Allan Dwan — Directors I Have Met (1923) 🇬🇧

Allan Dwan (1920) |

September 07, 2023

Of course, a number of people have been famous athletes, have qualified as electrical engineers, but just how many could direct a picture like Robin Hood and make a big success? And so Mr. Dwan has selected his career wisely.

by Elizabeth Lonergan

The director to whom you are introduced was born in Canada. Though most of his life has been spent in the States, you would guess his nationality, his athletic type suggesting the North, from which he came as a small boy to Chicago. The “Windy City” appealed to the Dwans, though the stiff breezes from Lake Michigan are usually unfriendly to newcomers, who find the blasts anything but pleasant upon chill wintry days. This was the city of his boyhood, and the city which gave him his first chance in the vocation in which he was to become a prominent figure later on. Between these two come the college days at Notre Dame University, a school famous for its athletes as well as for its scholastic standing. Allan came into his own there, and was a famous figure on the football field, playing quarter-back.

I heard of his college record while in South America. Speaking of moving pictures, a Peruvian gentleman asked if I had ever heard of his clever class-mate at Notre Dame, and told me of some of Allan’s accomplishments at the University. He starred in his subject, and after graduation taught electrical engineering for a while, was the most prominent football player and athlete, shone in amateur theatricals — in fact, was one of their most distinguished pupils.

After teaching a while, he decided to try the stage, and, because of his association with the dramatic club, was chosen for a role in a Chicago all-star production at one of the little theatres. In the meantime, he wrote a play — the greatest in the world, he thought it — and took a trip to New York to dispose of it. How different that trip was from those he makes to-day! Then he counted his pennies. Now the best is none too good for him. When he speaks of that adventure, he graphically describes his disappointment. The play did not sell, and practically everything he possessed of value had to be sold to make the trip back to Chicago.

How many of you remember the old Essanay pictures, with “Broncho Billy,” the “Sheriff,” and a lot of old familiar characters who played in thrilling Wild West pictures of one and two reels back in 1911 or ‘12? Perhaps you sent them scenarios — they were in the market for them — and if you received a couple of pounds felt yourself amply repaid? It was at the old Essanay Studio in Chicago that Mr. Dwan made his start with a little no-account story that pleased so well that he was asked to submit others. Soon he became a regular writer upon the staff, then wrote for the American, and journeyed to San Diego as editor and writer for that picture organisation. In the California Studio he often directed one of his own pictures, and naturally drifted into the work. An excellent school, but if he had not had real genius that would probably have been the beginning — and the end — of our story.

Here are some of his pictures: “Wild Flower,” with Marguerite Clark; “Panthea” (Norma Talmadge); “Cheating Cheaters” (Clara Kimball Young); three Douglas Fairbanks [Douglas Fairbanks Sr.] pictures — “Mr. Fix-It,” “He Comes Up Smiling,” and “Heading South.” Also “Soldiers of Fortune,” five other independent productions, and, very recently, Robin Hood, which has been pronounced by many the greatest picture of the year.

Allan Dwan — Directors I Have Met (1923) |

Allan Dwan, and his giant megaphone used in directing Robin Hood.

Collection: Picturegoer Magazine, March 1923


see also other entries of the Directors I Have Met series: