Dorothy Arzner

Active - 1922 - 1943  |   Born - Jan 3, 1900   |   Died - Oct 1, 1979   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Romance

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Biography by AllMovie

Though not the first woman director, California-born Dorothy Arzner was for many years the best known, as well as the only female member of the Director's Guild of America. Publicity releases of the 1930s and 1940s tended to emphasize the so-called "masculine" traits in Arzner's background--she was a pre-med student at the University of Southern California and an ambulance driver during World War I. Her film career began with a clerical job for director William C. DeMille. Arzner then became a film editor for Paramount Pictures' subsidiary Realart Films, working on many of the Bebe Daniels comedies. Director James Cruze was so impressed by Arzner's editing of the Rudolph Valentino picture Blood and Sand (1922) that he immediately engaged her to work on his The Covered Wagon (1923); one of Arzner's first screenplay credits was for Cruze's Old Ironsides (1926). In 1927, Arzner directed her first film, Fashions for Women. Two years later, she helmed her first talkie, the Clara Bow vehicle The Wild Party (1929). At the height of her fame in the 1930s, Arzner adopted "mannish" clothing and kept her hair cut short possibly as a defense mechanism against chauvinism. Despite her efforts to fit in with Hollywood's all-male hierarchy, latter-day historians insist upon imposing all sorts of feminist elements and subthemes upon Arzner's work. Certainly Christopher Strong (1933) and Dance Girl Dance (1940) contain a great deal of pro-female proselytizing. On the other hand, the leading character in Arzner's Craig's Wife is hardly a shining example of womanhood (or humanity, for that matter). Arzner left Hollywood in 1943 to direct training films for the Womens Army Corps. She retired from active filmmaking after the war due to ill health. During the 1950s and 1960s, she taught filmmaking at the Pasadena Playhouse. Among the festivals and organizations to bestow awards upon Dorothy Arzner were the First International Festival of Women's Films in 1972 and the Directors Guild of America in 1975.

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