Dorothy Arzner Biography

Director(1897–1979)
Dorothy Arzner was a pioneer in the film industry, becoming one of the first women directors of feature films and the first woman to join the Directors Guild of America.

Synopsis

During the 1930s, Dorothy Arzner was the only female director working. Despite the difficulties and resistance she encountered as a woman in a male-dominated field, she went to make more several films with the likes of Katharine Hepburn in Christopher Strong (1933) and Joan Crawford in The Bride Wore Red (1937). She also rigged up the first boom microphone and is credited with its invention.

Profile

Born on January 3, 1897, in San Francisco, California, Dorothy Arzner was a pioneer in the film industry. Growing up, Arzner dreamed of becoming a doctor. She even went as far as spending two years as a pre-med student at the University of South California. But Arzner's dream changed later to filmmaking. Arzner worked her way up to director through a variety of positions, including script typist, film editor, and screenwriter. She would go on to become one of the early female directors.

Dorothy Arzner made her directorial debut with 1927's Fashions for Women. During the making of one of her next pictures, The Wild Party (1929), Arzner came up with a clever invention. This film starred famed silent picture star Clara Bow and Fredric March. To help Bow with her first speaking part, Arzner had the microphone attached to a rod and had it hung above the actress, granting her to freedom to move about at will. This invention is still used today and is now known as the boom microphone.

During the 1930s, Dorothy Arzner stood alone as the only female director working at that time. Despite the difficulties and resistance she encountered as a woman in a male-dominated field, she went to make more several films with the likes of Katharine Hepburn in Christopher Strong (1933) and Joan Crawford in The Bride Wore Red (1937).

After her last film, First Comes Courage (1943), Dorothy Arzner supported the war effort during World War II by making training films for the Women's Army Corps. She later became a teacher at the University of California, Los Angeles, influencing the likes of Francis Ford Coppola who was one of her students.

Dorothy Arzner died on October 1, 1979, in La Quinta, California. Among many notable accomplishments, Arzner became the first woman to join the Directors Guild of America and is also believed to be the first woman to direct a talkie, or a film with sound.

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