Hugh Allan, a Short Film Career for a Man of Many Talents

Hugh Allan pictureplaymagaz

Hugh Allan, AKA Hugh Allen, it is difficult to ascertain exactly when Allan was born, he listed his birth date differently throughout his life (hum, it’s as though this is a recurring theme in movie-land?), keeping the same date of November 5, but changing the year, as suited him, I guess? On different censuses, immigration lists for sailing, and publications he gave his birth-year as 1903, 1904, 1905… you get the picture. So we will simply go with what is on his headstone: 1903. In April of 1925, Allan was signed to play the leading man in Little Annie Rooney, starring Mary Pickford; not only signed, but Pickford personally selected him.[1] Clearly Allan missed the boat with Little Annie Rooney (mega hit for Pickford) and William Haines sailed away in the role of Joe Kelly. According to Allan himself, the following story of his broken arm was apocryphal,[2] and was issued to cover up a disagreement between Jack Pickford and himself: “Mr. Allan decided to celebrate the good news of being picked by Pickford, for Little Annie Rooney, by buying a new radio; while adjusting for a better signal on the roof (yes, those were the days), he fell off of the roof and broke his arm and changed casting history.”[3]

1929 had ‘very special’ written all over it for Hugh Allan, he had met reporter Catherine (Cathryn) Hoffman (she was interviewing him) the summer before, in Miami, Florida;[4] the two hit it off and were engaged and planning a 1929, June wedding.[5] But for some un-announced reason the wedding did not happen. In the autumn of 1930 Hoffman landed a job with the Miami News, as an ‘imbedded-reporter’ in Hollywood.[6] Most of her articles were fluff-work with some diary reports added in; as well, Hoffman appears to have gotten walk-on (uncredited, unlisted) work on a few films, Only Saps Work, released December 6, 1930, is the subject of one piece.[7] And her hand was used in Three Rogues, 1931, starring Victor McLaglen and Fay Wray.[8] Probably this Hollywood correspondent got her real start with that Hugh Allan interview and romance; yet her fame was confined to the Miami area and was short-lived.

Hugh Allan and Catherine Hoffman Jefferson_City_Post_Tribune_Thu__Mar_21__1929_Hugh Allan and Catherine Hoffman Picture-Play Magazine (Mar-Jul 1929)

 

October 26 of 1929 was the beginning of the end for Hugh Allan with regards to Hollywood. He had not married Catherine Hoffman, and now unbeknownst to him he was setting sail on a one way trip from the movie-making industry. Allan had contracted to film in Hawaii, with the S.S. Calawali being his transport. The ship arrived in Honolulu on November 2, 1929 and once there the production (Aloha) hit financial ‘rock-bottom;’ according to Allan, the director and producer put on a show for the actors by continuing the appearance of filming with no film in the cameras. This burnt Allan to the core, he went back to California on the S.S. City of Honolulu on November 30, 1929 and arrived in Los Angeles on December 4, promptly quitting the film business, thoroughly disturbed by the lack of character which he had seen.[9] Hugh Allan and co-star of Aloha, Gladys McConnell, filed a complaint against producer Eska Wilson; Wilson was arrested and released without bail.[10]

Wait a moment! If that is the truth, that Allan was through with films, then how do we explain a missing title? There is at the least one missing movie from Allan’s résumé and this is a post Hawaii production, which is the July 3, 1930 release, Holiday, directed by Edward H. Griffith.[11] The next unlisted (after the Hawaii disappointment) film is a two-reel comedy, Silence is Golden (announced at the same point as A Royal Flush), 1930.[12] Allan was shooting Silence is Golden in March of 1930, at Columbia Studios and was just one of a series of short-subjects being made.[13] One could make the assumption that when Aldous Huxley wrote his essay Silence is Golden,  reprinted in Golden Book Magazine, for their April of 1930 edition, that he was writing a review (most refer to this piece as a specific-film commentary); Silence is Golden was originally published in a collection of essays with the title of: Do What You Will, 1929. That Huxley was writing a review of Silence is Golden is not likely, the piece is more about his dislike of talkies and that silent-movies are golden.[14] Silence is Golden not only is missing from Hugh Allan’s profile, but is not listed for Columbia. The short comedy is mentioned in an Indiana newspaper as Allan having the juvenile lead, and that he provoked laughs in both Silence is Golden and The Royal Flush.[15] This snippet about Silence is Golden was included in the Screen Gossip section, Hollywood, California, dated April 30, 1930.

Hugh Allan Silence is Golden article Hammond Lake County Times, Wednesday, April 30, 1930, Page 8.htm_20140623160550

From the Hammond Lake County Times, Wednesday, April 30, 1930, Page 8

 

But now I move beyond whether Allan ended his acting career in 1929 or 1930 and I want to introduce another possible film lost from Mr. Allan’s work history, the independently produced Love Harmony, 1930.[16] Shot at Tec-Art Studios and an Exeltone Productions project (possibly, Excellent Pictures Corporation?[17]), with director Dallas Fitzgerald at the helm and starring: Hugh Alan, Thelma Hill, Ethlyn Clarie and Lee Moran; they began filming on September 8, 1929.[18] This is a film that has completely dropped off the radar; there is not a trace in any of the film-histories of any of the principal players, nor in the production lists of Exeltone (I can find no information on this company), Tec-Art Studios (it’s main offices were located at 344 West 44th Street, New York City), nor anything in the profile of director Fitzgerald for this film. If Exeltone (Excellent) ran out of funding for this project and left it incomplete, then surly there would still be some further mention, yet, nothing; if this was an Excellent Pictures project, it appears nowhere on any current or upcoming release schedule from 1928-1930 . If you, dear reader, have any information regarding Love Harmony, please contact me at classicfilmaficionados@outlook.com

Now, on to Allan’s post Hollywood career… with no announcement whatsoever, we find Hugh Allan married to Lois (Lou) Williamson, in 1932; they were living in Houston, Texas. By 1940 they had two children Carita (four years of age) and Hugh (one year old). Allan had landed a position as an executive with a whole-sale equipment business, making $5,000.00 per year. The couple lived in New York City, as late as 1935, (Carita was born in NYC) prior to moving to Memphis, Tennessee. This was home for Hugh Allan, the place of his birth. He seemed to thrive in Memphis and in 1943 he was the vice-president of the Rotary Lift Company. By 1954, fortunes turned and Allan was specializing in rebuilding clutches for elevators and eventually becoming the president of an elevator equipment company.[19] Finally, in 1993, Hugh Allan moved into his family’s old home in Memphis on Caraway Cove and spent his final years there.

With or without the other films that Allan worked on, his career was short and his film appearances can nearly be counted on your fingers and toes.

 

Nigh Unto Two-Bits of an Alan Filmography:

The Block Signal, 1926

Dress Parade, 1927

Wild Beauty, 1927

Annapolis, 1928

The Fire Detective, 1929

 

 

The Block SignalDress Parade (220x176) (2)Wild BeautyAnnapolis

The Fire Detective

 

 

By C. S. Williams

 

[1] The Lincoln Star (Lincoln, Nebraska) April 19, 1925

[2] Interview by Michael G. Ankeric, which may be found at: Close-ups and Long Shots

[3] Picture-Play Magazine, October, 1927

[4] New Castle News (New Castle, Pennsylvania) January 22, 1929

[5] Picture-Play Magazine, June, 1929

[6] The Miami News (Miami, Florida) October 11, 1930

[7] The Miami News (Miami, Florida) November 30, 1930

[8] The Miami News (Miami, Florida) January 8, 1931

[9] Interview by Michael G. Ankeric, which may be found at: Close-ups and Long Shots

[10] Berkeley Daily Gazette (Berkeley, California) February 24, 1930

[11] Hollywood Filmograph, May 31, 1930

[12] Hollywood Filmograph, May 31, 1930

[13] Hollywood Filmograph, March 29, 1930

[14] Hollywood’s America: Twentieth-Century America Through Film, Fourth Edition, edited by Steve Mintz and

Randy W. Roberts, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2010, pages 113-116

[15] Hammond Lake County Times (Hammond, Indiana) April 30, 1930

[16] Picture Play Magazine , November, 1930

[17] Exhibitors Daily Review, August 1, 1928, Tec-Art Studios agreed to make a series of films for Excellent Pictures,

Beginning with The Passion Song, which opened on October 15, 1928

[18] Exhibitors Herald-World, September 14, 1929

[19] Interview by Michael G. Ankeric, which may be found at: Close-ups and Long Shots

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