Dorothy Arzner (Who’s Who at MGM, 1937) 🇺🇸

Dorothy Arzner |

January 07, 2022

The only woman director in motion pictures, Dorothy Arzner, under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, first aspired to a medical career.

A San Francisco girl, attending university in Los Angeles, she met William DeMille, film director, socially, and later, while visiting a film studio in 1920, she first became interested in motion pictures.

DeMille was impressed by her interest in the industry and employed her as a stenographer in the scenario department. From stenography she climbed step by step to directorship as a script clerk, then as a film cutter and as a scenario writer.

Her first effort, after a few months of concentration in the studios, was “Fashions for Women,” with Esther Ralston, an immediate success. That demonstrated the fallacy of the belief that only men could direct, although, strangely enough, Dorothy Arzner continues to be the one woman who represents her sex in that profession.

Directs Rainer Film

Among her pictures were “Ten Modern Commandments,” again with Esther Ralston; “Get Your Man,” starring Clara Bow; “Manhattan Cocktail,” with Richard Arlen and Nancy Carroll; Wild Party, “Anybody’s Woman,” “Sarah and Son,” “Honor Among Lovers,” Merrily We Go to HellChristopher Strong, and Nana.

Her first picture under the M-G-M banner was The Bride Wore Red starring Joan Crawford.

Miss Arzner was born in Oakland, Calif., on January 3, the daughter of Louis Arzner. After grammar school days, she entered the Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles, followed by two years at the University of Southern California.

When the World War broke out, she enlisted in the Los Angeles Emergency Ambulance Corps. Her unit was transferred to New York where it trained for several months, but the Armistice was signed just as she prepared to sail for France.

Meets Celebrities

Discharged, she returned to Los Angeles, where as a child she often visited her father’s cafe frequented by James Cruze, veteran motion picture director, Charles Chaplin, D. W. Griffith, and other famous personages.

It was James Cruze, Miss Arzner recalls, who instilled in her a childhood dream of a motion picture career and, strangely enough, it was Cruze who later fulfilled that ambition by engaging her as film editor.

Rated “Good Fellow”

She believes implicitly that women are temperamentally equipped to direct as well as men, although she admits that the craft demands tact which some members of her sex may lack, but still can acquire by study.

Miss Arzner is calm, undemonstrative and matter-of-fact in her relations with stars. She has faith in them which she insists inspires a certain faith in her, despite the fact that she is a woman. In Hollywood, where she is an outstanding figure, it is significant that Dorothy Arzner is rated not only as a good director, but as a “good fellow.”

Her method of direction is distinctly different from that of the average director. Always wearing neatly tailored suits with hats to match, she walks quietly around the stage, hands in her jacket pockets, while the scene is being prepared.

Always before a scene she confers with the stars, seeking their suggestions to improve the scene. Always speaking in a soft, low voice, she has never been known to display the least semblance of temperament.

Dorothy Arzner (Who’s Who at MGM, 1937) |

Collection: Who’s Who at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1937)

Collection: Photoplay Magazine, October 1931