Above is the only time I know that Carole Lombard ever directed -- when she helmed Alfred Hitchcock's customary cameo for "Mr. & Mrs. Smith." And in case you don't believe that's her, here she is guiding Hitch through his paces:
To be fair, had Lombard lived past 1942, she probably wouldn't have pursued a career as a director (producing movies was her apparent goal; she was de facto producer of "Smith," and helped put up money for both that and her final film, "To Be Or Not To Be"), but what's interesting is that none of Carole's several dozen movies -- from "A Perfect Crime" in 1921 until the end -- was directed by a woman. I'm certain that also could be said for many other notable actors of either gender.
But women have a significant, albeit overlooked, history behind the camera, and Turner Classic Movies will examine their contributions in October through the series "Traiblazing Women." On Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout October (beginning tomorrow), 54 films from 47 female directors will be shown. The event's partner is Women in Film/Los Angeles (http://www.wif.org/), a group pursuing greater opportunities for women as directors, cinematographers and other fields in movies, television and other media.
Illeana Douglas, who frequently appears on TCM, will host the event, while author and film historian Cari Beauchamp will be among the guests and will co-host the first two nights:
Each night has a theme:
* Thursday, Oct. 1 -- The work of the pioneering women of the silent era, such as Alice Guy-Blache, Lois Weber and Frances Marion, will be examined.
* Tuesday, Oct. 6 -- Women somewhat diminished as directors during the sound era, but several managed to make some gems, including Dorothy Arzner ("Dance, Girl, Dance"), Ida Lupino ("Outrage") and Elaine May (the original 1972 "The Heartbreak Kid").
* Thursday, Oct. 8 -- "Independent Classics" looks at films made outside the studio system in the 1970s and '80s, among them Claudia Weill's "Girlfriends" (1978) and Martha Coolidge's "Valley Girl" (1983). Allison Anders is co-host, and her 1987 film "Border Radio" will be shown.
* Tuesday, Oct. 13 -- Amy Heckerling, whose 1982 comedy "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (with Facebook friend Kelli Maroney in the cast) I saw and enjoyed last Friday at a WIF-sponsored event, is co-host, and her 1989 "Look Who's Talking" will be featured. So will another '80s gem, "Crossing Delancey," directed by Joan Micklin Silver.
* Thursday, Oct. 15 -- Notable documentaries directed by women will air, including Barbara Kopple's "Harlan County U.S.A." (1976) and Connie Field's "The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter" (1980). Field also will co-host.
* Tuesday, Oct. 20 -- Women enjoyed box-office directorial success in the 1990s, with hits such as "A League of Their Own" (Penny Marshall), "Sleepless in Seattle" (Nora Ephron) and "The Prince of Tides" (Barbra Streisand). Heckerling returns to co-host.
* Thursday, Oct. 22 -- Black women were among notable independent directors of the past few decades, including Julie Dash's "Daughters of the Dust" (1991), Leslie Harris' "Just Another Girl on the I.R.T." (1992) and Ava Duvernay's "Middle of Nowhere" (2012). Duvernay, as many of you know, directed "Selma" in 2014.
* Tuesday, Oct. 27 -- Beauchamp is back to co-host "International Breakthroughs," which features Agnes Varda's "Cleo From 5 to 7" (1962), Mira Nair's "Salaam Bombay!" (1988) and Lina Wertmuller's "Love and Anarchy" (1973).
* Thursday, Oct. 29 -- Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" (2008), which made her the first woman to win an Academy Award as best director, is the highlight of this final evening, but there's also Sarah Polley's 2006 examination of Alzheimer's, "Away From Her" and Sofia Coppola's directorial debut, "The Virgin Suicides" (1999). Dash co-hosts.
This promises to be a fascinating month celebrating women's work behind the camera, a tradition that continues with the likes of Duvernay and Elizabeth Banks ("Pitch Perfect 2" and the recently-announced "Pitch Perfect 3"). For the complete schedule, visit http://trailblazingwomen.tcm.com/schedule/.