Allan Dwan

Allan Dwan

Toronto, Toronto Municipality, Ontario, Canada
Death 28 Dec 1981 (aged 96)
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Mission Hills, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Section F, Tier 18, Grave 62
Memorial ID 5278 · View Source
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Motion-Picture Director. One of the rugged pioneers of Hollywood's silent era. A native of Toronto and an engineer by training, Dwan was first employed by the Cooper-Hewitt Company, where he helped develop the mercury-vapor arc (the forerunner of neon lighting). To earn extra income he began selling stories to Chicago's Essanay Studio in 1909, and later became head of the scenario department at the American (Flying A) Film Co. He became a director by accident. In 1911, Flying A sent Dwan to California to search for a film crew that had gone missing. He found the group stranded in San Juan Capristrano, their director having gone off on a two-week binge. Dwan wired the front office: "Suggest you disband company. You have no director". The office wired back: "You direct". When Dwan told the actors, "Either I'm a director or you're all out of work", one of them responded, "You're the best damn director we ever saw". And so began one of the longest and most prolific careers in Hollywood history, spanning 400 films over 50 years. Dwan was a no-nonsense storyteller who got naturalistic performances from his actors, and his engineering experience enabled him to quickly solve technical problems on the set. While working at Triangle with his idol, D. W. Griffith, Dwan designed the first camera crane so Griffith could better reveal the vast dimensions of his Babylon set for "Intolerance" (1916). He was one of the first directors to use tracking shots for subtler purposes than chase scenes, and was second only to producer-director Thomas Ince in devising methods to streamline production. Dwan reached a peak of prestige with his majestic version of "Robin Hood" (1922), starring Douglas Fairbanks; it was his personal favorite of his films. He also directed Fairbanks in "The Iron Mask" (1929), Gloria Swanson in "Manhandled" (1924), and several Mary Pickford vehicles. With talkies Dwan gradually slipped from the A List of Hollywood directors, but he remained a solid and very busy craftsman with such credits as "Heidi" (1937) and "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" (1938), both starring Shirley Temple, and the handsome historical epic "Suez" (1938). In 1945 Dwan began a decade-long stint at Republic Pictures and enjoyed another career peak with "The Sands of Iwo Jima" (1949), an enormously successful World War II drama starring John Wayne. Movie buffs also enjoy his pulpy B Westerns of the period, with their playfully subversive subtexts. "Northwest Outpost" (1947) is a poker-faced parody of the Jeanette MacDonald-Nelson Eddy musicals of the 1930s, starring a clueless Eddy himself; "The Woman They Almost Lynched" (1952) mocks the well-meaning pretensions of such films as "The Ox-Bow Incident". And "Silver Load" (1954), a "High Noon" clone admired by director Martin Scorsese, puts across its parable of the anti-communist witch hunts with the subtlety of a sledgehammer (the action takes place on July 4th, and the villain is named "McCarty"). Dwan's final film, "The Most Dangerous Man Alive", was released in 1961. Six years later, at 82, he was ready to shoot a Korean War story entitled "Marine!" for Warner Bros., but the project was scrapped after mogul Jack Warner sold the studio. Never one to take himself or his work too seriously, Dwan seemed to regard his years of comparative obscurity as a blessing. He once told a journalist, "If you get your head above the mob, they try to knock it off. If you stay down you last forever". Dwan outlasted nearly all his contemporaries, and lived to see his films rediscovered by a new generation of cineastes. His engaging book-length interview with Peter Bogdanovich, published in 1970, was fittingly called "The Last Pioneer". He died at 96 at the Motion Picture Country Home. Just as Dwan was fond of opening his films with a poem after the main credits, he wrote the epitaph on his tombstone in verse.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 29 Apr 1999
  • Find a Grave Memorial 5278
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Allan Dwan (3 Apr 1885–28 Dec 1981), Find a Grave Memorial no. 5278, citing San Fernando Mission Cemetery, Mission Hills, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .