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Dorothy Arzner Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1927. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G412-T-5202-001-x).

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Arzner, Dorothy (03 January 1897–01 October 1979), film director, was born in San Francisco, California, the daughter of Louis Arzner, a restaurateur. Her mother’s name is unknown. After moving the family to Los Angeles, her father managed the Hoffman Café, a popular establishment frequented by movie people, including a number of directors. Arzner graduated from Westlake School for Girls, then enrolled in the University of Southern California with the hope of becoming a physician. With the outbreak of World War I she volunteered for service with the Los Angeles Emergency Ambulance Corps. At the end of her stint with the corps Arzner realized she did not want to continue pursuing a career in medicine. Determined to become financially independent from her father, she sought a job in the movie industry....

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Deren, Maya (29 April 1917–13 October 1961), avant-garde filmmaker, was born Eleanora Derenowsky in Kiev, Russia, the daughter of Solomon David Derenowsky, a psychiatrist, and Marie Fiedler, a teacher. The family immigrated to the United States in 1922. Shortly after their arrival they moved to Syracuse, New York, where Deren’s father later became the director of the State Institute for the Feeble-Minded. The family name was changed to Deren in 1928. Eleanora, who took pleasure in cultivating an exotic public image, took the name Maya in 1943. A bright and articulate child, Deren shared a stormy relationship with her intellectual father, who taught her the importance of contemporary scientific theories and mathematics as complex systems by which one could understand the world. Her parents’ rocky marriage led her mother to accompany Deren, an exceptional student, to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1930 to attend the League of Nations School....

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Ray Eames. [left to right]Ray Eames and Charles Eames. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103825).

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Eames, Ray (15 December 1912–21 August 1988), designer and filmmaker, was born Ray Kaiser in Sacramento, California, the daughter of Alexander Kaiser, an insurance salesman, and Edna Mary Burr. In 1933, after graduating from the May Bennett School in Millbrook, New York, she began studying painting with Hans Hoffmann in New York City. She was a founding member of American Abstract Artists, which first exhibited as a group in 1937 in New York City....

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Ephron, Nora (19 May 1941–26 June 2012), screenwriter, film director, journalist, and humorist, was born on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and grew up in Beverly Hills, California. Her parents, Henry Ephron and the former Phoebe Wolkind, were a successful screenwriting team best known for scripting such light-hearted fare as ...

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Johnson, Osa (14 March 1894–07 January 1953), author, lecturer, and film producer, was born Osa Helen Leighty in Chanute, Kansas, the daughter of William Sherman Leighty, a railroad engineer, and Ruby Isabel Holman. In 1910 she left high school to marry Martin Johnson, whom she had met eleven years earlier when he visited Chanute as an eighteen-year-old itinerant photographer. In the meantime he had visited Europe alone and traveled with ...

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Lupino, Ida (04 February 1918–03 August 1995), film actor, producer, and director, was born in London, England, the daughter of Stanley Lupino, a comedian and playwright, and Connie Emerald, a musical-comedy performer. At an early age, Ida and her younger sister Rita began appearing on stage, and Ida studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. According to Hollywood legend, Lupino’s film career began at age fourteen, when she accompanied her mother to an audition for director ...

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Ida Lupino. Gelatin silver print, 1949, by Unidentified Artist. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of an anonymous donor.

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Orkin, Ruth (03 September 1921–16 January 1985), photographer and filmmaker, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Sam Orkin, a toy-boat manufacturer, and Mary Ruby, a former silent-screen actress and cellist. She grew up, however, near Los Angeles, California, and attended Beverly Hills High School and then Eagle Rock High School, graduating in 1939. Orkin briefly attended Los Angeles City College, where she majored in photojournalism....

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Renoir, Jean (15 September 1894–12 February 1979), film director, novelist, and playwright, was born in Paris, France, the son of Pierre Auguste Renoir, an impressionist painter, and Aline Charigot. Raised in Paris and Provence, Renoir graduated college in 1913 and became a cavalry officer. With the outbreak of World War I, he went to the front as a second lieutenant, was wounded, and later served as an aerial reconnaissance pilot. Shortly after his father’s death, in 1920 he married Andrée Heuschling, one of Pierre Auguste’s models who soon after, as Catherine Hessling, became the star of Jean’s earliest films. Renoir and Hessling had one child before they separated in the early 1930s....

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Turner, Florence (06 January 1887–28 August 1946), motion picture actress and producer, was born in New York City, the daughter of William Turner, a painter, and Frances Bowles, an actress. Her father died when she was one year old, and she was raised in Brooklyn theaters where her mother and grandmother performed. She first appeared onstage at age three in a Brooklyn production of ...

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Weber, Lois (13 June 1879–13 November 1939), silent film director, screenwriter, and performer, was born Florence Lois Weber in Allegheny (now part of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, to George Weber, an upholsterer and decorator, and Mary Matilda Snaman. Weber displayed early musical prowess and, at age sixteen, toured briefly as a concert pianist. Her parents were devout Christians, and the influence of the church was a constant throughout Weber’s life. She spent two years with the Church Army, a Salvation Army–style missionary group, evangelizing on street corners and singing in rescue missions. She credited the advice of an uncle with her decision to enter the theater, a venue that allowed her to proselytize as well as perform....

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Lois Weber. Lois Weber, no date. Glass negative by Bain News Service. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-DIG-ggbain-32125).