1897 - 1979

"When I went to work in a studio, I took my pride and made a nice little ball of it and threw it right out the window."

- Dorothy Arzner

After serving as an ambulance driver in World War I, Dorothy Arzner got a job at a studio and rose over three years from stenographer to script clerk to film editor.  The originality and power of her editing prompted Paramount to hire her as a director where she helmed that studio’s first “talkie”, The Wild Party in 1929.  During the filming she devised the first boom by attaching a microphone to a fishing pole and dangling it over the head of Clara Bow.  In all she directed 17 films, between 1927 and 1943, that boasted capable, self-reliant heroines played by stars like Claudette Colbert, Rosalind Russell, Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn, Maureen O’Hara and Lucille Ball.  She was by all accounts the most successful woman director in Hollywood.  Though discreet about her private life, Arzner’s tailored suits, men’s ties and unconventionally short hair showed she cared little about dispelling any rumors and it is believed her obvious lesbian identity gained her acceptance as “one of the boys.” Although she was romantically linked with Crawford, Billie Burke, Ona Munson, and Alla Nazimova; the singular object of her affection was choreographer Marion Morgan, with whom she shared a four-decade-long relationship. 


Gender Female

Sexual Orientation Lesbian

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United States

Era/Epoch Cold War (1945-1991) Great Depression (1929-1939) Progressive Era (1890-1920) Roaring Twenties (1920-1929) World War I (1914-1918) World War II (1939-1945)

Field(s) of Contribution




Commemorations & Honors

First Woman to Direct a Sound Picture Manhattan Cocktail (1928)

First Woman Member of the Directors Guild of America (1933)

First International Festival of Women's Films Honored Arzner With "The Wild Party" Screening (1972)

A Tribute to Dorothy Arzner by the Directors Guild of America (1975)

Second International Festival of Women's Films Retrospective (1976)

Posthumous Hollywood Walk of Fame Star For Motion Pictures (1986)

Paramount Dedicates Dressing Room Building to Arzner (2018)


Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell