‘The Twilight Zone’: This Legendary Filmmaker Was the Only Person to Star in and Direct Separate Episodes

by Craig Garrett

Ida Lupino was the only person to both star in and direct separate episodes of the classic tv show The Twilight Zone. Not only that, she was the only woman to direct an original episode of the series. Interestingly, Lupino bookends the series, starring early in its run and directing towards the end.

However, Lupino’s career started long before The Twilight Zone began airing in 1959. She signed a contract with Paramount Studios when she was only a teenager. One of her most well-known early film roles was opposite Humphry Bogart in 1940’s They Drive by Night. She was also the first woman to direct a film noir. Lupino helmed and wrote the script for the tight nit The Hitch-Hiker in 1953.

In an early episode of The Twilight Zone, “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine,” she appeared as an aging film star caught reliving old movies. The episode co-starred Martin Balsam as Lupino’s concerned agent. It was first broadcast on CBS on October 23, 1959. Not only is the plot of this episode similar to 1950s Noir classic Sunset Boulevard, but it also shares the same music composer, Franz Waxman.

Lupino returns to The Twilight Zone as a director

Ida Lupino was behind the camera for the season 5 episode, “The Masks”. A dying wealthy man tempts his relatives to don repulsive masks that reveal their true personalities in this Mardi Gras-set episode. The relatives eventually relent, but they plead for their masks to be removed as the hours pass, complaining that they are suffocating. However, Foster goes on a final rant until the clock strikes midnight, labeling them all caricatures before he dies. The greedy relatives rejoice, believing his death means a fat inheritance. Of course, being The Twilight Zone, things don’t go so smoothly for them.

This episode was penned by The Twilight Zone mastermind, Rod Serling. It’s considered a hallmark of the series, and a considerable directing effort from Lupino. The masks used in the episode are so iconic, that Halloween costume company Trick or Treat Studios recently issued replicas of them.

Lupino’s directing efforts did not end with The Twilight Zone. She went on to direct many beloved classic tv shows. During the 1960s, she was behind the camera for numerous programs, including Gilligan’s Island and The Virginian. She also helmed the fan-favorite episode Bewitched, “A is for Aardvark”. In the episode, Samantha casts a spell to get the house to follow Darrin’s commands after he sprains his ankle. She was the second woman to be admitted into the Directors Guild of America, following filmmaker Dorothy Arzner. In the 1970s, she also guest-starred on such shows as Charlie’s Angels and Barnaby Jones. Lupino passed away in 1996.

The Twilight Zone is currently streaming on Paramount+.