A Woman to Know: Dorothy Arzner
|Julia Carpenter||Jun 4, 2019|
She wore pants. So did I. We had a great time working together. — Katharine Hepburn
(image via Wikimedia)
Before she broke into directing, Dorothy worked at Paramount as a typist, a secretary and a studio hand for silent films. Her first directing credit, "Fashions for Women," was an instant hit with theater-goers, so Paramount put her on "The Wild Party," the studio's first-ever "talkie." On set, Dorothy worked with stars like Lucille Ball, Clara Bow, Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford. She invented the boom mic to solve the problem of amplifying actors' voices in talking films.
As a well-known lesbian working in 1930s Hollywood, she struggled with commanding power on set. She lived her life in suits and men's dress, but Los Angeles rivals spread nefarious stories of her sexual escapades. Dorothy never confirmed (nor denied!) the rumors about her orientation and identity.
Following strict regulation of film content in the 1940s, Dorothy retired early from film directing. She moved into television and radio, even directing some training videos for the Women's Army Corps.
In just two decades of work, she racked up 15+ directing credits — making her the (still!) most prolific female film director of all time.
Add to your library list:
The Hidden Star Maker of Hollywood's Golden Age (Atlas Obscura)
Dorothy Arzner is Dead at 82 (The New York Times)
Why Was One of Hollywood's First Female Film Directors, Dorothy Arzner, Forgotten? (Smithsonian Magazine)
Dorothy Arzner (Brooklyn Museum)
The Wild Party (directed by Dorothy Arzner)
** Send your own recommendations for women to know! Reply to this newsletter with your lady and she could be featured in an upcoming edition. You can browse the archive here. **