Francis Ford Coppola Joins Paramount in Honoring Dorothy Arzner

Alex J. Berliner/ABImages/Courtesy of Paramount
From left: Jim Gianopulos, Andrea Kalas and Francis Ford Coppola

The Oscar-winning filmmaker and Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos took part in naming a studio building after ground-breaking director Arzner, who was also the first woman admitted to the Directors Guild of America.

Dorothy Arzner now has a permanent place on the Paramount lot.

On Thursday afternoon, the studio named an office building facing Production Park after the woman who directed Paramount’s first talking feature, 1929’s box-office hit The Wild Party starring Clara Bow. (Among Arzner’s other “firsts” was being the first woman admitted to the Directors Guild of America and the first film editor to receive a screen credit.)

The naming ceremony began with a small reception in the Park with guests including Betty Thomas, Mimi Leder, Eleanor Coppola, Leonard Maltin, Paramount execs Wyck Godfrey and Liz Raposo plus Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president John Bailey, who noted that “if you go back into film history far enough, you can see how important women have been. In the silent era, many of the directors were women.”

Paramount’s chief archivist Andrea Kalas began the remarks by calling Arzner “determined but compassionate,” and was followed by CEO Jim Gianopulos, who noted that Arzner “made astonishing, even revolutionary, creative contributions on a daily basis. We are the custodians of her work, and it’s our obligation to pay tribute to her artistry and protect her legacy.”

But the real star of the event was Francis Ford Coppola, a student from Arzner's days teaching at UCLA in the 1960s, who referred to the honoree as “Miss Arzner.” The Oscar-winning filmmaker said he felt compelled to help with the remembrance of her memory because “little by little, I’m the only one left.”

Coppola recalled Arzner as being “salty and sort of tough, but with a heart as big as the world” and told a story of how when he was a bit depressed about his career prospects she happened by him and said, “Don’t worry. You’ll make it. I’ve been around. I know,” and then disappeared off into the shadows.

Coppola ended his remarks by turning towards the massive photo of Arzner leaning against the building that now bears her name and saying, “I can never thank you enough for what helped me for the next 58 years of my career.”

The event ended with the screening of The Wild Party in the Paramount Theatre.