Dorothy Emma Arzner (January 3, 1897 – October 1, 1979) was an American film director whose career in feature films spanned from the silent era of the late 1920s into the early 1940s. In fact, Dorothy Arzner was the only female director working in the 1930s in the United States. She was one of the very few women who established a name for herself as a director in the American film industry during this time.
Born in San Francisco, California, to Louis and Jenetter (née Young) Arzner, Dorothy grew up in Los Angeles, where her father, Louis Arzner, owned a restaurant frequented by many Hollywood celebrities. After finishing high school, she enrolled at the University of Southern California with hopes of becoming a doctor. She even went as far as spending two years as a pre-med student at the University of Southern California. During World War I, she left school to work overseas in the ambulance corps. By the time the war ended, she decided against returning to her medical studies and, after a visit to a movie studio, decided to pursue a career as a film director. "I remember making the observation, 'if one was going to be in the movie business, one should be a director because he was the one who told everyone else what to do,'" she said, according to What Women Want: The Complex World of Dorothy Arzner and Her Cinematic Women.