Dorothy Arzner

1897 – 1979
Airing Merrily We Go To Hell (1932) on Tuesday, Sep. 1 at 9:15 PM on TCM

In the early days of Hollywood when women had few paths to choose from, Dorothy Arzner bucked the system and became a feature film director. Arzner managed to rise from being an editor to directing her first picture, Fashions for Women (1927), a silent comedy that went on to box-office success. After helming Ten Modern Commandments (1927) and Get Your Man (1927), she entered the talkie era with The Wild Party (1929) and quickly established herself as a director who made movies featuring fiercely independent women. Arzner typically cast appropriate actresses like Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford to ably play such roles, as they did in Christopher Strong (1933) and The Bride Wore Red (1937), respectively. 

After directing Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) and First Comes Courage (1943), Arzner fell ill with pneumonia and found it difficult to return to pictures. Instead, she taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Pasadena Playhouse, while Joan Crawford helped pave the way for her to direct over 50 commercials for Pepsi. Though she slipped into obscurity before her death in 1979, Arzner re-emerged as a pioneering woman who managed to compile a body of work at a time most other women were given opportunities to do so.

Select Filmography

Get Your Man (1927)
The Wild Party (1929)
Christopher Strong (1933)
The Bride Wore Red (1937)
Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)