The Woman from The Twilight Zone

It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge

Marathoning episodes of the CBS classic The Twilight Zone is a popular way to celebrate Halloween. The fantasy-horror anthology series from the 1950s and 60s still entertains, and scares, viewers to this day. Did you know that for its five season and 156 episode run The Twilight Zone only had one female director?

479px-ida_lupino_stillIda Lupino, an actress who later became the only actress to transition to director and producer in the 1950s, was the only woman director of the original Twilight Zone series.

Lupino was born in London, England in 1918 during a  World War I Zeppelin bombing. She made her acting debut at the age of 14 in the movie The Love Race. While she had steady work as an actress throughout the 1930s and 40s , Lupino desired to do less “sitting around” and  do more of the interesting work she saw on set. In the 1940s she started her own production company and was even asked by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt  to discuss film on a national radio program. Many of the films she produced centered on women’s issues such as out of wedlock pregnancy and rape. Lupino wanted to tell stories that were true, that were both socially significant and entertaining.

In 1953, Lupino became the first woman to direct a Film Noir, about two friends fishing in Mexico called The Hitch-Hiker. Directing became her true passion, directing a total of 8 films in her lifetime. She moved from film into television, where she made acting appearances and directed episodes from such popular TV shows like Bewitched, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Gilligan’s Island. As for The Twilight Zone, Lupino is the only woman to direct an episode (The Masks) and the only person to have both directed and acted in an episode (The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine).

While Ida never became a huge Hollywood superstar she defiantly left her mark. She paved a path for other women to tell their stories and not sit around while the more interesting stuff was happening around them. This Halloween, why not pick one of the suspenseful thrillers or murder mysteries produced by Ida Lupino to watch?

Melissa Jones
Want to learn about more women who were first in their field? Check out the Women’s Museum of California’s digital timeline

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