Domers on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Author: Carol Schaal '91M.A.

Plenty of Domers have made their mark in the world of entertainment — a sampling includes actor William Mapother ’87, screenwriter Stephen Susco ’95, comedians Jim Brogan ’70 and Owen Smith ’95, talk show host Phil Donahue ’57, directors Tony Bill ’62 and Patrick Creadon ’89, and producers John Walker ’78 and Linda Gase ’86. Among all the Domer glitter, however, only two so far have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the entertainment sidewalks of renown along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.

Most alums could probably guess that one is the lively ND fan Regis Philbin ’53, he of The Joey Bishop Show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Live with Regis and Kelly. Visitors can view his star at 6834 Hollywood Blvd.

To find the second Domer, you need to stroll down the boulevard a few blocks from the Regis star to 6263 Hollywood. On that spot is the pink and charcoal terrazzo square with the name Allan Dwan embedded in a bronze star

Perhaps only trivia buffs would know him as a son of Notre Dame. For despite his long and celebrated career, Allan Dwan is not a household name.

He does, however, have a secure place in motion picture history. “To follow Dwan’s career is to watch the evolution of an art,” director Peter Bogdanovich wrote in The Last Pioneer, his biography of Dwan.

Dwan, who was born Joseph Aloysius Dewan in 1885 (his name was later changed for use in screen credits), graduated from Notre Dame in 1907. During his college years as an engineering student, he acted in many plays, was on the football team and, after graduation, remained at Notre Dame for a short time as a physics and math instructor.

His engineering skills soon took him to a lighting company in Chicago, but the brighter lights of the new motion picture industry beckoned. Dwan took a job with the Chicago-based Essanay Studios and then joined The American Film Company, a studio that specialized in Westerns. Through the years, he worked for various studios in Arizona, New York, Hollywood and even in England, and survived the move from silent films to talkies.

From his earliest days in the nascent movie business, Dwan mixed engineering feats with screenwriting and directing. On the engineering side, he is credited with helping develop the mercury vapor arc (the forerunner of neon lighting), the first dolly shot and the first mobile crane shot — a design that allowed legendary director D.W. Griffith to film a dramatic swooping shot of the city of Babylon in the 1916 movie Intolerance.

The movies Dwan directed include such classics as Robin Hood (1922), Suez (1938), Brewster’s Millions (1945) and Sands of Iwo Jima (1949). Over his more than 50 years in the business he worked with, and sometimes helped make stars of, such actors as Lon Chaney, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Gloria Swanson, Tyrone Power, Barbara Stanwyck, Ronald Reagan and John Wayne.

A favorite of his was Shirley Temple, whom he directed in Heidi (1937) and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938). When she was on the set, Dwan told Bogdanovich, the child actress was “just absolutely marvelous — greatest in the world . . . she was fun all the time.”

Dwan died in 1981 at the age of 96 and is buried in the San Fernando Mission Cemetery, Mission Hills, California. Perhaps his lack of name recognition is a result of his decision to forgo the ego-pleasing applause of fame for job security in a cutthroat business. He was once quoted as saying, “When you get your head above the mob, they try to knock it off. If you stay down, you last forever.”

Carol Schaal is managing editor/web editor of this magazine.