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Dorothy Arzner

Dorothy Arzner

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Also Known As: Died: October 1, 1979
Born: January 3, 1897 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: San Francisco, California, USA Profession: director, screenwriter, editor, filmmaking instructor, script clerk, waitress, ambulance driver, stenographer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

In the early days of Hollywood when women had few paths to choose from, Dorothy Arzner bucked the system and became a feature film director. Though her body of work remained uneven at best, Arzner nonetheless managed to rise from being an editor to directing her first picture, "Fashions for Women" (1927), a silent comedy that went on to box office success. After helming "Ten Modern Commandments" (1927) and "Get Your Man" (1927), she entered the talkie era with "The Wild Party" (1929) and quickly established herself as a director who made movies featuring fiercely independent women. Arzner typically cast appropriate actresses like Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford to ably play such roles, as they did in "Christopher Strong" (1933) and "The Bride Wore Red" (1937), respectively. Not shy about her sexuality, Arzner took to wearing skirt suits on set while gaining a reputation for pursuing her actresses, as she did with Crawford. Meanwhile, after directing "Dance, Girl, Dance" (1940) and "First Comes Courage" (1943), she fell ill with pneumonia and found it difficult to return to pictures. Instead, she taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Pasadena Playhouse, while Crawford...

In the early days of Hollywood when women had few paths to choose from, Dorothy Arzner bucked the system and became a feature film director. Though her body of work remained uneven at best, Arzner nonetheless managed to rise from being an editor to directing her first picture, "Fashions for Women" (1927), a silent comedy that went on to box office success. After helming "Ten Modern Commandments" (1927) and "Get Your Man" (1927), she entered the talkie era with "The Wild Party" (1929) and quickly established herself as a director who made movies featuring fiercely independent women. Arzner typically cast appropriate actresses like Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford to ably play such roles, as they did in "Christopher Strong" (1933) and "The Bride Wore Red" (1937), respectively. Not shy about her sexuality, Arzner took to wearing skirt suits on set while gaining a reputation for pursuing her actresses, as she did with Crawford. Meanwhile, after directing "Dance, Girl, Dance" (1940) and "First Comes Courage" (1943), she fell ill with pneumonia and found it difficult to return to pictures. Instead, she taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Pasadena Playhouse, while Crawford helped pave the way for her to direct over 50 commercials for Pepsi. Though she slipped into obscurity before her death in 1979, Arzner re-emerged as a pioneering woman who managed to compile a body of work at a time most other women were given opportunities to do so.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  First Comes Courage (1943) Director
2.
  Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) Director
3.
  The Bride Wore Red (1937) Director
4.
  The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1937) Fill-In Director
5.
  Craig's Wife (1936) Director
6.
  Nana (1934) Director
7.
  Christopher Strong (1933) Director
8.
  Merrily We Go to Hell (1932) Director
9.
  Working Girls (1931) Director
10.
  Honor Among Lovers (1931) Director

CAST: (feature film)

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Milestones close milestones

:
During WWI, worked as an ambulance driver
1919:
Began career as a stenographer at Famous Players-Lasky Corporation (later Paramount)
:
Trained as an assistant film cutter
1921:
Appointed as chief editor at Realart Studios; cut and edited at least one film per week
1922:
Attracted attention at Paramount for her editing of the Rudolph Valentino vehicle, "Blood and Sand", particularly the bullfight sequence that used stock footage as well as reels of Valentino
1924:
Early screenplay credits included "The Breed of the Border" and "The No-Gun Man"
:
When Harry Cohn offered a contract as director at Columbia, B P Schulberg agreed to let her helm a film for Paramount
1927:
Film directorial debut at Paramount with "Fashions for Women"
1928:
Used music and sound effects but no dialogue in "Manhattan Cocktail"
1929:
First talking picture, "The Wild Party", starring Clara Bow
1930:
First collaborations with screenwriter Zoe Akins, "Sarah and Son" and "Anybody's Woman", both starring Ruth Chatterton
1930:
Reportedly offered uncredited directorial assistance to Robert Milton on "Behind the Makeup" and "Charming Sinners"
1932:
Ended full-time affiliation with Paramount Studios; freelanced for the rest of her career
1933:
Helmed "Christopher Strong", starring Katharine Hepburn; also written by Akins
1934:
Hired by Samuel Goldwyn to direct "Nana"
1936:
Directed remake of "Craig's Wife", starring Rosalind Russell
1937:
Was director of "The Bride Wore Red", starring Joan Crawford
1940:
Steered Maureen O'Hara and Lucille Ball in "Dance, Girl, Dance"; film received belated attention in the 1980s and 1990s for its feminist overtones
:
Directed instructional films during WWII
1943:
Made last feature, "First Comes Courage"
1943:
Contracted pneumonia and was an invalid for more than a year
:
Initiated first film classes at the Pasadena Playhouse
:
Hired at the suggestion of Joan Crawford (then married to the company's president) to direct more than 50 television commericals for Pepsi Cola in the 1950s
:
Taught at UCLA for four years in the 1960s; among students was Francis Ford Coppola
1975:
Feted in a tribute given by the Directors Guild of America
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Education

University of Southern California: Los Angeles , California -
Westlake School for Girls: Beverly Hills , California - 1915

Notes

Sources are divided over the year of Arzner's birth. While most claim that she was born in 1900, her death certificate lists 1897.

"My philosophy is that to be a director you cannot be subject to anyone, even the head of the studio. I threatened to quit each time I didn't get my way, but no one ever let me walk out." --Dorothy Arzner

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Alla Nazimova. Actor. Had brief affair.
companion:
Billie Burke. Actor. Had brief relationship c. 1932.
companion:
Marion Morgan. Dancer, choreographer.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Louis Arzner. Restaurateur.

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Work of Dorothy Arzner: Towards a Feminist Cinema"
"Directed By Dorothy Arzner"

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