New York, April 8, 2013
Former Variety mugg Fred Lombardi has just published a book in the States on the film pioneer Allan Dwan. Over seven years of research went into the project. The publication of the work, Alan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios, with 158 photos and 384 pages, softcover, selling for $75, comes in conjunction with several events honoring Dwan, including a one-month retrospective of Dwan’s films at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in early June and another at the Bologna Film Festival in Italy.
“I must say that I didn’t embark on this journey until I knew I had a publisher. McFarland & Co. Inc., Publishing was interested after reading my proposal but would not commit to the project until I submitted an outline of the book with all its chapters and then with samples of chapters. After they were satisfied by all that, I was offered a contract for the book.
“Allan Dwan has long been a favorite among certain dedicated film buffs, cultists and auteur critics. His career had one of the earliest starts of any major American director as he made his first film in 1911 and continued until 1961. Yet he remained very difficult to define. John Ford could be summed up for his dedication to tradition in Westerns, military films and other genres, Alfred Hitchcock as the master of suspense, Raoul Walsh for his love of adventure. But while critics and fans saw something very personal in Dwan’s work, they were tongue-tied or simply unable to come up with a simple way to tag his work. So I decided to take a crack at this puzzle.
“Film buffs did seem entertained and satisfied that they at least knew the basic facts of his life by Dwan’s own narrative of his career in Peter Bogdanovich’s book-length interview with him in the acclaimed Allan Dwan: the Last Pioneer. I thought that by digging up some more facts to supplement that grand interview and catching up with dozens of Dwan movies I could unlock the remaining mysteries to his career. I gave McFarland an initial estimate of one year for doing the book.
“But as I began by going through copies of journals like Moving Picture World and Motion Picture News, which were covering movies years before Variety did, in film’s very infancy, I found myself unearthing a detailed history of movies of which I had known little. I discovered many other Dwan interviews through the years. I also recognized that as film directors were basically entertainers, they were often ready to substitute a good yarn for what really happened. Some errors or confusions caused by the passage of time also worked their way into their accounts. Dwan may have been actually more truthful than a majority of his contemporaries but still much was simplified or distorted in his accounts, though at times he was amazingly accurate.
“It was difficult to find a pattern for truthfulness. An account that had been accepted as gospel and reprinted in numerous publications would turn out to be false. On another occasion, where a major film historian thought one of Dwan’s stories lacked credibility, I found evidence that Dwan was telling the truth. I was ready to dismiss another one of Dwan’s tales as a fabrication, since he seemed to always tell it a different way, only to find some proof that his basic story was true.
“The work that I thought would take one year would wind up taking over seven years.
“In addition to following a paper path through various libraries and archives, my research also constituted tracking down various survivors of Dwan’s association. Dwan was childless. But after several years I finally managed to locate Dwan’s goddaughter who had been like a granddaughter to him. And she was able to supply me with both fascinating stories and photographs.
“I can say that all the major questions I had about Dwan at the outset were answered by the time I finished this book. Still more questions were raised during my quest but some will have to remain for future exploring as my fascination with the man and his work remains.
“Finally, in my Acknowledgments (which can be read on Amazon), I cited a number of my Variety friends for services rendered both in connection with the book and for past inspiration. The good memories of a number of those friends helped bolster my morale as I worked on this book.”
More information on Fred’s book can be found at: http://www.mcfarlandpub.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-3485-5
For info on the MoMa retro, click on: http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/films/1374