Born in San Francisco, California, Arzner grew up in Los Angeles, where her father owned a restaurant frequented by many Hollywood celebrities. After finishing high school, she enrolled at the University of Southern California with hopes of becoming a doctor. During World War I, she left school to work overseas in the ambulance corps. By the time the war ended, she decided against returning to her medical studies and, after a visit to a movie studio, decided to pursue a career as a film director.
Through connections with director William C. DeMille, Dorothy got a job at Paramount Pictures. She started out as a stenographer. She moved on to be a script writer, was promoted to film editor within six months and quickly mastered the job. Her first assignment as an editor was in 1922 for the renowned classic Blood and Sand, starring Rudolph Valentino. She was soon receiving accolades for the high quality of her work. Impressed by her technique, director James Cruze employed her as a writer and editor for several of his films, including Old Ironsides (1926). (P: ©Arnold Genthe (1869-1942)/LOC agc.7a10990. Miss Dorothy Arzner and Marion Morgan, 1927)
Arzner achieved a great deal of clout through this, along with her work on over fifty other films at Paramount. She eventually threatened to move to rival Columbia Studios unless given a directorial position. Paramount conceded in 1927, putting her in charge of the film Fashions for Women, which became a financial success.
©Arnold Genthe (1869-1942)/LOC agc.7a10020. Marion Morgan dancers, between 1914 and 1927 (Marion Morgan, Josephine H. McLean, Dulce Bramley Moore, Taisy Darling)
Dorothy Arzner was an American film director. Throughout that time, she was the only woman working in the field. She lived much of her life with her companion, choreographer Marion Morgan. They met in 1927 on the set of Fashions for Women, Azner the director, Morgan hired to choreograph the film tableaus. Arzner and Morgan lived there together for more than 40 years, until Miss Morgan died in 1971. The Arzner-Morgan House was built in 1930 by architect W.C. Tanner for Arzner and Morgan with beautifully terraced gardens designed by famed landscape duo Florence Yoch and Lucile Council (partners as well).
At Paramount, Arzner directed Clara Bow's first talkie, The Wild Party. To allow Bow to move freely on the set, Arzner had technicians rig a microphone onto a fishing rod, essentially creating the first boom mike. The Wild Party was a success with critics and was the 3rd top-grossing film of 1929. The film, set in a women's college, introduced some of the apparent lesbian undertones and themes often cited in Arzner's work. According to film scholar Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, the film "carefully articulates what happens when women stray from the confines of the safe all-girl environment" when they are "subject to the sexist advances of drunk, aggressive men." Her films of the following three years were strong examples of Hollywood before the Production Code. These films featured aggressive, free-spirited and independent women. She left Paramount in 1932 to begin work as an independent director for several of the studios. The films she directed during this period are her best known, launching the careers of many actresses, including Katharine Hepburn, Rosalind Russell, Sylvia Sidney and Lucille Ball. In 1936, Arzner became the first woman to join the newly formed Directors Guild of America.
For reasons never fully disclosed, Arzner stopped directing feature-length films in 1943. She continued to work in the following years, directing television commercials and Army training films. She produced plays and, in the 1960s and 1970s, worked as a professor at the UCLA film school, teaching screenwriting and directing until her death in 1979.
Arzner had been linked romantically with a number of actresses, but lived for the last 40 years of her life with her companion, choreographer Marion Morgan. Arzner died, aged 82, in La Quinta, California. For her achievements in the field of motion pictures, Arzner was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1500 Vine Street.
R.M. Vaughan's 2000 play, Camera, Woman depicts the last day of Arzner's career. According to the play, Harry Cohn fired her over a kissing scene between Merle Oberon and fictitious actor Rose Lindstrom – the name of a character played by Isobel Elsom in Arzner's last film, First Comes Courage, in which Oberon starred– in a never completed final film. The play also depicts Arzner and Oberon as lovers. The play is told in a prologue, four acts, and an epilogue in the form of a post-show interview that contains actual quotations from Arzner.
Ona Munson (June 16, 1903 – February 11, 1955) was an American actress perhaps best known for her portrayal of prostitute Belle Watling in Gone with the Wind (1939). She was married three times, to actor and director Edward Buzzell in 1927, to Stewart McDonald in 1941, and designer Eugene Berman in 1949. These have been termed "lavender" marriages, in that they were intended to conceal her bisexuality and her affairs with women, including filmmaker Dorothy Arzner and playwright Mercedes de Acosta. Munson has been listed as a member of a group called the "sewing circle", a clique of lesbians organized by actress Alla Nazimova. (P: Promotional photograph of actor Ona Munson (1938))
Munson was born Owena Wolcott in Portland, Oregon. She first came to fame on Broadway as the singing and dancing ingenue in the original production of No, No, Nanette. From this, Munson had a very successful stage and radio career in 1930s in New York. She introduced the song "You're the Cream in My Coffee" in the 1927 Broadway musical Hold Everything.
Her first starring role was in a Warner Brothers talkie called Going Wild (1930). Originally this film was intended as musical but all the numbers were removed prior to release due to the public's distaste for musicals which had virtually saturated the cinema in 1929-1930. Munson appeared the next year in a musical comedy called Hot Heiress in which she sings several songs along with her co-star Ben Lyon. She also starred in Broadminded (1931) and Five Star Final (1931). She briefly retired from the screen, only to return in 1938.
Selznick International Pictures. Ona Munson in Gone with the Wind - publicity still, 1939
Ona Munson was an American actress perhaps best known for her portrayal of prostitute Belle Watling in Gone with the Wind (1939). She was married three times, all lavander marriages, to actor and director Edward Buzzell, to Stewart McDonald, and designer Eugene Berman. She was bisexual and had affairs with women, including filmmaker Dorothy Arzner and playwright Mercedes de Acosta. Munson has been listed as a member of a group called the "sewing circle", a clique of lesbians organized by actress Alla Nazimova.
When David O. Selznick was casting his production Gone with the Wind, he first announced that Mae West was to play Belle, but this was a publicity stunt. Tallulah Bankhead refused the role as too small. Munson herself was the antithesis of the voluptuous Belle: freckled and of slight build.
Munson’s career was stalemated by the acclaim of Gone with the Wind; for the remainder of her career, she was typecast in similar roles. Two years later, she played a huge role as another madam, albeit a Chinese one, in Josef von Sternberg's film noir The Shanghai Gesture.
In 1955, plagued by ill health, she committed suicide at the age of 51 with an overdose of barbiturates in her apartment in New York. A note found next to her deathbed read, "This is the only way I know to be free again...Please don't follow me."
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Ona Munson has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6211 Hollywood Boulevard.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=elimyrevandra-20
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=elimyrevandra-20
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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