Allan Dwan

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Allan Dwan
Dwan in 1920
Joseph Aloysius Dwan

(1885-04-03)April 3, 1885
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
DiedDecember 28, 1981(1981-12-28) (aged 96)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Occupation(s)Film director
Film producer
Years active1911–1961; 1980
Spouse(s)Pauline Bush (1915–1919)
Marie Shelton (1927–1949)

Allan Dwan (born Joseph Aloysius Dwan; April 3, 1885 – December 28, 1981) was a pioneering Canadian-born American motion picture director, producer, and screenwriter.

Early life[edit]

Born Joseph Aloysius Dwan in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Dwan was the younger son of commercial traveler of woolen clothing Joseph Michael Dwan (1857–1917) and his wife Mary Jane Dwan (née Hunt). The family moved to the United States when he was seven years old on December 4, 1892, by ferry from Windsor to Detroit, according to his naturalization petition of August 1939. His elder brother, Leo Garnet Dwan (1883–1964), became a physician.

Allan Dwan studied engineering at the University of Notre Dame and then worked for a lighting company in Chicago. He had a strong interest in the fledgling motion picture industry, and when Essanay Studios offered him the opportunity to become a scriptwriter, he took the job.[1] At that time, some of the East Coast movie makers began to spend winters in California where the climate allowed them to continue productions requiring warm weather. Soon, a number of movie companies worked there year-round, and in 1911, Dwan began working part-time in Hollywood. While still in New York, in 1917 he was the founding president of the East Coast chapter of the Motion Picture Directors Association.[2]


Dwan started his directing career by accident in 1911, when he was sent by his employers to California, in order to locate a company that had vanished. Dwan managed to track the company down, and learned that they were waiting for the film's director (who was an alcoholic) to return from a binge (and allowing them to return to work). Dwan wired back to his employers in Chicago, informing them of the situation, and suggested that they disband the company. They wired back, instructing Dwan to direct the film. When Dwan informed the company of the situation, and that their jobs were on the line, they responded: "You're the best damn director we ever saw".[3]

Dwan operated Flying A Studios in La Mesa, California, from August 1911 to July 1912.[4][5] Flying A was one of the first motion pictures studios in California history. On August 12, 2011, a plaque was unveiled on the Wolff building at Third Avenue and La Mesa Boulevard commemorating Dwan and the Flying A Studios origins in La Mesa, California.

After making a series of westerns and comedies, Dwan directed fellow Canadian-American Mary Pickford in several very successful movies as well as her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, notably in the acclaimed 1922 Robin Hood. Dwan directed Gloria Swanson in eight feature films, and one short film made in the short-lived sound-on-film process Phonofilm. This short, also featuring Thomas Meighan and Henri de la Falaise, was produced as a joke, for the April 26, 1925 "Lambs' Gambol" for The Lambs, with the film showing Swanson crashing the all-male club.

Following the introduction of the talkies, Dwan directed child-star Shirley Temple in Heidi (1937) and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938).

Dwan helped launch the career of two other successful Hollywood directors, Victor Fleming, who went on to direct The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind, and Marshall Neilan, who became an actor, director, writer and producer. Over a long career spanning almost 50 years, Dwan directed 125 motion pictures, some of which were highly acclaimed, such as the 1949 box office hit, Sands of Iwo Jima. He directed his last movie in 1961.[6]

Being one of the last surviving pioneers of the cinema, he was interviewed at length for the 1980 documentary series Hollywood.[3]

He died in Los Angeles at the age of 96, and is interred in the San Fernando Mission Cemetery, Mission Hills, California.

Dwan has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6263 Hollywood Boulevard.

Daniel Eagan of Film Journal International described Dwan as one of the early pioneers of cinema, stating that his style "is so basic as to seem invisible, but he treats his characters with uncommon sympathy and compassion."[7]

Partial filmography as director[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brownlow, Kevin (1969). The Parade's Gone By... New York: Ballantine Books, Inc. p. 111.
  2. ^ Fournier, Pierre (December 4, 2010). "The first Frankenstein of the movies". io9. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  3. ^ a b "The Man with the Megaphone". Hollywood. Episode 10. March 11, 1980.
  4. ^ "La mesa to honor its tinseltown roots aug. 12–13".
  5. ^ "Proto-Hollywood: 100 Melodramas Were Made In La Mesa 100 Years Ago". August 10, 2011.
  6. ^ "Allan Dwan, Filmography". American Film Institute. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  7. ^ Eagan, Daniel (January 31, 2018). "MoMA's Republic Pictures series offers B-movie rediscoveries and restorations". Film Journal International. Prometheus Global Media, LLC. Archived from the original on January 31, 2018. Retrieved February 1, 2018.

Further reading[edit]

Print ISBN 978-0-7864-3485-5 E-book ISBN 978-0-7864-9040-0

External links[edit]