Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios
June 5–July 8, 2013
Allan Dwan (1885–1981), dubbed “the last pioneer” by Peter Bogdanovich, had a 50-year career as a director (from 1911 to 1961) that encompasses the history of the classic American movie industry. During that span he made over 400 films, a substantial minority of which survive. The Museum of Modern Art presented a major retrospective of Dwan’s films in 1971, with Dwan in attendance, and while another exhibition was certainly due after 42 years, this series was prompted by the publication of Frederic Lombardi’s definitive study of Dwan’s work, Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the of the Hollywood Studios (McFarland, 2013).
Throughout his career Dwan remained the consummate professional, always fresh and creative, stylistically experimental and playful, and sometimes using his films to deal with personal obsessions and issues. As one critic put it, “Dwan is perhaps our sanest director—yet he is fearless, too, and continually presents something new, never traveling the beaten track in stories or action.” Lombardi’s book captures Dwan’s long journey in unprecedented detail, and this exhibition tries to do justice to the former’s scholarship and the latter’s artistry. There was—and never will be again—anyone like Allan Dwan.
Mr. Lombardi will be present for a book signing at 6:30 on Wednesday, June 5. He introduces The Iron Mask that night, and will return to introduce other films during the series. All films are from the U.S. and directed by Allan Dwan.
Bernie Anderson will provide piano accompaniment for screenings from June 5–9. Ben Model will provide piano accompaniment for screenings from June 10–20.
We would also like to call to your attention to Allan Dwan: A Dossier. The most comprehensive anthology on Dwan to date, it includes pieces in five languages alongside a series of visual essays; seminal pieces, long out-of-print, alongside original considerations by major film critics from around the world; and extensive overviews alongside individual articles on more than 40 of Dwan’s titles. Edited by David Phelps and Gina Telaroli for the international film journal Lumiere, the anthology is being published in its original language version, with full English and Spanish versions to follow. Each will be distributed as an e-book, free to all to download or read online. Like Dwan’s movies, they’re a labor of love.
Organized by Charles Silver, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, and Frederic Lombardi.
Special thanks to Dave Kehr, Cullen Gallagher, David Phelps, Gina Telaroli, Mark McElhatten, and Stephen Michael Shear. Prints supplied by George Eastman House, the Library of Congress, The UCLA Film and Television Archive, Martin Scorsese, Eric Spilker, and Ann Harris.
Related Film Screenings
1922. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan. With Douglas Fairbanks, Wallace Beery, Enid Bennett, Sam De Grasse. Dwan and Fairbanks’s recreation of medieval England, one of the most lavishly expensive films in history, cemented the director’s reputation for technical innovation and giganticism. Silent, with musical accompaniment. 122 min.
Trail of the Vigilantes
1940. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan. With Franchot Tone, Broderick Crawford, Peggy Moran, Andy Devine, Warren William. A comic Western in which, as Frederic Lombardi suggests, Dwan seems to be parodying his Frontier Marshal of the year prior. 75 min.
The Iron Mask
1929. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan. With Douglas Fairbanks, Marguerite de la Motte, Belle Bennett, William Bakewell, Nigel De Brulier. This is Fairbanks’s farewell to D’Artagnan, Dumas, and Allan Dwan, with whom he made 10 films. The movie sparkles with some of the lavishness typical of Hollywood filmmaking of the late 1920s. Silent, with musical accompaniment. 98 min.
1945. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan. With Dennis O’Keefe, Helen Walker, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Jun Havoc, Gail Patrick. Dwan spent most of the World War II period making, appropriately, small films with independent producer Edward Small. This particular property had been filmed many times before, but Dwan invests it with a contemporary screwball comedy feeling not unlike the work of Preston Sturges. 79 min.
Rendezvous with Annie
1946. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan. With Eddie Albert, Faye Marlowe, Gail Patrick, Philip Reed. C. Aubrey Smith. Another Sturges-like comedy began Dwan’s 14-film association with Republic Pictures, where the director “had all the freedom in the world.” Frederic Lombard’s book discusses with sensitivity the centrality of the personal issues Dwan deals with in this and several other of his films. 89 min.
1931. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan. With Elissa Landi, Victor McLaglen, Theodore von Eltz, Una Merkel. A dead gangster’s wife is sent to prison, where her newborn baby is taken away. 55 min.
15 Maiden Lane
1936. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan. With Claire Trevor, Cesar Romero, Douglas Fowley, Lloyd Nolan. Trevor masquerades as a jewel thief to trap Romero, but romance rears its ugly head. 64 min.
Woman They Almost Lynched
1953. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan. With Audrey Totter, Joan Leslie, John Lund, Brian Donlevy, Ben Cooper. One of Dwan’s last films for Republic is another parody Western. As Peter Bogdanovich has suggested, “Dwan was creating camp 20 years ahead of its time.” 90 min.
The Inside Story
1948. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan. With Marsha Hunt, William Lundigan, Charles Winninger, Gail Patrick, Gene Lockhardt. A Capraesque comedy set in rural Vermont, presaging 2013 progressive economic theory. 87 min.
1938. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan. With Tyrone Power, Loretta Young, Annabella, J. Edward Bromberg, Joseph Schildkraut. This entertaining saga of the building of the Suez Canal by Ferdinand de Lesseps provided ample evidence that Dwan still knew how to spend money when it was available to him. 104 min.
1942. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan. With Charles Winninger, Charles Ruggles, James Craig, Nancy Kelly, Otto Kruger. The first film Dwan made with Edward Small is an adaptation of a play about two Americanized Germans during World War I, one of whom retains loyalty to his roots. As part of Hollywood’s World War II war effort, he finally sees the light, amid much flag-waving. The ever-resourceful Dwan claimed to have shot the film in nine days. 95 min.
1947. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan. With Ruth Warrick, Walter Brennan, Natalie Wood, Dean Jagger, Charlotte Greenwood. In another of Dwan’s excursions into rural Americana (Bullfrog Springs, Nevada), the director recalls his skills as a mentor for children, with Shirley Temple now replaced by a young Natalie Wood, and dogs. 90 min.
The River’s Edge
1957. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan. With Ray Milland, Anthony Quinn, Debra Paget, Harry Carey, Jr. The brutal struggle of the two leading men to cross the Rio Grande with a wad of cash has been described by Dave Kehr as “a Field and Stream noir.” Although Dwan now had color and widescreen at his disposal, in a sense he returned to the outdoor location shooting of his Flying-A-and-Fairbanks youth. 87 min.
The Restless Breed
1957. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan. With Scott Brady, Anne Bancroft, Jim Davis, Scott Marlowe, Evelyn Rudie. Dwan’s final film for Fox, so central to his glory days in the 1930s, was made for “peanuts.” The movie is deceptively personal and possesses what Frederic Lombardi calls “a certain naive innocence” reminiscent of the director’s silent period. Black-and-white print. 81 min.
Around the World
1943. With Kay Kyser (and orchestra), Mischa Auer, Joan Davis, Ish Kabibble. Dwan’s zany, sometimes surprising contribution to the war effort is a kind of poor man’s Follow the Boys. 81 min.
Escape to Burma
1955. With Robert Ryan, Barbara Stanwyck, David Farrar, Murvyn Vye. Fugitive Ryan escapes to Stanwyck’s elephant plantation, pursued by government official Farrar. This print retains the ravishing color of the original, but lacks its widescreen dimensions. 87 min.
Sweethearts on Parade
1953. With Ray Middleton, Lucille Norman, Eileen Christie, Bill Shirley, Harry Carey, Jr. Although this musical evocation of 19th-century medicine shows was shot in Trucolor, it is sufficiently charming to justify a single showing of this black-and-white print. 90 min.
Several Allan Dwan experts, including author Frederic Lombardi, discuss his work and influence. Approx. 90 min.
1955. With John Payne, Rhonda Fleming, Ronald Reagan, Coleen Gray. One of Dwan’s last, and best, Westerns is built around Payne’s complex characterization of a gambler created by one of the director’s favorite writers, Bret Harte. 87 min.
1954. With John Payne, Dan Duryea, Lizabeth Scott, Harry Carey, Jr. Following his stint at Republic Pictures, Dwan united with producer Benedict Bogeaus for a series of 10 films, of which this politically engaged, action-packed Western is the first. He was also reunited with ace cinematographer John Alton, who had just won an Oscar for the An American in Paris ballet, and who photographed most of Dwan’s remaining films. 80 min.
Sands of Iwo Jima
1949. With John Wayne, John Agar, Adele Mara, Forrest Tucker. Dwan’s most famous film is his and Republic’s most expensive spectacle, and one of Wayne’s most iconic roles. Wayne was nominated for an Oscar (a nomination he should have gotten the same year for John Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, the performance that prompted Ford to the surprised realization that “the sonofabitch can act.”) Anyway, lock and load 108 min.
Most Dangerous Man Alive
1961. With Ron Randall,Debra Paget, Elaine Stewart, Anthony Caruso. Dwan’s last film, shot at the height of the sci-fi nuclear-menace cycle, provides an exceedingly strange coda to his extraordinary career. 82 min.
1956. With John Payne, Rhonda Fleming, Arlene Dahl, Ted De Corsia, Kent Taylor. Payne is reunited with Fleming in a powerful gangster film that challenged the censorship of its day. Peter Bogdanovich dubbed the film “compromised James M. Cain.” 99 min.
1958. With Dana Andrews, Jane Powell, Don Dubbins, Frederick Ledebur. Dwan’s last studio project is an adaptation of Herman Melville’s first novel, Typee, about two sailors who jump ship in the Marquesas Islands, where cannibalism is an issue. Although the film boasts some visual beauty, it is over-talky, with Andrews given lines like this evaluation of Powell: “You don’t find cannibals that pretty.” Slightly abridged version. 87 min.
The Iron Mask
1929. USA. Allan Dwan. 98 min.
The Fighting Odds
1917. USA. Allan Dwan. Approx. 45 min.
The Thief's Wife
1912. USA. Allan Dwan. Approx. 10 min.
1912. USA. Allan Dwan. Approx. 10 min.
Calamity Anne’s Ward
1912. USA. Allan Dwan. Approx. 10 min.
Man to Man
1930. USA. Allan Dwan. 68 min.
A Modern Musketeer
1917. USA. Allan Dwan. Approx. 60 min.
1916. USA. Allan Dwan. Approx. 60 min.
1931. USA. Allan Dwan. 71 min.
The Mother of the Ranch
1911. USA. Allan Dwan. 11 min.
1915. USA. Allan Dwan. 60 min.
One Mile from Heaven
1937. USA. Allan Dwan. 68 min.
1923. USA. Allan Dwan. 80 min.
While Paris Sleeps
1932. USA. Allan Dwan. 61 min.
1939. USA. Allan Dwan. 71 min.
1924. USA. Allan Dwan. Approx. 60 min.
East Side, West Side
1927. USA. Allan Dwan. 90 min.
15 Maiden Lane
1936. USA. Allan Dwan. 64 min.
1931. USA. Allan Dwan. 55 min.
1922. USA. Allan Dwan. 122 min.
1925. USA. Allan Dwan. 75 min.