Volume for the retrospective 2002, dedicated to Allan Dwan
Joseph Aloysius Dwan was born on 3 April 1885 in Toronto to an Irish father called Joseph Michael, a cloth salesman, and to Mary Hunt. He died in Los Angeles, 96 years later, on 28 December 1981. A legend has sprung up according to which Allan Dwan made almost 1000 films, 500 is a more realistic number: a formidable body of work by anyone’s standards, which no retrospective in the world could ever fully give justice to. Allan Dwan was one of those artists whose only desire lay in staying “behind the scenes”. He was a craftsman who loved to bring others into le limelight, and Dwan’s films were almost always better known than their director would ever be. Robin Hood or The Iron Mask with Douglas Fairbanks, Heidi with Shirley Temple, Frontier Marshal with Randolph Scott, Sands of Iwo Jima starring John Wayne, Cattle Queen of Montana discovering Barbara Stanwyck, Tennessee’s Partner with Rhonda Fleming: can you remember them? The “Dawn’s Touch”, his unique trademark was the consummate professionalism of his direction, an elegant technique where “less is more”, and an emphasis on emotion and spectacular images. Who could call Allan Dawn “The Thin Man” for the transparent elegance of his direction and his seemingly inexhaustible ability to surprise us, as he made films about the public and not merely for the public. A look at his astonishing filmography reveals a personal story that evolved in parallel with the evolution of Hollywood. Our hero was a unique witness to the passage of time as he worked through the five decades that revolutionised the film industry forever. That is also why the tribute organised by the 55th Locarno International Film Festival is an important stepping stone to the re-visitation of this extraordinary filmmaker.
“We write with the camera and not with the pen – Dawn said – and we must never forget that”.
Edited by Giorgio Gosetti. With contributions from Irene Bignardi, Jean-Loup Bourget, Kevin Brownlow, Hervé Dumont, Giorgio Gosetti, Michael Henry Wilson, Kent Jones, Bill Krohn, Jacques Lourcelles, Davis Robinson.