Lee Philips studied playwriting at Adelphi College, and later with Harold Clurman. Originally a stage actor, Phillips made his stage debut in the early '50s and appeared on Broadway in dramas such as Paddy Chayefsky's Middle of the Night, with Edward G. Robinson, Gena Rowlands, Anne Jackson, and Martin Balsam, and The Mandragola, directed by Sanford Meisner and starring Albert Paulsen, John Fiedler, and Mark Rydell. He followed this with television work on Armstrong Circle Theatre, and other dramatic anthology shows, and feature film appearances in movies such as Peyton Place (1958), in which he distinguished himself with an impassioned performance as the earnest school principal. Additionally, he appeared in the television productions of Marty and 12 Angry Men. Phillips turned to directing in the early '60s on sitcoms such as The Dick Van Dyke Show, and followed this with numerous TV movies and occasional feature films, most notably The Girl Most Likely To (1973), a black comedy about a formerly homely girl (Stockard Channing), transformed by plastic surgery, who decides to revenge herself on the high school classmates who tormented her.