JP (John Paterson) McGowan
John Paterson known professionally as JP McGowan was born
in Terowie on 24 February 1880 to Thomas Kennedy and Mary
McGowan nee Paterson. He spent his childhood living in the
northern railway town of Terowie. If he remained in Terowie,
a change of gauge railway town that barely survives today,
McGowan's impact on South Australia would have amounted
to little. As it is his fame from his work in Hollywood
remains largely unknown in his home state.
McGowan made his way to Hollywood to find his fame as an
He joined the former Kalem Studios at 1725–1735
Fleming Street (now Hoover Street) Hollywood, California
at a time when Westerns were becoming all the rage. When
he arrived at the studios one-reeler silent serial Western
films were the main output of this company. McGowan made
several action films and became known as the Railroad
Man because of the films he made usually featured railways. It
would be fanciful to think his childhood days in Terowie
stirred an interest in railways as a theme but more likely
it was the fact that they were such an integral part of
opening up the Wild West that was more likely behind the
At this time JP McGowan met and fell in love with Helen
Holmes, the actress playing the classic beautiful woman
tied to the tracks only to be saved in the nick of time
by the hero. In fact McGowan is credited with being the
first to create this scenario. he and Helen were quite a
team. The on-going serial, Hazards of Helen stretched
into 119 episodes with titles like Leap from the Water
Tower (Episode 9), The Pay Train (Episode
31) and In Danger’s Path (Episode 33).
The works were low budget productions, and McGowan was able
to turn out instalments one after another, finding time
to act in many of them as well, usually as the villain.
By the 1930s McGowan was widely recognised as a significant
player in the film industry and he began appearing in larger
studio productions. As director, some of his films include
The Lost Express (1926), Manhattan Cowboy
(1928), Code of the West (1929), The Hurricane
Express (a 12 chapter serial resulting in a film by
the same name starring John Wayne in 1932), Deadwood
Pass (1933) and Rough Riding Rhythm (1937).
McGowan also acted in such films as Evelyn Prentice
(1934), In Old Chicago (1937), and the Western
classic Stagecoach (1939).
JP McGowan died on 26 March 1952 in Hollywood ending a career
working in Hollywood for 30 years being involved in about
600 productions in various capacities. After cremation he
was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park's Great Mausoleum
Columbarium of Fidelity in Los Angeles County.