Dorothy Arzner Criticism - Essay

Gerald Peary (essay date 1974)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Dorothy Arzner," in Cinema, No. 34, 1974, pp. 2-9.

[In the following essay, Peary centers on Christopher Strong, praising Arzner's directorial and cinematic skills as he remarks on the film's characters and themes.]

Dorothy Arzner's Christopher Strong is ripe for discovery, staking its most persuasive claim to recognition at that juncture of "auteur" aesthetics and progressive politics (sexual politics, that is) so rarely encountered in the American cinema. Furthermore, it is a significant Katharine Hepburn film, this, her second movie after A Bill of Divorcement; for it is at RKO in 1933, under the mature, even wise directorial tutelage...

(The entire section is 4181 words.)

Dorothy Arzner with Gerald Peary and Karyn Kay (interview date 1974)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Dorothy Arzner Interview," in Cinema, No. 34, 1974, pp. 10-17.

[In the following interview, Arzner discusses her career and the people with whom she worked in the film industry.]

The following interview was conducted over several months by mail between Wisconsin and California. Questions were posed, answers supplied, then more questions surfaced from the previous answers. Dorothy Arzner personally read over the "final print" and made corrections and additional comments; so, hopefully in the best sense of the term, this ends as an "authorized interview."

Because Ms. Arzner is busily at work completing an ambitious historical novel (based on...

(The entire section is 4502 words.)

Molly Haskell (essay date 28 April 1975)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Women in Pairs," in Village Voice, April 28, 1975, pp. 77-8.

[In the following essay, Haskell discusses Dance, Girl, Dance and First Comes Courage, arguing that Arzner is "the only director who consistently scrutinizes women who have priorities other than marriage and the family."]

It obviously came as a shock to [Sigmund] Freud and other Oedipally-inclined artists and thinkers, to emerge from the coddled experience of their own mothers to find that other women—those who, perhaps, as little girls, resented having had to give up piano lessons so their brothers could study or wanted something more out of life than little genius/sons to dote on....

(The entire section is 2596 words.)

Julia Lesage (essay date 1982)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Hegemonic Female Fantasy in An Unmarried Woman and Craig's Wife," in Film Reader, No. 5, 1982, pp. 83-94.

[In the following excerpt, Lesage examines Arzner's depiction of marriage in Craig's Wife.]

Hegemony is a term in Marxist theory used by Antonio Gramsci to describe the complex ways that the dominant, most powerful class (in our era, the bourgeoisie) maintains control over ideas. The term originally derives from the Greek and was used to describe Athens' prestige and influence over the other Greek city states. The concept of hegemony is most useful if seen as operating on two interrelated and mutually reinforcing levels: the...

(The entire section is 4908 words.)

Barbara Koenig Quart (essay date 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Antecedents," in Women Directors: The Emergence of a New Cinema, Praeger, 1988, pp. 17-36.

[In the following excerpt, Quart comments on the female characters in Christopher Strong, Sarah and Son, and Dance, Girl, Dance, arguing that the "Arzner heroine is … a self-determined woman."]

Feminist scholarly attention continues to return to and circle in fascination around the narratives of the two women who alone worked as directors in classic Hollywood cinema. Although their films largely appear to conform to the mainstream patriarchal ideology (though in very differentdegrees and ways), imaginative efforts have been made by reading them "against...

(The entire section is 1893 words.)

Judith Mayne (essay date 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Working Girls," in Directed by Dorothy Arzner, Indiana University Press, 1994, pp. 93-111.

[In the excerpt below, Mayne focuses on issues of work and social class in the lives of women from four of Arzner's films: Working Girls, Nana, The Bride Wore Red, and First Comes Courage.]

Contemporary interest in Arzner's career and her work has focused largely on how she, as a woman director in Hollywood, conveyed women's lives, desires, and experiences on screen. Arzner's work did indeed focus primarily on women's lives, women's friendships, and women's communities. But women are never identified in a simple or isolated way in Arzner's work. For instance, I...

(The entire section is 7945 words.)

Russell Cousins (essay date 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Sanitizing Zola: Dorothy Arzner's Problematic Nana," in Literature Film Quarterly, Vol. 23, No. 3, 1995, pp. 209-15.

[In the following essay, Cousins analyzes Arzner's adaptation of Nana and concludes that Arzner's film "exposes the pernicious effects … of patriarchy" and challenges normative views on male-female relationships.]

Nana, Zola's best-selling novel about a Second Empire harlot-cum-actress, has attracted successive generations of filmmakers. Two French directors turned the tale into memorable vehicles for their own actress wives. In 1926, Jean Renoir made the most notable of the silent versions with Catherine Hessling in the...

(The entire section is 3387 words.)