (1918 - 1995) with a film crew on a set, circa 1945. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Directing Films

In 1948, Lupino and her then-husband Collier Young formed Emerald Productions, an independent studio that focused on creating films about social issues that mainstream Hollywood studio films would not address. This venture gave Lupino the opportunity to work in creative roles behind the camera. One of the impetuses for Lupino to explore new creative opportunities off-camera was that she contracted polio in 1934, which affected her ability to perform.

The first film Lupino directed was the Emerald Productions 1949 pregnancy drama Not Wanted, which Lupino took over when the original director, Elmer Clifton, had a heart attack and was unable to continue working on the film (only Clifton was credited as director). Lupino was also credited as screenwriter and co-producer of the film. Following that, Lupino then co-wrote, produced, and directed Never Fear (1950), a drama about a dancer who contracts polio (made shortly after a significant outbreak of the disease in Los Angeles), for Emerald Productions.

She also co-wrote and directed Outrage (1950), a drama about rape that was released as a co-production by The Filmakers (the new name for Emerald Productions) and RKO Studios. Lupino directed another dramatic film for The Filmakers/RKO Studios partnership, Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951), followed by a film noir movie for RKO, The Hitch-Hiker (1952), a highly-regarded, low-budget movie about a murderous hitchhiker. Lupino then directed her final film for The Filmakers, 1953's The Bigamist. Years later, Lupino directed one more feature film, the 1966 comedy The Trouble with Angels, for Columbia Pictures.

Directing Television

In the mid-1950s, Lupino began directing for television. During this period, Lupino directed episodes of programs such as Climax!, The Donna Reed Show, 77 Sunset Strip, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Have GunWill Travel, The Rifleman, General Electric Theater, The Untouchables, The Fugitive, Bewitched, Gilligan's Island, Daniel Boone, and, most famously, The Twilight Zone episode "The Masks." Lupino was the only woman to direct an episode of The Twilight Zone during its original run. At the same time, Lupino also continued to act in film and television, including another episode of The Twilight Zone ("The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine"), as well as Bonanza, Batman, and Mod Squad.

Lupino's involvement with television went beyond directing and acting. In 1952, she joined Four Star Television as a producing partner. The company produced several popular television shows including Mr. Adams and Eve (1957-1958), a sitcom that starred Lupino and her third husband, Howard Duff. The program aired 66 episodes over two seasons.

Lupino directed her final television episode, for The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, in 1968, and made her final acting appearance in 1978's My Boys Are Good Boys

After a lengthy retirement, Lupino died in Los Angeles on August 3, 1995 after having a stroke while suffering from colon cancer.

Ida Lupino's Legacy

For acting, Lupino was nominated for three Emmy Awards, and for directing she was the second woman to be accepted as a member of the Directors Guild of America. She also was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (one for film, one for television). She remains an inspirational example of a female creative force at a time when she was one of the few females working behind the camera on film and television.


  • Donati, William. "Ida Lupino: A Biography." Paperback, 1st Edition, University Press of Kentucky, 1996.
  • Lupino, Ida with Mary Ann Anderson. "Ida Lupino: Beyond the Camera." Paperback, 1st Edition, BearManor Media, December 2011.