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Mon Mar 11, 2019, 02:17 PM

Dorothy Arzner, First Female Director in Hollywood Studio System

Dorothy Arzner, First Female Director in Hollywood Studio System

Dorothy Arzner (1897-1979) was a Hollywood film director.

A woman director was a rarity in the early days of filmmaking. She directed films from 1926-1943 and amassed a considerable body of work. Arzner was also the first woman to become a member of the Directors Guild of America.

How did she get started, and how has she so quickly been forgotten?

Dorothy Arzner’s Early Years

Arzner was born in San Francisco. Her family moved to Los Angeles where her father opened a restaurant that attracted a Hollywood clientele. During high school, Dorothy sometimes waited tables for her dad, and she became accustomed to being around celebrities.

After high school, she enrolled in the pre-med program at the University of Southern California. She was a student there when the U.S. entered World War I. Like many of her generation, she wanted to help and went overseas where she was assigned to drive ambulances. This experience must have dampened her enthusiasm for medicine, as she came home wanting to work at a film studio. Through her father, she contacted William C. DeMille about a job. He placed her as a stenographer at Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, which later became Paramount Pictures.

The Studio System in Hollywood
In the 1920s, films were still a very new form of entertainment. Americans who could afford to go to the movie theaters couldn’t get enough of them. Theaters across the country would happily use up to four hours of new material every single week to keep audiences coming back. This meant that the studios had to churn out both short films and long ones as quickly as they could. Actors and craftspeople were employed by the studios, and they were all rotated around depending on what was being filmed on any given day.

While each studio sponsored a few big budget films where directors could take their time in filming, most of the focus of the studio work was on films that could be shot and gotten into the film can quickly.

Much more at the link.



Happy Women's History Month!

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