On this day in 1929, the film The Wild Party was released in the U.S. The Wild Party has earned its place in film history for not only being Clara Bow’s first ever talkie, but also by being the film to skyrocket
lesbian director Dorothy Arzner’s career.
An original poster for the film used for its promotion in 1929 (x).
Dorothy Arzner was born January 3, 1897 in San Francisco.
She began her career in the film industry working as a script writer and editor
for Paramount Studios. After having been an integral part of over fifty films,
Dorothy threatened to leave Paramount for their rival studio, Columbia, if she
was not promoted. Paramount eventually gave in and Dorothy was promoted to
director. She made her directorial debut in 1927 with the film Fashions for Women, but it wasn’t until 1929
and The Wild Party when mainstream moviegoers became aware of Dorothy’s
Dorothy Arzner doing her thing and looking badass in all of her directorial glory (x).
The Wild Party
follows the character of Stella Ames, the most popular girl at her all-girls university,
as she enters into a relationship with one of her professors. Dorothy was not
shy about her lesbian sexuality (she was even rumored to have had relationships
with several famous actresses of the time, such as Alla Nazimova and Billie
Burke), and so The Wild Party’s
centering of women in all-women spaces was a goldmine for Pre-Code era
homosexual subtext. As the movie was released before the Hay’s Code was passed,
which severely censored how filmmakers were able to deal with the subject of
gayness in their work, Dorothy did not hold back from the fact that all-girl universities
were known to be safe havens for lesbians in America. Aside from paving the way for
lesbians in film both in front of and behind the camera, The Wild Party was the very first film in history to make use
of a boom mike, as well as the third top-grossing film of 1929. Overall,
the film is a prime example of lesbian excellence.