Very few women directed Hollywood features in the 1970s. Some of the consistent female directors were Elaine May, Joan Micklin Silver and Joan Darling. Like May, Darling had started out in improvisational comedy. She worked with the Premise Players in New York before breaking into television and film acting, most notably with a regular role as the legal secretary on Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law. She moved into directing in 1975, becoming the first woman nominated for a directing Emmy for her work on the classic “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Success in television led to a contract with Paramount, where she made her feature directing debut with First Love (1977). Darling made her film about young love from the male point of view, which generated some complaints from critics who felt the film privileged William Katt’s leading male character at the expense of the women with whom he gets involved. Darling would only make one more feature, The Check Is in the Mail… (1986) but would continue directing for television. She won a Daytime Emmy and the Director’s Guild Award for the ABC Afterschool Special Mom’s on Strike.