The Queerest Places

“A life shared by two women”

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Los Angeles, Calif.

Dorothy Arzner/Marion Morgan home
2249 Mountain Oak Drive

While doing research for a study of film director Dorothy Arzner (ca. 1900-1979), professor Judith Mayne discovered boxes of material relating to Arzner in the UCLA research collection. Inside one box was a photograph of the atrium of Arzner’s opulent home in the Hollywood Hills, with an annotation in the director’s own writing: “Home of Marion Morgan and Dorothy Arzner/1930-1951.” “That moment of discovery was thrilling,” Maybe later wrote in Directed by Dorothy Arzner, “for here was evidence of a home and a life shared by two women.”

Starting as a script typist and working her way up to film editor on such silent movies as Blood and Sand, Arzner progressed to directing in 1927. With credits including The Wild Party, Working Girls, Christopher Strong, Dance, Girl, Dance, and The Bride Wore Red, the butchy Arzner was the only successful female director in Hollywood during its golden age.

It was on the set of her first movie, Fashions for Women, that Arzner met Marion Morgan, a vaudeville dancer with her own performance troupe and a busy career choreographing movie dance sequences. After working together on several movies, the two women set up their home together in 1930, and they remained devoted to each other until Morgan’s death 40 years later.

Also in the boxes Mayne discovered were numerous snapshots of Arzner and Morgan entertaining guests (among them, Marlene Dietrich) at their elegant home. The photos of the house’s lush atrium suggest a love of natural light and greenery. After Arzner’s retirement from directing in 1951, they moved to a new home in La Quinta, a community in the Southern California desert. There Arzner was an avid gardener whose correspondence made frequent and proud mention of her roses. But even in her retirement, Arzner continued to keep a hand in the industry, teaching at UCLA’s film school, producing plays, and directing Pepsi Cola commercials for Joan Crawford.

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