BURBANK, Calif., Aug. 4 -- Ida Lupino, the actress born into one of England's oldest theatrical families who went on to a ground-breaking career as a Hollywood director, has died of a stroke at her home in Burbank, Calif., broadcast reports said Friday. She was 77. During a career that spanned six decades, Lupino directed eight feature films and 56 different TV series, starting in the late 1940s, a time when women rarely stepped behind the camera in Hollywood. She was an active producer and screenwriter, but managed to maintain her acting career at the same time. Lupino, a tiny 5-foot-6 and 100 pounds, began fighting the Hollywood studio system almost from the time she was signed as an ingenue to Paramount Pictures in 1933. The studio cast her in screwball comedies and other light-hearted fare, but Lupino walked away from a lucrative contract to prove her worth as a dramatic actress in 1939's 'A Light That Failed.' She succeeded, and the acclaim won her roles in a series of Warner Bros. melodramas, notably 1941's 'High Sierra' and 1951's 'On Dangerous Ground.' Lupino's big break as a director came in 1949 with the drama 'Not Wanted,' when the original director fell ill. From then on, there was no stopping her. 'I'd rather direct than act,' Lupino told United Press International in 1958. 'There's a special thrill in seeing the credit 'Directed by Ida Lupino,' that I never knew as an actress.' Lupino was born in London Feb. 4, 1918, the daughter of Stanley Lupino, a playwright and comedian, and actress Connie Emerald.
Schooled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Lupino made her film debut at age 14 in the British film 'First Affair.' She made nine more movies in England before moving with her mother to Hollywood, where she miraculously survived a bout with polio. After directing the well-received 1953 suspense thriller 'The Hitch- Hiker,' most of Lupino's subsequent work as a director was done for television. She worked extensively on such shows as 'Have Gun, Will Travel,' and 'The Untouchables' and 'The Fugitive.' Lupino and her third husband, actor Howard Duff, also co-starred on the short-lived CBS series, 'Mrs. Adams & Eve.' Lupino and Duff, who died in 1990, were married for 21 years before divorcing in 1983. The union produced a daughter, Bridget, in 1952.