Allan Dwan - Director

Nationality: American. Born: Joseph Aloysius Dwan in Toronto, Canada, 3 April 1885; family moved to United States, 1893. Education: North Division High School, Chicago; Notre Dame University, Indiana, degree in electrical engineering, 1907. Family: Married 1) Pauline Bush, 1915 (divorced 1920); 2) Marie Shelton, early 1920s (died 1954). Career: As illuminating engineer work on mercury vapor arc light led to association with Essanay film company, 1909; wrote stories while supervising lighting; American Film Company ("Flying A") formed by Essanay staff, Dwan joined as chief scenario editor, 1910; signed to Universal Pictures, 1913; signed with Famous Players Company, New York, 1914; joined Triangle Company under supervision of D.W. Griffith, 1915; worked in England, 1932–34; trained camera units for U.S. Armed Services photographic division, 1943; contracted to Republic Pictures, 1945–54. Died: In Woodland Hills, California, 21 December 1981.

Films as Director (incomplete list; Dwan estimated 1,850 films):


Branding a Bad Man and A Western Dreamer (split reel) (+ pr, sc); A Daughter of Liberty and A Trouper's Heart (split reel) (+ pr, sc); Rattlesnakes and Gunpowder and The Ranch Tenor (split reel) (+ pr, sc); The Sheepman's Daughter (+ pr, sc); The Sagebrush Phrenologist and The Elopements on Double L Ranch (split reel) (+ pr, sc); $5,000 Reward—Dead or Alive (+ pr, sc); The Witch of the Range (+ pr, sc); The Cowboy's Ruse and Law and Order on Bar L Ranch (split reel) (+ pr, sc); The Yiddisher Cowboy and The Bronco Buster's Bride (split reel) (+ pr, sc); The Hermit's Gold (+ pr, sc); The Actress and the Cowboys and The Sky Pilot's Intemperance (split reel) (+ pr, sc); A Western Waif (+ pr, sc); The Call of the Open Range (+ pr, sc); The School Ma'am of Snake and The Ranch Chicken (split reel) (+ pr, sc); Cupid in Chaps (+ pr, sc); The Outlaw's Trail (+ pr, sc); The Ranchman's Nerve (+ pr, sc); When East Comes West (+ pr, sc); The Cowboy's Deliverance (+ pr, sc); The Cattle Thief's Brand (+ pr, sc); The Parting Trails (+ pr, sc); The Cattle Rustler's End (+ pr, sc); Cattle, Gold, and Oil (+ pr, sc); The Ranch Girl (+ pr, sc); The Poisoned Flume (+ pr, sc); The Brand of Fear (+ pr, sc): The Blotted Brand (+ pr, sc); Auntie and the Cowboys (+ pr, sc); The Western Doctor's Peril (+ pr, sc); The Smuggler and the Girl (+ pr, sc); The Cowboy and the Artist (+ pr, sc); Three Million Dollars (+ pr, sc); The Stage Robbers of San Juan (+ pr, sc); The Mother of the Ranch (+ pr, sc); The Gunman (+ pr, sc); The Claim Jumpers (+ pr, sc); The Circular Fence (+ pr, sc); The Rustler Sheriff (+ pr, sc); The Love of the West (+ pr, sc); The Trained Nurse at Bar Z (+ pr, sc); The Miner's Wife (+ pr, sc); The Land Thieves (+ pr, sc); The Cowboy and the Outlaw (+ pr, sc); Three Daughters of the West and Caves of La Jolla (split reel) (+ pr, sc); The Lonely Range (+ pr, sc); The Horse Thief's Bigamy (+ pr, sc): The Trail of the Eucalyptus (+ pr, sc); The Stronger Man (+ pr, sc); The Water War (+ pr, sc); The Three Shell Game (+ pr, sc); The Mexican (+ pr, sc); The Eastern Cowboy (+ pr, sc); The Way of the West (+ pr, sc); The Test (+ pr, sc); The Master of the Vineyard (+ pr, sc); Sloppy Bill of the Rollicking R (+ pr, sc); The Sheriff's Sisters (+ pr, sc); The Angel of Paradise Ranch (+ pr, sc); The Smoke of the 45 (+ pr, sc); The Man Hunt (+ pr, sc); Santa Catalina, Magic Isle of the Pacific (+ pr, sc); The Last Notch (+ pr, sc); The Gold Lust (+ pr, sc); The Duel of the Candles (+ pr, sc); Bonita of El Cajon (+ pr, sc); The Lawful Holdup (+ pr, sc); Battleships (+ pr, sc); Dams and Waterways (+ pr, sc)


A Midwinter Trip to Los Angeles (+ pr, sc); The Misadventures of a Claim Agent and Bronco Busting for Flying A Pictures (split reel) (+ pr, sc); The Winning of La Mesa (+ pr, sc); The Locket (+ pr, sc); The Relentless Outlaw (+ pr, sc); Justice of the Sage (+ pr, sc); Objections Overruled (+ pr, sc); The Mormon (+ pr, sc); Love and Lemons (+ pr, sc); The Best Policy (+ pr, sc); The Real Estate Fraud (+ pr, sc); The Grubstake Mortgage (+ pr, sc); Where Broadway Meets the Mountains (+ pr, sc); An Innocent Grafter (+ pr, sc); Society and Chaps (+ pr, sc); The Leap Year Cowboy (+ pr, sc); The Land Baron of San Tee (+ pr sc): An Assisted Elopement (+ pr, sc); From the Four Hundred to the Herd (+ pr, sc); The Broken Ties (+ pr, sc): After School (+ pr, sc); A Bad Investment (+ pr, sc); The Full Value (+ pr, sc); The Tramp's Gratitude (+ pr, sc); Fidelity (+ pr, sc); Winter Sports and Pastimes of Coronado Beach (+ pr, sc); The Maid and the Man (+ pr, sc); The Cowboy Socialist (+ pr, sc); Checkmate and The Ranchman's Marathon (split reel) (+ pr, sc); The Coward (+ pr, sc); The Distant Relative (+ pr, sc); The Ranch Detective (+ pr, sc); Driftwood (+ pr, sc); The Eastern Girl (+ pr, sc); The Pensioners (+ pr, sc); The End of the Feud (+ pr, sc); The Wedding Dress (+ pr, sc); Mystical Maid of Jamasha Pass (+ pr, sc); The Other Wise Man (+ pr, sc); The Haters (+ pr, sc); The Thread of Life (+ pr, sc); The Wandering Gypsy (+ pr, sc); The Reward of Valor (+ pr, sc); The Brand (+ pr, sc); The Green–eyed Monster (+ pr, sc); Cupid through Padlocks (+ pr, sc); For the Good of Her Men (+ pr, sc); The Simple Love (+ pr, sc); The Weaker Brother and Fifty–Mile Auto Contest (split reel) (+ pr, sc); The Wordless Message (+ pr, sc); The Evil Inheritance (+ pr, sc); The Marauders (+ pr, sc); The Girl Back Home (+ pr, sc); Under False Pretences (+ pr, sc); Where There's a Heart (+ pr, sc); The Vanishing Race (+ pr, sc); The Fatal Mirror and Point Loma, Old Town (split reel) (+ pr, sc); The Tell-Tale Shells (+ pr, sc); Indian Jealousy and San Diego (split reel) (+ pr, sc); The Canyon Dweller (+ pr, sc); It Pays to Wait (+ pr, sc); A Life for a Kiss (+ pr, sc); The Meddlers (+ pr, sc); The Girl and the Gun (+ pr, sc); The Battleground (+ pr, sc); The Bad Man and the Ranger (+ pr, sc); The Outlaw Colony (+ pr, sc); The Land of Death (+ pr, sc); The Bandit of Point Loma (+ pr, sc); The Jealous Rage (+ pr, sc); The Will of James Waldron (+ pr, sc); The House That Jack Built (+ pr, sc); Curtiss's School of Aviation (+ pr, sc); The Stepmother (+ pr, sc); The Odd Job Man (+ pr, sc); The Liar (+ pr, sc); The Greaser and the Weakling (+ pr, sc); The Stranger at Coyote (+ pr, sc); The Dawn of Passion (+ pr, sc); The Vengeance That Failed (+ pr, sc); The Fear (+ pr, sc); The Foreclosure (+ pr, sc); White Treachery (+ pr, sc); Their Hero Son (+ pr, sc); Calamity Anne's Ward (+ pr, sc); Father's Favorite (+ pr, sc); Jack of Diamonds (+ pr, sc); The Reformation of Sierra Smith (+ pr, sc); The Promise (+ pr, sc); The New Cowpuncher (+ pr, sc); The Best Man Wins (+ pr, sc); The Wooers of Mountain Kate (+ pr, sc); One, Two, Three (+ pr, sc); The Wanderer (+ pr, sc); Maiden and Men (+ pr, sc); God's Unfortunate (+ pr, sc); Man's Calling (+ pr, sc); The Intrusion at Lompoc (+ pr, sc); The Thief's Wife (+ pr, sc); The Would-be Heir (+ pr, sc); Jack's Word (+ pr, sc); Her Own Country (+ pr, sc); Pals (+ pr, sc); The Animal Within (+ pr, sc); The Law of God (+ pr, sc); Nell of the Pampas (+ pr, sc); The Daughters of Senor Lopez (+ pr, sc); The Power of Love (+ pr, sc); The Recognition (+ pr, sc); Blackened Hills (+ pr, sc); The Loneliness of Neglect (+ pr, sc); Paid in Full (+ pr, sc); Ranch Life on the Range (+ pr, sc); The Man from the East (+ pr, sc); The Horse Thief (+ pr, sc); The Good Love and the Bad (+ pr, sc)


The Fraud That Failed (+ pr, sc); Another Man's Wife (+ pr, sc); Calamity Anne's Inheritance (+ pr, sc); Their Masterpiece (+ pr, sc); His Old-Fashioned Mother (+ pr, sc); Where Destiny Guides (+ pr, sc); The Silver-plated Gun (+ pr, sc); A Rose of Old Mexico (+ pr, sc); Building the Great Los Angeles Aqueduct (+ pr, sc); Women Left Alone (+ pr, sc); Andrew Jackson (+ pr, sc); Calamity Anne's Vanity (+ pr, sc); The Fugitive (+ pr, sc); The Romance (+ pr, sc); The Finer Things (+ pr, sc); Love Is Blind (+ pr, sc); Then the Light Fades (+ pr, sc); High and Low (+ pr, sc); The Greater Love (+ pr, sc); The Jocular Winds (+ pr, sc); The Transgression of Manuel (+ pr, sc); Calamity Anne, Detective (+ pr, sc); The Orphan's Mine (+ pr, sc); When a Woman Won't (+ pr, sc); An Eastern Flower (+ pr, sc); Cupid Never Ages (+ pr, sc); Calamity Anne's Beauty (+ pr, sc); The Renegade's Heart (+ pr, sc); Matches (+ pr, sc); The Mute Witness (+ pr, sc); Cupid Throws a Brick (+ pr, sc); Woman's Honor (+ pr, sc); Suspended Sentence (+ pr, sc); In Another's Nest (+ pr, sc); The Ways of Fate (+ pr, sc); Boobs and Bricks (+ pr, sc); Calamity Anne's Trust (+ pr, sc); Oil on Troubled Waters (+ pr, sc); The Road to Ruin (+ pr, sc); The Brothers (+ pr, sc); Human Kindness (+ pr, sc); Youth and Jealousy (+ pr, sc); Angel of the Canyons (+ pr, sc); The Great Harmony (+ pr, sc); Her Innocent Marriage (+ pr, sc); Calamity Anne Parcel Post (+ pr, sc); The Ashes of Three (+ pr, sc); On the Border (+ pr, sc); Her Big Story (+ pr, sc); When Luck Changes (+ pr, sc); The Wishing Seat (+ pr, sc); Hearts and Horses (+ pr, sc); The Reward of Courage (+ pr, sc); The Soul of a Thief (+ pr, sc); The Marine Law (+ pr, sc); The Road to Success (+ pr, sc); The Spirit of the Flag ; The Call to Arms (+ sc); Women and War ; The Power Flash of Death (+ sc); The Picket Guard ; Mental Suicide ; Man's Duty ; The Animal (+ sc); The Wall of Money ; The Echo of a Song ; Criminals ; The Restless Spirit (+ sc); Jewels of a Sacrifice ; Back to Life ; Red Margaret, Moonshiner ; Bloodhounds of the North ; He Called Her In (+ sc); The Menace (+ sc); The Chase ; The Battle of Wills


The Lie ; The Honor of the Mounted ; Remember Mary Magdalene (+ sc); Discord and Harmony ; The Menace to Carlotta ; The Embezzler (+ sc); The Lamb, the Woman, the Wolf (+ sc); The End of the Feud ; Tragedy of Whispering Creek ; The Unlawful Trade ; The Forbidden Room ; The Hopes of Blind Alley ; The Great Universal Mystery ; Richelieu (+ sc); Wildflower ; The Country Chairman (+ sc); The Small–Town Girl ; The Straight Road ; The Conspiracy ; The Unwelcome Mrs. Hatch ; The Man on the Case

Allan Dwan (left) with Gloria Swanson
Allan Dwan (left) with Gloria Swanson


The Dancing Girl ; David Harum ; The Love Route ; The Commanding Officer ; May Blossom ; The Pretty Sister of Jose ; A Girl of Yesterday ; The Foundling ; Jordan Is a Hard Road (+ sc)


Betty of Greystone ; The Habit of Happiness ( Laugh and the World Laughs ) (+ sc); The Good Bad Man ( Passing Through ); An Innocent Magdalene ; The Half-Breed ; Manhattan Madness ; Fifty-Fifty (+ sc)


Panthea (+ sc); The Fighting Odds ; A Modern Musketeer (+ sc)


Mr. Fix-It (+ sc); Bound in Morocco (+ sc); He Comes up Smiling


Cheating Cheaters ; Getting Mary Married ; The Dark Star ; Soldiers of Fortune


The Luck of the Irish ; The Forbidden Thing (+ pr, co-sc)


A Perfect Crime (+ pr, sc); A Broken Doll (+ pr, sc); The Scoffer (+ pr); The Sin of Martha Queed (+ pr, sc); In the Heart of a Fool (+ pr)


The Hidden Woman (+ pr); Superstition (+ pr); Robin Hood


The Glimpses of the Moon (+ pr); Lawful Larceny (+ pr); Zaza (+ pr); Big Brother (+ pr)


A Society Scandal (+ pr); Manhandled (+ pr); Her Love Story (+ pr); Wages of Virtue ; Argentine Love (+ pr)


Night Life in New York (+ pr); Coast of Folly (+ pr); Stage Struck (+ pr)


Sea Horses (+ pr); Padlocked (+ pr); Tin Gods (+ pr); Summer Bachelors (+ pr)


The Music Master (+ pr); West Point (+ pr); The Joy Girl (+ pr); East Side, West Side (+ sc); French Dressing (+ pr)


The Big Noise (+ pr)


The Iron Mask ; Tide of Empire ; The Far Call ; Frozen Justice ; South Sea Rose


What a Widow! (+ pr); Man to Man


Chances ; Wicked


While Paris Sleeps


Her First Affaire ; Counsel's Opinion


The Morning After ( I Spy ); Hollywood Party (uncredited)


Black Sheep (+ sc); Navy Wife


Song and Dance Man ; Human Cargo ; High Tension ; 15 Maiden Lane


Woman-Wise ; That I May Live ; One Mile from Heaven ; Heidi


Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm ; Josette ; Suez


The Three Musketeers ; The Gorilla ; Frontier Marshal


Sailor's Lady ; Young People ; Trail of the Vigilantes


Look Who's Laughing (+ pr); Rise and Shine


Friendly Enemies ; Here We Go Again (+ pr)


Around the World (+ pr)


Up in Mabel's Room ; Abroad with Two Yanks


Brewster's Millions ; Getting Gertie's Garter


Rendezvous with Annie (+ co-pr)


Calendar Girl (+ co-pr); Northwest Outpost (+ co-pr); Driftwood


The Inside Story (+ pr); Angel in Exile


Sands of Iwo Jima


Surrender (+ co-pr)


Belle le Grand ; The Wild Blue Yonder


I Dream of Jeannie (with the Light Brown Hair) ; Montana Belle


Woman They Almost Lynched ; Sweethearts on Parade (+ co-pr)


Flight Nurse ; Silver Lode ; Passion ; Cattle Queen of Montana


It's Always Sunday (for Screen Director's Playhouse television series); Escape to Burma ; Pearl of the South Pacific ; Tennessee's Partner


Slightly Scarlet ; Hold Back the Night


The River's Edge ; The Restless Breed


Enchanted Island


Most Dangerous Man Alive


By DWAN: articles—

Interview with F.T. Pope, in Photoplay (New York), September 1923.

"Must Actors Have Temperament?" in Motion Picture (New York), February 1926.

"As It Was," in Making Films (New York), June 1971.

"What Directors Are Saying," in Action (Los Angeles), August 1971.

"Angel in Exile: Alan Dwan," interview with G. Morris and H. Mandelbaum, in Bright Lights (Los Angeles), no. 4, 1979.

On DWAN: books—

Brownlow, Kevin, The Parade's Gone By , London and New York, 1968.

Bogdanovich, Peter, Allan Dwan, the Last Pioneer , New York, 1971.

On DWAN: articles—

Sarris, Andrew, "Esoterica," in Film Culture (New York), Spring 1963.

Smith, J.M., "Allan Dwan," in Brighton Film Review , February 1970.

Schickel, Richard, "Good Days, Good Years," in Harper's (New York), October 1970.

"Six Pioneers," in Action (Los Angeles), November/December 1972.

Dorr, J.H., "Allan Dwan: Master of the American Folk Art of Filmmaking," in Take One (Montreal), September 1973.

Dorr, J., "The Griffith Tradition," in Film Comment (New York), March/April 1974.

Biette, J.C., "Allan Dwan, ou le cinéma nature," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), February 1982.

McGillivray, D., obituary, in Films and Filming (London), March 1982.

Fornara, B., "Allan Dwan," in Cineforum (Bergamo), May 1991.

* * *

Allan Dwan was a pioneer among pioneers. He, along with men like D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille, enjoyed careers that spanned the birth and the growth of the American motion picture industry. Active in the industry for over fifty years, Dwan participated in creating at least eight hundred films—his own estimate was 1,850. Most of these were one- to four-reel silents, of which some two-thirds are lost, and for that reason his career remains one which has never been properly assessed. The artistic disparity of his seventy-odd sound films fail to adequately represent this technically innovative, unpretentious, avid storyteller, and his career will surely undergo considerable re-evaluation as the study of film history progresses.

It was the scientific aspect of motion pictures that first attracted Dwan to the medium, and in 1909 he joined Essanay as a lighting man. He then joined the American Flying A Company as a writer, but soon found himself directing short films, mostly Westerns. He moved next to Universal, then to Famous Players, where in 1915 he introduced the dolly shot for David Harum and directed Mary Pickford in The Foundling. That same year Dwan joined Fine Arts-Triangle, where his films were supervised by D.W. Griffith. He directed many of Griffith's top stars, including Dorothy Gish in Betty of Greystone and her sister Lillian in An Innocent Magdalene. He once stated how impressed he was with the "economy of gesture" of Griffith's players. He credits Griffith with developing his clean, spare visual style, while Griffith frequently sought out Dwan for his technical knowledge. One such request resulted in Dwan's improvising an elevator on a moving track to film the massive sets of Intolerance.

Dwan also established his association with Douglas Fairbanks at Fine Arts-Triangle. This professional relationship resulted in collaboration on eleven films, including The Half-Breed, A Modern Musketeer, Bound in Morocco , and the celebrated Robin Hood , described by Robert Sherwood as "the high-water mark of film production" and "the farthest step that the silent drama has ever taken along the high road to art."

In 1923 Dwan directed his favorite film, Big Brother , which was about underprivileged boys, and then embarked on the first of eight buoyant comedies starring Gloria Swanson, the best of which were Zaza and Manhandled. With the arrival of sound, Dwan signed a long-term contract with Fox (1930–41), where he was unfortunately relegated to their B unit except for occasional reprieves—Shirley Temple's Heidi and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm , and Suez , much admired for its typhoon sequence. He then signed with producer Edward Small, for whom he directed a delightful quartet of farces— Up in Mabel's Room, Getting Gertie's Garter, Abroad with Two Yanks , and Brewster's Millions. He then unwisely signed an exclusive deal with Republic Pictures where, except for Sands of Iwo Jima , his creativity was constricted by studio head Herbert Yates. Moving to RKO, he persevered despite the many obstacles of 1950s filmmaking, churning out entertaining action films.

Dwan loved moviemaking and was described as the "last of the journeyman filmmakers" by Richard Roud. Of his self-imposed retirement in 1958, Dwan explained: "It was no longer a question of 'Let's get a bunch of people together and make a picture.' It's just a business that I stood as long as I could and I got out of it when I couldn't stand it any more."

—Ronald Bowers

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