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Made possible by the John H. Mitchell Television Programming Endowment

Directed by Ida Lupino: Macabre Television

Ida Lupino
June 24, 2023 - 7:30 pm
Q&A with Ida Lupino scholar Alexandra Seros.

Image credit: Getty Images/Bettmann.

Admission is free. No advance reservations. Your seat will be assigned to you when you pick up your ticket at the box office. Seats are assigned on a first come, first served basis. The box office opens one hour before the event.

In an acclaimed, landmark career as a star, producer, writer and director of motion pictures, Ida Lupino’s groundbreaking role behind the camera in television further illuminates the magnitude of her legacy. One of the few women directors working in TV in the 1950s and 1960s, and the most prolific in primetime, Lupino defied barriers to helm over 50 network episodes in a wide variety of series. Dispatched across genres, from rugged westerns such as Have Gun, Will Travel to the fantasy-themed sitcom Bewitched, Lupino’s artistic mark on the medium is perhaps best illustrated by her directorial work in a trio of beloved horror-tinged television series: Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Thriller and Twilight Zone.

A 1963 article in Time magazine (“Television: Mother Lupino”) hailed Lupino’s reputation for having a “cool hand for terror,” which led the broadcast industry to crown her as TV's “female Hitchcock.” However, Lupino’s direction, as evidenced in the unforgettable episodes “A Crime for Mothers,” “Guillotine” and “The Masks,” points beyond such comparisons. In these grim dramas, Lupino’s deep film noir bona fides honed in esteemed features she helmed, including Outrage (1950) and The Hitch-Hiker (1953), permeate the small screen to shatter the homogeneity common to primetime television of the era. As a TV director working in the shadow of a gothic cathode ray Mount Rushmore composed of impresarios Alfred Hitchcock, Boris Karloff and Rod Serling, Lupino carved out her own stylistic space, exacting dark performances and executing horrific twists as memorable as her most influential and celebrated work on the silver screen.

Join us for a trio of unforgettably macabre television episodes directed by Ida Lupino. Post-screening Q&A with Lupino scholar Alexandra Seros and Maya Montañez Smukler, Archive Research and Study Center Officer and author of Liberating Hollywood: Women Directors and the Feminist Reform of 1970s American Cinema.

Program notes by Mark Quigley, John H. Mitchell Television Curator.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: “A Crime for Mothers”

U.S., 1/24/1961

In a mesmerizing performance with shades of her Academy Award-winning turn in Key Largo (1948), “Queen of Noir” Claire Trevor stars as a tragic alcoholic that hatches an extortion plot against the couple that adopted her child. The dark episode with a grim twist represents a reunion between director and star, as Trevor headlined Ida Lupino’s third feature film behind the camera, Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951).

DCP, b&w, 30 min. CBS. Production: An Alfred Hitchcock Production. Producer: Joan Harrison. Director: Ida Lupino. Writer: Henry Slesar With: Alfred Hitchcock, Claire Trevor, Patricia Smith, Howard McNear.

Special thanks to Zareh Arevshatian.

Thriller: “Guillotine”

U.S., 9/26/1961

Horror icon Boris Karloff introduces this sneakily morbid teleplay adaptation by frequent Twilight Zone contributor Charles Beaumont (from a story by Cornell Woolrich). The tale concerns a condemned man (Alejandro Rey) that employs his wife (Danielle De Metz) in a ruse to save his neck by disqualifying his executioner-to-be (Robert Middleton). Ida Lupino found her macabre niche on the Thriller series, directing nine episodes during the program’s two-year run.

DCP, b&w, 60 min. NBC. Production: Hubbell Robinson Productions. Producer: William Fry. Director: Ida Lupino. Writers: Charles Beaumont, Cornell Woolrich. With: Boris Karloff, Alejandro Rey, Danielle De Metz, Robert Middleton

Use of Thriller courtesy of NBCUniversal; special thanks to Jan Geris.

Twilight Zone: “The Masks”

U.S., 3/20/1964

Ida Lupino owns the distinction of being the only person to both star in and direct an episode of the beloved original Twilight Zone series. As director, Lupino delivers perhaps the most memorable shock of the entire series in a horrific tale of a dying man (Robert Keith) who demands that his greedy relatives wear grotesque masks or risk being written out of his will.

DCP, b&w, 30 min. CBS. Production: Producer: Bert Granet. Director: Ida Lupino. Writer: Rod Serling. With: Robert Keith, Milton Selzer, Virginia Gregg, Brooke Hayward, Alan Sues.

Use of Twilight Zone courtesy of CBS Studios; special thanks to Peter Murray, Patrick Scheg.