Radical Woman of the Day: Ida Lupino

On this day in 1918 was born Ida Lupino, British-American film actor and one of the earliest female directors in Hollywood. During her career she directed nearly 70 episodes of TV and eight films and shared writing credit on several films and TV episodes.

Born in England to a family of entertainers, Lupino began acting as a child and had starred in five British films by the time she was 16. After her move to Hollywood in 1933, she steadily built a career in both comedy and drama, leading to a contract with Warner Bros. in the 1940s. Although she spent much of her contract on suspension for turning down roles she thought “beneath her dignity as an actress”, this allowed her to spend time on sets observing the production process, which inspired her to begin writing and directing her own movies. After finishing another director’s film when he suffered a heart attack and could not continue working, she directed six films between 1949 and 1953. The only female director of her day, she was also the first actress to write and direct her own films, several of which focused on “women’s issues”. One of these, Outrage, was only the second film in post-Hays Code Hollywood to address the subject of rape.

After directing TV for over a decade, Lupino returned to the silver screen in 1966 to direct The Trouble With Angels, a comedy starring Rosalind Russell and Hayley Mills. During this time, and throughout the ’60s and ’70s, she also guest starred on many TV shows, including The Twilight Zone, Batman, Columbo, and Charlie’s Angels, before retiring in 1978.

Via the Radical Women’s History Project.