Independent Vision: The Films of Dorothy Arzner – Episode 5

Dorothy Arzner was one of the very few women who established a name for herself as a director in the film industry of the 1920s and ’30s, what remains to this day the largest body of work by a woman director within the studio system, for years she was the sole female member of the Directors Guild. Nonetheless, she has been virtually ignored in most film histories. It was only with the emergence of ’70s feminism that scholars began to reclaim women such as Arzner from relative obscurity. She was central to the development of the studio system, the genre film, the development of sound technology (inventor of the fishpole microphone), the star system, and the representation of women in the Hollywood mainstream.

However brief her film career, she stands as an early example of a woman who insisted upon creative autonomy and control in her work. Another reason for retiring from Hollywood was that she felt that the kind of pictures she was interested in making were no longer encouraged or supported in Hollywood.

Arzner’s directorial style was consistently revealed by an emphasis on costume and that changes in a woman’s life and relationships to each other were emphasised through costume and dress. As the title of a Jane Gaines essay put it “dress tells the woman’s story’ Her main themes focused on female friendship and communities, the uneasy navigation of the relationships between men and women, class differences and always with an emphasis on performance and costume. For much of Arzner’s work, sexuality stands as a threat to women’s community. Women, in the heterosexual contract, must play their part, as opposed to the more “honest’ form of love between women.

A quote from director Francine Parker in an essay about Dorothy sums up her idea of the director’s role involving both authority and collaboration:
“…a woman has a different point of view on life. And the world does take on a rather startling and surprising look when observed through the eyes of a skilled, talented, hard-working, learned and thoroughly unintimidated female”.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources:
Casella, D. (2009) ‘What women want: the complex world of Dorothy Arzner and her cinematic women
The Journal of Cinema & Media Vol. 50 Issue 1/2, pp. 235-270.
Christopher Strong (1933) Dir. Dorothy Arzner [DVD] RKO.
Craig’s Wife (1936) Dir. Dorothy Arzner [Internet Archive] Columbia.
Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) Dir. Dorothy Arzner [DVD] RKO.
First Comes Courage (1943) Dir. Dorothy Arzner [Internet Archive] Columbia.
Honor Among Lovers (1931) Dir. Dorothy Arzner [YouTube] Paramount.
Mayne, J. (1994) Directed by Dorothy Arzner. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana UP.
Merrily We Go to Hell (1932) Dir. Dorothy Arzner [DVD] Paramount.
The Bride Wore Red (1937) Dir. Dorothy Arzner [DVD] MGM.
The Wild Party (1929) Dir. Dorothy Arzner [Internet Archive] Paramount.
www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sigh…r-queen-hollywood
sensesofcinema.com/2003/great-directors/arzner/

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Any Ladle’s Sweet That Dishes Out Some Gravy! The Women – Episode 4

It’s all about the women! In our 4th episode we delve deep into the 1939 all female classic, The Women. Directed by George Cukor, this biting social satire includes an impressive ensemble cast, Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, and Paulette Goddard to name but a few. Shining with a sharp script by Anita Loos, we discuss the often overlooked subtleties and artistry of this under-appreciated film.

Any Ladle’s Sweet That Dishes Out Some Gravy! The Women – Episode 4 by Any Ladle’s Sweet

It’s all about the women! In our 4th episode we delve deep into the 1939 all female classic, The Women. Directed by George Cukor, this biting social satire includes an impressive ensemble cast, Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, and Paulette Goddard to name but a few.

Sources:
Nugent, F.S. (1939) ‘Review: The Women’. The New York Times, 22 September.
www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=…1DFBF668382629EDE
Carey, G. (1988) Anita Loos: A biography. London: Bloomsbury.
Considine, S. (1989) Bette & Joan: the divine feud. London: Sphere.
Crawford, J. (1962) A portrait of Joan: The Autobiography of Joan Crawford. (with Jane Kesner Ardmore). New York: Doubleday.
Fontaine, J (1978) No bed of roses. New York: Morrow.
Lambert, G. (1973) On Cukor. London: W.H. Allen.
Loos, A. (1974) Kiss Hollywood goodbye. London: W.H. Allen.
Lugowski, D.M. (2011) ‘Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford: rivals at the glamour factory’, in McLean, A.L (ed.) Glamour in a golden age: movie stars of the 1930s. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
McGilligan, P. (1991) George Cukor: A double life. London: Faber and Faber.
Russell, R. (1977) Life is a banquet. (with Chris Chase). New York: Random House.
Thomas, B. (1978) Joan Crawford: a biography. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
The Women (1939) Dir. George Cukor. [DVD] MGM.
seul-le-cinema.blogspot.ie/2008/12/women-1939.html

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You Don’t Own Me: Women’s Sexuality in the Pre-Code Era – Episode 3

Our third episode focuses on the small window of films made in Hollywood between 1930 and 1934, known usually as ‘Pre-Code’. The censorship rules of the ‘Hays Code’ was introduced to Hollywood studios in 1930 but was not actually enforced until late 1934. During these years studios were pumping out films testing the limits of propriety, usually with strong central female characters using their wiles to break out of poverty and marital drudgery. This month’s He’s a Keeper is devoted to the charming Melvyn Douglas. Lastly, an honourable mention to the late Setsuko Hara.

You Don’t Own Me: Women’s Sexuality in the Pre-Code Era – Episode 3 by Any Ladle’s Sweet

Our third episode focuses on the small window of films made in Hollywood between 1930 and 1934, known usually as ‘Pre-Code’. The censorship rules of the ‘Hays Code’ was introduced to Hollywood studios in 1930 but was not actually enforced until late 1934.

Sources:
A Woman’s Face (1941) Dir. George Cukor. [DVD] MGM.
Baby Face (1933) Dir. Alfred E. Green. [DVD] Warner Bros.
Bed of Roses (1933) Dir. Gregory La Cava. [DVD] RKO.
Doherty, T. (1999) Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality and Insurrection in American
Cinema 1930-1934. New York: Columbia University Press.
Douglas, M. (1986) See You at the Movies: The Autobiography of Melvyn Douglas (with Tom Arthur). Boston: University Press of America.
Jacobs, L. (1991) The Wages of Sin: Censorship and the Fallen Woman 1928-1942. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
LaSalle, M. (2000) Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Loos, A. (1974) Kiss Hollywood Goodbye. London: W.H. Allen.
Loy, M. (1987) Being and Becoming (with James Kotsilibas-Davis). London: Bloomsbury.
Brooks, Louise. (1974) Lulu in Hollywood. USA: University of Minnesota Press.
Ninotchka (1939) Dir. Ernst Lubitsch. [DVD] MGM.
Penthouse (1933) Dir. W.S. Van Dyke. [DVD] MGM.
Possessed (1931) Dir. Clarence Brown. [DVD] MGM.
Red Headed Woman (1932) Dir. Jack Conway. [DVD] MGM.
Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise (1931) Dir. Robert Z. Leonard [DVD] MGM.
The Divorcee (1930) Dir. Robert Z. Leonard. [DVD] MGM.
The Easiest Way (1931) Dir. Jack Conway [DVD] MGM.
Theodora Goes Wild (1936) Dir. Richard Boleslawski. [YouTube] Columbia.
Third Finger, Left Hand (1940) Dir. Robert Z Leonard. [DVD] MGM.
THAT scene in Possessed – www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWmI88_hP0M

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All About Thelma – Episode 1

Our first episode! This one is dedicated to the supporting ladies, Thelma Ritter, Mary Wickes and Patsy Kelly. He’s a Keeper segment features William Powell and Best Costume of the Week is dedicated to Joan Crawford’s gym outfit in Dancing Lady. Also, an honourable mention for the late director Chantal Akerman.

All About Thelma – Episode 1 by Any Ladle’s Sweet

Our first episode! This one is dedicated to the supporting ladies, Thelma Ritter, Mary Wickes and Patsy Kelly. He’s a Keeper segment features William Powell and Best Costume of the Week is dedicated to Joan Crawford’s gym outfit in Dancing Lady. Also, an honourable mention for the late director Chantal Akerman.

Sources:

A Letter to Three Wives (1949) Dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz [DVD] Twentieth Century Fox.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Baby Sitter (1956) Dir. Robert Stevens
All About Eve (1950) Dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz [DVD] Twentieth Century Fox.
Beauty and the Bus (1933) Dir. Gus Meins [www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8A4O2aiqfw].
Bryant, R. (2006) William Powell: The Life and Films. Jefferson: McFarland.
Dancing Lady (1933) Dir. Robert Z. Leonard. [DVD] Warner Studio.
Hadleigh, B. (1994) Hollywood Lesbians. Fort Lee: Barricade Books.
Maid in Hollywood (1934). Dir. Gus Meins. [www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyIKMu-_-W8].
Now, Voyager (1942) Dir. Irving Rapper. [DVD] Warners.
One Way Passage (1932) Dir. Tay Garnett [DVD] Warners.
Pickup on South Street (1953) Dir. Sam Fuller [DVD] Criterion, THAT scene [www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-ZuV8hg-Jg].
Rear Window (1954) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock [DVD] Universal Studios.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968) Dir. Roman Polanski [DVD] Criterion.
Staggs, S. (2000) All About All About Eve. New York: St Martin’s Press.
The Decorator (1965) Dir. Richard Kinon [www.youtube.com/watch?v=whKTEGyNh1M].
Good piece on Thelma Ritter [aurorasginjoint.com/2012/09/22/thel…at-a-character/]
Roof, Judith (2002) ‘All about Thelma and Eve: sidekicks and third wheels’
Chantal Akerman films currently screening on Hulu [www.hulu.com/search?q=chantal+akerman]

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