July 2, 2013 — Variety mugg Fred Lombardi was the star of a four-person panel discussion on filmmaker Allan Dwan at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City.
Fred authored the just-published book “Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios” (McFarland & Co. publishing 2013) and Dwan is object of a MoMA film retrospective.
Dwan was a prolific director, writer and producer whose career in the moves started in 1911 and extended well into talkies (1961). His body of work includes many well-remembered films — John Wayne war drama “The Sands of Iwo Jima,” Shirley Temple in “Heidi” and Douglas Fairbanks Sr. in the silent swashbuckler “Robin Hood.” But there are no cinema masterpieces, which accounts for his relative obscurity, though in total his body of work is impressive. He made movies for Paramount Pictures, Republic Pictures, RKO Radio Pictures, 20th Century Fox United Artists and Universal Pictures.
Fred noted that Dawn can’t be stereotyped—which may account for being something of a “lost pioneer”– because his films touched many genres—musical, drama and comedy. His films also showed no consistent political leanings. His work in talkies is praised for brilliant visual shots, which Fred attributes to Dwan’s background in silent films where visuals are critical. Dwan films are also noted for strong female characters. While Dwan didn’t have masterpiece films, all his surviving films are considered a cut above.
Other speakers on the MoMA panel who also studied Dwan were moderator/retrospective organizer Charles Silver, and also film experts Gina Telaroli, Cullen Gallagher and Howard Mandelbaum. Mandelbaum interviewed Dwan before his death in 1981. Fred displayed an encyclopedic knowledge of Dwan, Hollywood history and provided insightful interpretation.
The book “Dwan-Rise/Decline” is a hefty 285,00 words (most books weigh in around 80,000 words) and its well-crafted prose is accompanied by many sharp pictures that make for a great visual package. Several Variety staffers are cited in the acknowledgements. Fred worked seven years assembling the book.
Earlier the same day, Fred also introduced a screening of a mostly forgotten Dwan film—Sweethearts on Parade (1953). Despite only having a poor quality print, the movie was a hit because the MoMA audience exploded into applause at the end.
– Robert & Marie Marich