Allan Dwan

"If there is a king of low-budget Hollywood directors, Dwan should wear the crown. When given quality material with a solid budget, he could turn out brilliant cinema (Robin Hood, 22; Suez, 39; Sands of Iwo Jima, 49). His particular genius was transforming lowly scripts, shoddy production values, and mediocre performers into something memorable (While Paris Sleeps, 32; Driftwood, 47; The Woman They Almost Lynched, 53)." - William R. Meyer (The Film Buff's Catalog, 1978)

Allan Dwan

Director / Producer / Screenwriter
(1885-1981) Born April 3, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Key Production Country: USA
Key Genres: Western, Adventure, Crime, Swashbuckler, Drama, Traditional Western, Adventure Drama, Comedy
Key Collaborators: Van Nest Polglase (Production Designer), Benedict Bogeaus (Producer), James Leicester (Editor), Louis Forbes (Composer), John Alton (Cinematographer), John Payne (Leading Actor), Reggie Lanning (Cinematographer), Lance Fuller (Leading Character Actor), James W. Sullivan (Production Designer), Chubby Johnson (Character Actor), Morris Ankrum (Character Actor), Ronald Reagan (Leading Actor)

“Dwan's career spanned the history of American motion pictures, from the days of silent one-reelers to modern Technicolor features that utilized some of the cinematic techniques whose use he had pioneered. By his own estimate, Dwan participated in the making of 1,850 films, some 400 of these as director. (Only a few of his works remain extant.)” - The Virgin International Encyclopedia of Film, 1992
"Through the 1950s Dwan continued to turn out interesting pictures like Silver Lode, Cattle Queen of Montana (both 1954), and The Restless Breed (1957), most of which refused to take themselves too seriously and were better than their budgets and schedules would normally permit." - Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia, 1995
"Widely acknowledged as one of the great movie pioneers, Allan (born Joseph Aloysius) Dwan has been called 'the last of the journeyman film-makers'… At first his work was fast, furious and routine, but he soon became known for his technical innovations: some hold that he invented the dolly shot in 1915; certainly he advised Griffith on mounting a moving camera to film the giant Babylonian set in Intolerance. By the early '20s he was promoted to making prestigious star vehicles… Dwan's transition to sound seems to have been painless; even so, on signing a long-term contract with Fox, he was relegated to B-features." - Geoff Andrew (The Film Handbook, 1989)
"He studied at Notre Dame University, intending to become an electrical engineer. His expertise with lighting brought him into the film industry. where he made his directorial debut with Branding a Bad Man (1911). A true pioneer, he made more than 300 films in his 50-year career, working in every genre from adventure classics to B-movie westerns." - Chambers Film Factfinder, 2006
"It is too early to establish any coherent pattern to Dwan's career as a whole, but it may very well be that Dwan will turn out to be the last of the old masters. Silver Lode displays a classic circularity of remembered technique, unifying the varied themes of the film by repeating the same images in different contexts. From the Fairbanks period in the silents, to unassuming comedies in the thirties and forties, and to Westerns in the fifties, Dwan has been as active as he has been obscure. Yet, one can recall Brewster's Millions and Rendezvous with Annie with fond pleasure unprompted by the alleged mystiques of the auteur theory. Consequently, there may be much more to be said about Dwan." - Andrew Sarris (The American Cinema, 1968)
"Like many of his contemporaries, he turned to Westerns during the 1950s, with considerable success, and the career of this remarkable man finally shuddered to a halt with an excellent film noir, The River's Edge (1958) (featuring an unmitigatingly evil Ray Milland), and an underrated little sci-fi potboiler, Most Dangerous Man Alive (1961)." - Mario Reading (The Movie Companion, 2006)
“The Canadian-born Allan Dwan was one of the most remarkable and durable figures associated with the early development of the American cinema… During the 1920s Dwan worked for a time at Paramount's Astoria Studios on Long island, glad to get away from the pressures of Hollywood. Here he gave a welcome boost to the career of Gloria Swanson whom he developed into a fine comedienne in such movies as Zaza (1923) and Manhandled (1924).” - Joel W. Finler (The Movie Directors Story, 1985)
TSPDT Guide
Recommended
Brewster's Millions (1945), Silver Lode (1954), Slightly Scarlet (1956) ✖︎, The Restless Breed (1957)
Worth a Look
Robin Hood (1922), Stage Struck (1925), The Iron Mask (1929), Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), The Woman They Almost Lynched (1953), Tennessee's Partner (1955), The River's Edge (1957)
Approach with Caution
Heidi (1937), The Three Musketeers (1939), Angel in Exile (1948) [co-directed by Philip Ford], Surrender (1950), Montana Belle (1952), Cattle Queen of Montana (1954), Pearl of the South Pacific (1955)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
✖︎ 1,000 Noir Films
Amazon Products
Films / Books
    Silver Lode
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