Pioneering Director of the Original Dark Shadows, Lela Swift, Passed Away at Age 96
We often talk about the fact that women are grossly underrepresented both in front of, and behind the camera in Hollywood. But that doesn’t mean that women haven’t been there all along, being trailblazers and bringing their brilliance to every part of the entertainment industry. One such pioneer is television director, Lela Swift, who passed away earlier this week at the age of 96.
Genre fans know her best as the director of the original Dark Shadows TV show on ABC (on which the Johnny Depp movie of the same name was based). What’s amazing about that show is that it lasted 1,225 episodes…and Swift directed 580 of those episodes.
She had a 30-year career that saw her directing hundreds of episodes of soaps like Ryan’s Hope, and a two-part television adaptation of Little Women. She also advocated for a young, then-unknown actor named James Dean, who was a bit tempermental and was at risk of being fired by the producers on a show called The Web. However, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Swift said, “The minute he started reading, I knew that boy had something special.” Someone clearly had an eye for talent.
Her prolific career is something to admire. It’s also a reminder that women working as directors in Hollywood isn’t new, and we shouldn’t treat it as a “trend.” It’s something that’s always been, and should always continue to be. Thank you for being an inspiration, Ms. Swift. Rest in peace.
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