Director Allan Dwan was a motion picture pioneer whose career spanned the silents, the coming of sound, the wide screen and television.
Educated as an electrical engineer, Dwan was noted for such technical innovations as the dolly shot and overhead tracking shot and for his ability to discover and develop new talent.
In 1908, while working as an illumination engineer, Dwan developed a mercury vapor lamp to be used in the mail sorting area of the Chicago Post Office.
Silent-film producer G.K. Spoor (who with Broncho Billy Anderson had founded Essanay Studios) spotted the bright light and wanted to experiment with it on his motion picture sets.
Dwan was willing to experiment. He soon discovered that his arc lamp, as a lighting device, would be absolutely essential to the development of motion pictures.
It was Dwan to whom D.W. Griffth turned to solve the problem of photographing the immense Babylon set for "Intolerance," and Dwan came up with the idea of putting the camera on an elevator, which in turn was mounted on a railroad track—thus inventing the overhead tracking shot.
Dwan directed almost every major star from Lillian Gish to Vera Hruba Ralston; he discovered Lon Chaney Sr., and director John Ford began his career as a prop man for Dwan. On a trip to Britain, Dwan discovered Ida Lupino and was credited with bringing the actress to Hollywood.
In the 1920s, he directed eight star vehicles for Gloria Swanson. In the 1930s, after the advent of talkies, he made such movies as "Suez" with Tyrone Power and "Heidi" with Shirley Temple.
During World War II, Dwan turned out a series of comedies, including "Up In Mabel's Room," "Getting Gertie's Garter" and "Brewster's Millions," and during the 1950s made two low-budget—but very high-quality—westerns, "Tennessee's Partner" and "Silver Lode" starring John Payne and the crime melodrama "The River's Edge," with Ray Milland and Anthony Quinn.
By the time his last film "The Most Dangerous Man Alive" was released in 1961, Dwan had made more than 400 movies.