A life shared: Marion Morgan and Dorothy Arzner
She was a dancer and choreographer. She was a movie director. In a time when they couldn’t be open about themselves, Marion Morgan and Dorothy Arzner were fortunate enough to find each other.
It was the Golden Age of Hollywood. On the set of her first movie, director Arzner met vaudeville dancer Morgan, who choreographed dance sequences for movies.
After working on a number of movies, the two women decided to live together in 1930. The two were devoted to each other until Morgan died 40 years later.
Dorothy Arzner: The woman who conquered Hollywood
A California native, Dorothy Arzner was not only one of the first women film directors in Hollywood, she was also one of its best.
Aiming to become a doctor, she went overseas during World War I to work in the ambulance corp. However, after she came back, she decided she wanted to become a film director.
She started out as a script typist for Famous Players-Lasky Corporation (which eventually became Paramount Pictures) and worked her way up to film editor on silent movies. Arzner later became a director in 1927 with the silent movie Fashions for Women.
As Hollywood transitioned from silent movies to talkies, she was the first woman director to helm a talking movie for Paramount’s first talking movie, The Wild Party.
From there, she directed other feature films and high-profile movie stars, like Katherine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, and Lucille Ball. In 1936, she became the first woman to join the Directors Guild of America.
She also had a number of relationships with women, from Alla Nazimova to Billie Burke, both actresses. But it was Morgan who had captured her heart.
Marion Morgan: The dancer on the tableaux
Coming from New Jersey, Marion Morgan led a troupe of predominantly female dancers, called the Marion Morgan Dancers.
The troupe, which was formed in California, did interpretative dances for the vaudeville stage and then later on, for Hollywood where they did inserted dance sequences in movies.
Morgan then made a name for herself in coming up with choreographed sequences later on for Arzner’s movies like Ten Modern Commandments and Manhattan Cocktail.
Unlike Arzner, Morgan didn’t smash barriers in a predominantly male field that was Hollywood. However, she did manage to draw the attention of Arzner.
The couple Marion Morgan and Dorothy Arzner
After deciding to live together, Marion Morgan and Dorothy Arzner had a home on Mountain Oak Drive in Hollywood Hills where they entertained guests like Marlene Dietrich. Later on, when Arzner retired from directing, they moved to La Quinta in Southern California.
Morgan died in 1971. Arzner followed her in 1979.