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A Capsule History Of Women Directors, 1900-1980

November 20, 1986|NANCY MILLS

The history of women directing in Hollywood, like American social history in general, is uneven. The woman's suffrage movement in the early 1900s and the women's movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s led to more women directing. In between, only two women developed a body of work.

Dorothy Arzner has a star on Hollywood Boulevard. Between 1927 and 1943, she directed almost two dozen pictures, including "Christopher Strong," starring Katharine Hepburn, and "The Bride Wore Red," starring Joan Crawford.

Ida Lupino, an actress before she began writing, producing and directing in 1950, directed five films and numerous episodes of television shows. Her most famous films include "The Hitch Hiker" and "The Bigamist," both starring Edmond O'Brien.

In 1974, the American Film Institute became so concerned about the lack of directing opportunities for women that it started a special directing workshop to help women already working in the industry get directing experience. A number of women now directing successfully, including Karen Arthur, Lesli Glatter ("Amazing Stories"), Lee Grant, Randa Haines, Lynne Littman and Nancy Malone, participated in this program and deemed it invaluable.

"Since we selected participants for the fifth cycle in 1982, we've had 1,000 inquiries," says Jean Firstenberg, director of the AFI. "My concern is that we'll probably have 10 slots for the sixth cycle"--if there is a sixth cycle. Firstenberg is still seeking funding of $225,000.

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