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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

THE REEL REALS: Dorothy Arzner

Dorothy Arzner

Dorothy Arzner holds the prestigious position of being not only the first but the only female director during the early sound era. While there were several ladies that got the ball (or camera) rolling for women by making silent features during the initial appearance of cinema as it began to take shape as a narrative artistic movement, once filmmaking became a legitimate "business," the ladies found themselves almost completely ostracized from the creative process-- aside from acting of course. As such, Dorothy's rise from the bottom to the top of the profession incredibly impressive, though her name is less celebrated than the typical director giants of the era. Ironically, it was the brother of one of these giants, William DeMille, who gave her her first gig... as a stenographer. She worked her way up to scenario writer, to editor, to finally director.

Working for Paramount, Dorothy became the first filmmaker at the studio to direct a sound picture, Manhattan Cocktail and incidentally the first woman period to direct a sound picture. Her career gained increasing recognition as she worked with
Clara Bow on her first talklie The Wild Party, Katharine Hepburn in Christopher Strong, and Joan Crawford in The Bride Wore Red. A strong force for women and homosexuals (she was a lesbian), Dorothy presented interesting, female driven stories with style (Craig's Wife) and substance (Sarah and Son). After her efforts during WWII, Dorothy retired from film, particularly due to health reasons. Gone, but not forgotten.

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