Anthony Mann Poster

Trivia (11)

Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 723-731. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company (1987).

Head of jury at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1964.

Father of Nina Mann.

From age 18, Mann worked on the Broadway stage as an actor, production manager and set designer, later progressing to directing. In 1938, he joined David O. Selznick as a casting director and talent scout, supervising screen tests for Gone with the Wind (1939), Rebecca (1940) and Intermezzo (1939).

In Hollywood from 1939, Mann began as an assistant director at Paramount. Promoted to director, he began by turning out low-budget thrillers and films noir for studios like Republic, Eagle-Lion (formerly PRC) and RKO (1945-46). He was at MGM from 1949-51, but eventually made his breakthrough at Universal with a series of uncompromisingly tough, psychological Westerns starring James Stewart. These films featured a recurrent theme of revenge, obsession and rage. They were superbly photographed on location, amidst spectacular, rugged scenery, providing an effective backdrop for the narrative and a counterpoint to the leading protagonist's psyche. In stark contrast, Mann also directed a nostalgic and popular (though inaccurate) biopic of bandleader Glenn Miller, The Glenn Miller Story (1954), again featuring Stewart.

Towards the end of his career, Mann directed two major epics: El Cid (1961)--which was his last major success--and The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), shot with an international cast at a cost of $18.4 million. Poorly received, the film bankrupted producer Samuel Bronston. Mann only directed two more films and died during shooting of A Dandy in Aspic (1968), which was completed by its star Laurence Harvey.

Cinematographer John Alton, who had retired in 1960, met former colleague Mann in a Swiss casino high up in the Alps. Mann was directing A Dandy in Aspic (1968) at the time and wanted Alton to shoot his next picture. Alton agreed to talk to him about it the next day, but Mann died before their meeting. According to Alton, "He had been losing so much money at the casino, that probably helped kill him. The industry lost a great man." Aspic star Laurence Harvey finished directing the picture.

Some mystery appears to surround his origins. Philip Yordan, a scriptwriter on several of Mann's films, once spoke of his "very poor background", suggesting he had been born in poverty, and actor John Fraser even hinted in his memoirs that Mann may have been illiterate. However, other sources suggest that he was the son of an Austrian academic and his American wife and that his father was Catholic and his mother Jewish; Mann's close friend Peter Ustinov, who admired him greatly, told a television interviewer that Mann had once told him that he had grown up in a strange religious sect in a mountain community and had spent most of his childhood walking around naked.

A major disagreement with producer/star Kirk Douglas led to him being fired from Spartacus (1960) and replaced by Stanley Kubrick. However, this did not prevent them from working together again five years later in the World War II drama The Heroes of Telemark (1965).

He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6229 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 8, 1960.

Anthony Mann passed away on April 29, 1967, two months away from what would have been his 61st birthday on June 30.