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.