Born as Laurette Rutherford, she was the elder sister of the better-known actress Ann Rutherford. Arlen started her acting career in 1930 with an uncredited role in the Cecil B. DeMille film Madam Satan. She would have another uncredited role in 1933, but received two credited roles in 1934, and that year she was one of thirteen girls selected as "WAMPAS Baby Stars" (at the time, baby star was common slang for starlet), the last year that the "WAMPAS" titles were awarded. The 1934 film Kiss and Make-Up, which starred Cary Grant and co-starred fellow 1934 "WAMPAS Baby Star" Lucille Lund, would be Arlen's next to last film. She had a minor role in Young and Beautiful, in which she played a "WAMPAS Baby Star", after which her acting career petered out.
In 1935, her younger sister (Ann)'s career launched. Arlen worked behind the scenes for her younger sister, but never returned to acting.
She resided in Santa Barbara, California at the time of her death on June 5, 1968, aged 54.