Dorothy Arzner

1897 – 1979

Hired as a typist at Famous Players’ Paramount Studios, Dorothy Arzner was promoted to script supervisor, writer, and “cutter” within her first six months. She worked as a film cutter from 1919-1926. From 1927-1943, as the only woman directing feature films in the Hollywood studio system, Arzner directed seventeen films, seven of which were edited by men. For the other ten, she hired Viola Lawrence for Craig’s Wife and First Comes Courage, Adrienne Fazan for The Bride Wore Red, Jane Loring for Merrily We Go To Hell, Working Girls and Anybody’s Woman, Helene Turner for Honor Among Lovers, Verna Willis for Sarah and Son, Doris Drought for Manhattan Cocktail, and Marion Morgan for Fashions for Women.

In 1938 Arzner became the first woman to join the Directors Guild of America. The DGA quotes Arzner as saying, “I was averse to having any comment made about being a woman director… because I wanted to stand up as a director and not have people make allowances that it was a woman.”
Sharing Our Story: Hollywood’s First Contract Director Dorothy Arzner’s ‘Dance, Girl, Dance’” by Samantha Shada. The full text can be found in the Appendix.



Viola Lawrence

1894 – 1973

Viola Lawrence began at age eleven holding title cards for the Brooklyn-based company Vitagraph, and edited her first film in 1912.  By 1915, she became the second female film cutter in cinema history (after Anna McKnight, who also worked at Vitagraph) and is considered the first female cutter in Hollywood. She moved there in 1917 and was signed by Carl Laemmle and worked variously for Universal, First National, Gloria Swanson Productions, and Columbia Pictures. She became Columbia’s supervising editor in 1925. She edited Samuel Goldwyn Studio’s first sound film, Bulldog Drummond, in 1929, then rejoined Columbia in 1934 and remained there until 1960. Lawrence edited two seminal films noir: The Lady from Shanghai and In a Lonely Place. She got two Oscar nominations, for Pepe and the musical Pal Joey. Lawrence also edited two of Dorothy Arzner’s films, Craig’s Wife and First Comes Courage.

“Quite naturally, I’m on the woman’s side in my profession. I don’t think there are enough woman cutters…If you ask me, women have more heart and feeling than men in this work. Now, listen to my masculine contemporaries yell when they hear this!”
— “The Eyes to Me Are Everything: Viola Lawrence’s 47 Years of Seeing into the Eyes of Actors to Convey the Essence of Characters” by David Meuel. The full text can be found in the Appendix.