Dorothy Arzner, 1897-1979
Dorothy Arzner broke Hollywood’s glass ceiling. Born in San Francisco, the Arzners moved to Los Angeles where her father opened a restaurant frequented by actors, including Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Max Sennett. Later, she answered a call for film studio workers, met Cecil B. DeMille of the Players-Lasky Corporation (later Paramount Pictures), and was hired to type scripts. She quickly advanced to film editor; her first “big” picture starred Rudolph Valentino. Arzner also began filming, with her silent films focusing on relationships between women. In 1929, DeMille selected Arzner to direct his first talking picture, The Wild Party, with Clara Bowe. She would direct 11 more films for Paramount. Afterwards, as the only female director in Hollywood, she began freelancing, working with Katherine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, and Joan Crawford. After a conflict with Louis B. Mayer in 1943, she left Hollywood to make training films for the Women’s Army Corps. Afterwards, Arzner worked in theater production and taught filmmaking while maintaining a 40-year relationship with dancer and choreographer Marion Morgan. Considered by many, particularly feminist and queer film critics, to be the most prolific female film director in cinematic history, Arzner’s films continue to reflect a strong feminist sentiment.