The Dwan Patrol

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I’ll be attending Il Cinema Ritrovato, the wonderful archival festival sponsored by the Cineteca di Bologna, from Friday, June 28 to Sunday, July 7, where I’m helping out with the programming and presentation of a tidy little Allan Dwan series (if I do say so myself). We’ll be showing films from all of Dwan’s several major periods, from a collection of his early one-reelers on Sat., June 29 at 6:30, to Dwan’s final film, the 1961 “Most Dangerous Man Alive,” on Sat., July 6, at 6:15 pm. I’m looking forward to meeting old friends (hello, Antti!) and making new ones, so please introduce yourself if you’re attending. One particular highlight for me will be the discussion with Kevin Brownlow on Monday at 4:15, which is bound to be full of personal insights into Dwan’s life and work from the film historian who knew him best.

Meanwhile, the massive, multi-lingual Dwan dossier edited by David Phelps and Gina Telaroli for the online publication Lumiere is available as a free PDF download here. The 460 pages of goodness include essays by Michael Henry Wilson, Bill Krohn, Jean-Loup Bourget, Chris Fujiwara, R. Emmet Sweeney, Farran Nehme, Maxime Renaudin, Cullen Gallagher, Fernando F. Croce, Daniel Kasman, Joe McElhaney, Christoph Huber, my own self and many others. With Frederic Lombardi’s scrupulously researched biography, Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios“>”Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios” appearing earlier this year, 2013 is turning out to be a watershed moment for Dwan studies. After decades of neglect, this amazingly prolific and unshakably personal filmmaker is finally being ushered into the ranks of the foremost American directors.

For folks in the New York area, the extensive Dwan series that Charles Silver has curated for MoMA continues through July 8. On Tues., July 2 at 4 pm, Frederic Lombardi will introduce one of Dwan’s most accomplished and moving films, the Republic musical “Sweethearts on Parade” (my piece on it is included in the Lumiere collection); unfortunately, because no good prints of this Trucolor production survive (and Paramount’s promised restoration has not yet appeared), the film will be shown in a black and white 16-millimeter print, which is hardly the best way to see it but that the way the world is right now. A panel discussion of Dwan’s work follows at 7 pm, featuring Mr. Lombardi and Ms. Telaroli, as well as the film historian (and personal friend of Dwan) Howard Mandelbaum, and the critic Cullen Gallagher.

125 comments to The Dwan Patrol

  • Barry, being ironic and satirical is always tricky because you never know whether you’ll be properly understood, unless you’re talking to people who know you well. So I’m glad you brought it up. What I meant was that a random quote from Krugman about a film has no more value than to say “A guy on the subway said THE HORSE SOLDIERS prettifies war.” Krugman is a Nobel-prize winning economist but since we know nothing of his views and knowledge about films in general, and the quote didn’t explain how and why he felt the way he did, it’s meaningless. To say that Sarris or Kehr didn’t like a film might mean something even without knowing their particular reasons for not liking it, because we know them and their views on films. That’s not the case with Krugman. I just read “Identity and Violence” by Amartya Sen and he makes some dismissive remarks about REAR WINDOW in it, but I wouldn’t use his remarks when discussing Hitchcock.

    Drifting on to other subjects we do often do but that’s not a problem, and I don’t think you’ve said anything on any subject that would be out of place, here or elsewhere. You’re too intelligent for that.

    About Seiler, I actually did mean that I wanted to check out his films based on me liking the title DUST BE MY DESTINY. But I only meant that I came across the title, said to myself “What a great title!” and then when reading that it was a drama with John Garfield felt that I might as well watch it, and then when I saw that it was directed by Seiler, a person I had never heard of, I thought that I should see what else he had done. But I am getting ahead of myself because I haven’t actually managed to watch DUST yet. If I hate it I might perhaps not proceed with my Seiler investigation.

    Foster, I’m glad you liked it! It’s really something!

  • David [Bordwell] was once talking with a distinguished literary scholar who would have been appalled if someone in a university had never heard of Faulkner or Thomas Mann. But when David said he admired many Japanese films, the scholar asked incredulously, “All those Godzilla movies?”
    – Kristin Thompson

  • Bologna remarks part IV: post festum.

    Further to MOST DANGEROUS MAN ALIVE (1961): in Allan Dwan’s remarks in Peter Bogdanovich’s book he tells that the cast and the crew were cheated by the producer Benedict Bogeaus to shoot in one week the movie that should have been shot in five. “Nobody cared a damn”. Doomed to be ruined, the film is still surprisingly powerful.

    Shown in Bologna’s Dwan retro was also EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE (1927) the brilliant MoMA restoration of which I have seen in Pordenone in a wonderful film concert by Donald Sosin and his orchestra. There was a special frisson in that screening of this Titanic-inspired movie as it was screened one month after the 11 September of 2001.

    Bologna was too much for one man, but I’m happy that I got to see seven Chris Marker films, including rarities. OLYMPIA 52 (1952), Marker’s sole mainstream feature film, was shot in Helsinki! DESCRIPTION D’UN COMBAT (1960) is a memorable essay about Israel. LE JOLI MAI (1962) was seen in a new definitive restored version from AFF/CNC. The print of A VALPARAISO (1963) directed by Joris Ivens and written by Marker was the most beautiful of the festival.

    There were top digital restorations from World Cinema Foundation. I got to sample Bahram Beyzaei’s RAGBAR (Iran 1971) which I’ll need to see again in its entirety. Nobody is better in digital restoration than Sony Columbia, as confirmed by feats such as THE SWIMMER (1968) and EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (1962). There was an inspired San Francisco double bill of EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (restored in 4K) and SUDDEN FEAR (restored in 2K). The opportunity to compare restorations in different definitions was illuminating.

    Photochemical restoration is alive and well in achievements such as The Swedish Film Institute’s THE OUTLAW AND HIS WIFE (Victor Sjöström, 1918). The full image is again intact, important in daring compositions in which tiny characters appear on mountain tops. The impression of tinting has been conducted subtly enough for the glimpse of the eyes to retain its impact.

    The remarkable “A Hundred Years Ago” project came to a finish with films made during 1913, “the final year of the long 19th century”, following Eric Hobsbawm’s definition. The diva phenomenon blossomed out with stars such as Lyda Borelli in MA L’AMOR MIO NON MUORE! (But My Love Will Never Die!). Giovani Enrico Vidali’s SPARTACO presented one of the cinema’s first muscleman heroes a year before the introduction of Maciste in CABIRIA. 1913 was “the fateful year” when Cecil B. DeMille started his film career and Georges Méliès ended his. LE CHEVALIER DES NEIGES, the penultimate film of Méliès, was screened in a memorable colour print from Tokyo’s Komiya Collection. The most symbolic final film of the retrospective was Enrico Guazzoni’s QUO VADIS? which conveys a robust passion in early cinema mode. The cinema was in a great turning-point, and so was the world on the eve of the World War.

    Further highlights included NINE LIVES (Arne Skouen, Norway 1957), a great survival story, mountaineering story, and Resistance story. Of Robert Benayoun’s tv production BONJOUR MR. LEWIS (1982) I saw the first episode. For a non-American it completely changes the view of Jerry Lewis. His wildest and craziest stuff is not in the movies, as you Americans have always known. There is a nice Pierre Étaix animation of Jerry Lewis during the opening credits.

  • Vivian

    Would it be beyond the pale to modify (or add to, or clarify)one’s opinion of Paul Krugman, Amartya Sen, or a random distinguished literary scholar based on his freely given thoughts on Ford, Hitchcock, or Japanese films? Is a cat allowed to look at a king?

  • Barry Putterman

    Fredrik, what you say about Krugman’s views of film is, of course true. But it does get complicated by the fact that he is at the very least as interested in being a public celebrity and political mover/shaker as he is in being a dismal scientist. He is on television or being read in newspapers often enough so that people feel that they have a well rounded picture of his entire sensibility. And that, as such, his views on movies is just an extension of his world view in general. And therefore, many are wiling to give his opinions of THE HORSE SOLDIERS more weight than if they had come from say, Alice Rivlin, or somebody overheard on the subway.

    I don’t think you will hate DUST BE MY DESTINY, but you may be stating at the top of the Seiler food chain there. It is one of the films which came in the wake of the success of FOUR DAUGHTERS (in this case, building on the John Garfield-Priscilla Lane pairing) and has quite a number of Warner Brothers studio stye elements giving it a great deal of momentum. The Robert Rossen screenplay is a big help, for instance. It gets a little dicier the further along you get into Seiler’s output. But seeing movies is always time well spent, and if seeing Seiler films ultimately becomes too tedious, you could always switch over to reading some Paul Krugman.

  • Barry Putterman

    And yes Vivian, MY cat looks at kings all the time and is generally unimpressed. Further, Krugman’s analysis of Ford ‘s picture of war seems right in keeping with everything else I know about his sensibility.

  • Alex

    x359594

    I can easily see how my recurrent criticisms of THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALENCE might be seen to entail “antipathy” toward it.

    Actually, my criticisms are only directed toward the –for me– utterly mysterious view that it’s a great film and one of Ford’s best.

    As a film centered not on the “order from the barrel of a gun” allegory of the Doniphon-Stoddard-Valance parable but the “passing of a particular way of life and the community that sustained it” the film has no power for me, while CLEMENTINE, and even aspects of the life of the Cavalry trilogy Indian War outposts, have exactly the the power you suggest.

    In part this may be because find the film’S cinematography and design pale (in a 60-ish TV–superior TV- sort of way), its mise-en-scène –and community evocation– thin and the Valance performance bizzarely clownish. (I do think the narratve moves crisply around strong performaces by Stewart and, especially Wayne; and I do think the film — like the locally highly touted SUN SHINES BRIGHT –rich with cross reference to other Ford films.)

    BTW, which is the legend we should NOT print nor praise –that of Doniphon as social champion or of Stoddard as social champion? (Isn’t celebration of Doniphon largely reaffirmation of the “order from the barrel of a gun” message and of the pro-vigilante strands in Ford Westerns –dramatically effective in STAGECOACH, but intellectually and morally uncongenial to me?)

  • My cat Harry WAS royalty. As my mother used to say, “Remember Mike, Harry is royalty and you are only a commoner.”

    Best guess here about Lewis Seiler, after seeing a handful of films: He is Lightly Likable. Among his more pleasant works:
    The Tom Mix silent THE GREAT K&A TRAIN ROBBERY. Based on a Western novel even older than THE VIRGINIAN.
    FLIGHT ANGELS. An air adventure in the 1920′s-1940′s sub-genre much practiced by Frank Capra and Lew Landers.
    MOLLY AND ME. A comedy with Gracie Fields.
    No list alas.
    Will be interested in further ideas people post here on Seiler.

    Krugman and that lit professor are not quite the same.
    Paul Krugman is offering a judgement on THE HORSE SOLDIERS, a film he has seen. I disagree with his views, but he is entitled to his opinion.

    By contrast, that literary scholar cited by Kristin Thompson believes that all Japanese films consist of Godzilla pics. That man is both ignorant and factually wrong. There is something both shameful and shocking about this.

  • THE OUTLAW AND HIS WIFE (Victor Sjöström, 1918) is a classic- a wonderful movie everyone should see.
    It has been widely hailed by film historians for decades.
    But one suspects that it is not really much viewed.

    In some ways, it is like a Western.
    Only it takes place in the frontier of 18th Century Iceland.

  • Barry Putterman

    Alex, I was hoping to sit out this chapter of your eternal LIBERTY VALANCE campaign and just hop on for the next round about the matte shot in MARNIE. However, since you seem to be confused about basic plot points, the “legend” quite literally is that Stoddard IS the man who shot Liberty Valance.

    And I’m not in agreement with the argument being made here that it is a lie. It is a social myth; like the one about the guy who was president at the time that LIBERTY VALANCE was made being a great civil rights champion. Ford is suggesting that all social orders, ideologies, religions, etc. are held together by complex combinations of facts and myths which result in the dubious progress of what we like to call civilization. I might have known about that in high school, but it didn’t come from any of the texts or teachers I had there.

    By the way, what exactly is it that bothers you about the notion that a sadistic bully could also be a buffoon at the same time?

  • Antti, NINE LIVES has been called the best Norwegian film of all times, although I do feel that it might be more for its portrayal of the resistance against the Nazi occupation rather than any specific artistic merits.

    Barry and Vivian, my point is that everybody is of course entitled to have opinions about anything, but unless they are explained and motivated they are not necessarily of special value just because the person who uttered them is well-known and respected. My views on economics and society and such are often in alignment with both Sen and Krugman so that is not an issue here. I usually read Krugman’s columns in the New York Times, or rather, in the International Herald Tribune, and I’ve read a few of Sen’s books. They’re not all about films.

    THE OUTLAW AND HIS WIFE is one of the peak achievements from a great period of Swedish silent cinema, and Victor Sjöström’s importance and influence in the development of the art form (at least from Ingeborg Holm (1913) and onwards) deserves to be highlighted. Who here has seen Ingeborg Holm by the way? It might be the world’s first feature-length masterpiece!

    Mike and Barry, much appreciate your thoughts on Seiler. I now feel thoroughly motivated to get on with my exploration. More words will follow, on this and many other subjects.

  • To get back to the main topic of the hour, here’s Kevin Brownlow speaking about Allan Dwan: http://vimeo.com/69486753

  • “Ford is suggesting that all social orders, ideologies, religions, etc. are held together by complex combinations of facts and myths which result in the dubious progress of what we like to call civilization.”

    True Barry, but historians also speak of the “founding lie” descriptively and not normatively, but “lie” here is too simple, and you’re description above is more accurate and comprehensive.

  • Fredrik, wonderful, Kevin Brownlow’s entire Allan Dwan show is there! INGEBORG HOLM had a distinguished place in Bologna’s “A Hundred Years Ago” retrospective. 1913 was already quite a year for feature films, long serials and multi-part films: ATLANTIS (Blom), L’ENFANT DE PARIS (Perret), FANTOMAS (Feuillade), GERMINAL (Capellani), THE MYSTERIOUS X (Christensen), LA LUTTE POUR LA VIE (Leprince & Zecca), MAUDITE SOIT LA GUERRE (Machin), THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (Starewicz), RAJA HARISCHANDRA (Phalke), THE STUDENT OF PRAGUE (Rye), TWILIGHT OF A WOMAN’S SOUL (Bauer), TRAFFIC IN SOULS (Tucker), THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEI (Caserini), LES MISERABLES (Capellani), THE THREE MUSKETEERS (Calmettes & Pouctal)… Cecil B. DeMille started his film career in 1913, but his debut movie THE SQUAW MAN had its premiere in February 1914.

  • Yes, 1913 was a remarkable year, a fact not always remembered!

  • Alex

    Barry,

    You seem to have never caught on that the The Marnie matte shot issue was settled by the interviews in Kapsis’ “Hitchcock” (1990).

    Yes, the questions is whether to print the legend, not which
    legend to print.

    There are degrees of buffoonery unsuitable to a given aesthetic context.

    On moving beyong buffoonery — Katzenjammer scholarship in particular– on factual matters, in the 18th century, many persons of English descent harbored resentment towards the increasing number of German settlers. Benjamin Franklin in “Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, etc.”, complained about the increasing influx of German Americans, stating that they had a negative influence on the early United States. The only exception were Germans of Saxon descent “who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth. I could wish their Numbers were increased”. However,,
    unlike most European immigrant groups, whose colloquial acceptance as white came gradually over the course of the late 19th century, German immigrants quickly became accepted as white (David R. Roediger, “The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class,” 1991.)

  • Barry Putterman

    Alex, I don’t know what the hell this post of yours is about, but at least it wasn’t about John Ford.

  • Alex

    On more Ford material, finally got and viewed a full 90 minutes of SUN SHINES BRIGHT in Olive’s prestine new version and — the oddity of even communitarian Ford’s extreme affection for Irvin S. Cobb’s 1990ish Kentucky aside– the delicate filigrees and shadings of the film’s characterizations and emotions, especially in the final funeral and election centered reel, are beautiful. TOO beautiful for much concern about the film’s very mixed bag of social affirmations.

    Why so many idocyncratic Ford loves and obsessions find more seemimgly impassioned expression in Cobb’s Kentucky than nearly all other Ford locales –QUIET MAN’S Ireland being one possible excpetion –seems an interesting question.

  • Gregg Rickman

    Fredrik, per your query, I have seen INGEBORG HOLM, and like it, as I do all of Victor Sjöström’s films that I’ve seen. He had a wonderful feeling for landscape, which of course is central to THE OUTLAW AND HIS WIFE, but his interest in human psychology is already present in INGEBORG HOLM, which could be profitably compared to THE WIND.

    I also like all of the “Puffin” Asquith films that I’ve seen. His films of THE BROWNING VERSION and THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST are in fact *films*, not filmed plays. I commend Fredrik’s essay on Asquith (linked above) to readers of this site.

  • Gregg Rickman

    Before this thread slips over the horizon, I’d like to welcome John Heath, whose post on THE HORSE SOLDIERS (July 8 at 12:24 pm) slipped past me at the time listed, I assume because of the long pause Dave’s software takes when someone new tries to post. I didn’t spot John’s post, in other words, until I went back a page to check on the discussion thread on Lewis Seiler… and there it was.

    John’s comment is intelligent, thoughtful, and whether we agree or disagree, clearly based on direct observation of the film. So you clearly don’t fit in with us! [Insert winking emoticon]

  • Thanks again Gregg!

    THE BROWNING VERSION has one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, Michael Redgrave’s. I gave a talk once almost solely based on one scene in that film (when his character, a teacher, breaks down in tears after a student is being kind to him, while usually they taunt him and dislikes him).

  • Barry Putterman

    A hearty second to Gregg’s welcoming of John Heath. I suppose that it was our host’s internet troubles in Italy which delayed the posting of his comments on THE HORSE SOLDIERS, but they are well worth scrolling back to the previous page to read. I hope that you will continue contributing here John, even on those rare occasions when we are not talking about John Ford.

    And Fredrik, way back in the late 70s, when the Thalia was showing such films as WOMAN THEY ALMOST LYNCHED, the Museum of Modern Art had a Sjostrom/Stiller series which included INGEBORG HOLM. The film remains in my memory, as does the simultaneous translation by Eva Johansson.

  • jbryant

    Yeah, if I’d seen John Heath’s eloquent comment on THE HORSE SOLDIERS, I could have foregone my own redundant point a few posts down. Great stuff.

  • John Heath

    Thanks for the welcome and the nice comments, guys. I always enjoy reading the highly literate discussion here, and (like many of you) John Ford is a favorite topic of mine. I wish I could have joined in the Allan Dwan fun, but I’ve only scratched the surface of this great director’s filmography.

    Barry, I particularly agree with your earlier comments on LIBERTY VALANCE, and count myself among those who consider it one of Ford’s great masterpieces. It just illuminates the contradictions at the heart of the American experience – it’s beauties and hypocrisies – with a concision I’ve never seen matched. The film’s classroom scene strikes me as Ford at his most elemental. It seems simple when compared to the scenic (and technical) grandeur we see elsewhere in Ford, but he gives us so many moments of overwhelming beauty within such a limited space: the group of proud, multi-ethnic children (America’s future) singing their ABCs, Stewart’s hand erasing ‘education is the basis of law and order’ (the moment idealism buckles under to harsh reality), and Hallie standing in the deserted classroom, surrounded by schoolbooks and her interrupted dreams for the future. These unadorned moments give me chills every time I see the film.

    That it also manages to be a metatextual commentary on our own cinematic myths, and (as you point out) the nature and function of ideologies seems a pretty big achievement for a low budget western shot in ‘TV’ style.

  • Barry Putterman

    John, I’ve never had any problem with the “TV” style of LIBERTY VALANCE. From the very first moment of my first viewing of the film, the emotional mood that the look of the film created for me was “mournful.”

    Nevertheless, that look is quite a bit different from what we had come to expect from a Ford film and I suppose that not everybody is going to take to it immediately. I would only say to those people that John Ford had proven over the course of a forty year career that he commanded a total mastery of the way his films looked. And if you can’t quite get comfortable with the way that LIBERTY VALANCE looks at first, it is probably best to assume that the film looks the way that it does for a very conscious reason. And that that reason is almost certainly for Ford to know and for you to find out.

    Anyway, quite a number of people have only skimmed the surface of Dwan’s career, which is why the present moment should be seized as a glorious opportunity. And this week we have Walter Hill and I certainly hope that you can join in the fun about that. For somebody who has very clear memories of when Hill was the new kid on the block and HARD TIMES his introductory calling card, it is somewhat alarming to realize that he too has now had a forty year career. Almost enough to make me feel “mournful.”