Delbert Mann Biography

(Film Director)

Birthday: January 30, 1920 (Aquarius)

Born In: Lawrence, Kansas, U.S.

Delbert Martin Mann, Jr. was an American film and television director who won the ‘Academy Award for Best Director’ for the 1955 romantic drama film ‘Marty’. It is believed that he "helped bring TV techniques to the film world". Starting his career in direction at the ‘Town Theatre’ in Columbia, South Carolina, he later turned to television and worked as assistant director and stage manager with an American commercial broadcast TV network called the ‘National Broadcasting Company’ (‘NBC’). Soon he was made an alternate director of an American television anthology series called ‘The Philco Television Playhouse’ that was broadcast live. Moving on he contributed to directing over 100 live TV dramas. Some of the TV films he directed are ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’, ‘David Copperfield’, ‘Heidi’ and ‘Jane Eyre’. His stint as a film director for the big-screen for almost three decades saw him delivering many remarkable films. Some of his notable big-screen flicks are ‘The Bachelor Party’, ‘Night Crossing’, ‘A Gathering of Eagles’, ‘The Outsider’, ‘The Dark at the Top of the Stairs’, ‘Middle of the Night’, ‘Desire Under the Elms’ and ‘Dear Heart’ among several others. He served as President of the ‘Directors Guild of America’ from 1967 to 1971 and was awarded the ‘Robert B. Aldrich Achievement Award’ by the Guild in 1997. Later in 2002 he was conferred Honorary Life Membership by the Guild.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Delbert Martin Mann Jr.

Died At Age: 87


Spouse/Ex-: Ann Caroline Mann (1941-2001)

father: Delbert Mann Sr.

mother: Ora Mann

children: David, Fred, Steven, Susan

Directors American Men

Died on: November 11, 2007

place of death: Los Angeles, California, U.S.

U.S. State: Kansas

More Facts

awards: Academy Award for Best Director for the film Marty (1955)

Childhood & Early Life
He was born on January 30, 1920, in Lawrence Kansas to Delbert Mann, Sr. and his wife Ora Mann. At that time his father used to teach sociology at the ‘University of Kansas’. Ora worked as a school teacher.
His family relocated to Pennsylvania in 1926 and thereafter to Chicago and ultimately settled in Nashville in 1931 where his father served the ‘Scarritt College for Christian Workers’ as a teacher of sociology.
During his high school days at the ‘Hume-Fogg High School’ in Nashville, Tennessee, when he used to head the drama club of the school, he met Fred Coe at the Nashville Community Playhouse. Coe who became a TV director and producer guided Mann as a mentor and also played an instrumental role in Mann’s professional life.
Mann attended ‘Vanderbilt University’ in Nashville, Tennessee, and earned his graduation in political science from the university in 1941.
At the time of the ‘Second World War’, he was enlisted in the Army Air Corps where he eventually served as a B-24 bomber pilot. Later he was made an intelligence officer stationed in England with the 8th Air Force.
Post war he joined the ‘Yale School of Drama’ in New Haven, Connecticut, from where he obtained a master’s fine arts degree in directing.
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He joined a community playhouse called ‘Town Theatre’ in Columbia, South Carolina as a director and remained associated with it from 1947 to 1949.
He accepted an offer from Coe, who was then serving as a producer at ‘NBC’ and joined the TV network in 1949 in New York as an assistant director and stage manager.
After a few months he got the opportunity to work as alternating director of the live anthological drama series ‘The Philco Television Playhouse’. He directed several of the dramas of the series.
Till 1955 he contributed to directing over 100 live TV dramas. He worked for shows like ‘NBC Repertory Theatre’ (1949), ‘Playwrights '56’ (1955) and ‘Ford Star Jubilee’ (1955).
The 1953 teleplay ‘Marty’ by Paddy Chayefsky directed by Mann needs a special mention. The teleplay which was telecast live on May 24, 1953, on ‘The Philco Television Playhouse’ starring Rod Steiger in the title role was produced by Coe. This extraordinary cultural phenomenon was later adapted into a 1955 feature film again directed by Mann and written by Chayefsky. The legendary Hollywood film became the first smashing hit of independent cinema and also received a pat from the critics. It bagged ‘Palme d'Or’ award at the ‘Cannes Film Festival’ and also the ‘Academy Award for Best Picture’ and earned Mann ‘Academy Award for Best Director’.
However he got recognition from the cultural arena in 1955 after directing ‘Our Town’, the first and sole musical TV adaptation of the famous three-act play by noted American playwright Thornton Wilder bearing the same title, that was first performed onstage at the ‘McCarter Theatre’ in Princeton, New Jersey in 1938. The TV adaptation that was featured in one of the episodes of ‘Producers' Showcase’ fetched Mann Best Director Emmy nomination.
His next big-screen spectacle was the 1957 released film ‘The Bachelor Party’ which was adapted from the 1953 teleplay by Paddy Chayefsky with same title.
On March 12, 1958, his next directed film ‘Desire Under the Elms’ was released. The film was an adaptation of the 1924 tragic play of the same title written by Eugene O'Neill and starred yesteryear diva Sophia Loren. It entered the ‘Cannes Film Festival’ that year and was nominated for Best Black and White Cinematography at the ‘Oscars’ and also at the ‘Laurel Awards’.
The same year he directed a drama film ‘Separate Tables’ that was released on December 18, 1958. It was an adaptation of two one-act plays of Terence Rattigan. The film was nominated for 7 ‘Academy Awards’ that included Best Picture, Best Cinematography (Black and White), Best Dramatic or Comedy Score, Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. While Niven won the Best Actor Award, Hiller earned the Best Supporting Actress Award.

After a couple of films he delved into directing a biopic, ‘The Outsider’ that was released in December 1961. The film narrated the story of a native American Ira Hayes, who fought in the ‘Second World War’ in the ‘United States Marine Corps’ (‘USMC’) and remained one of the Marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima. The role was played by Tony Curtis
Films like ‘Lover Come Back’ (1961), ‘That Touch of Mink’ (1962) and ‘Fitzwilly’ (1967) displayed his capability of delivering comedies with equal élan.
Some of his other notable films included ‘The Dark at the Top of the Stairs’ (1960), ‘A Gathering of Eagles’ (1963), ‘Dear Heart’ (1964), ‘Kidnapped’ (1971), ‘Birch Interval’ (1976) and ‘Night Crossing’ (1982).
From the late 1960s and the next 25 years, Mann did a number of TV films that included ‘Heidi’ (1968), ‘David Copperfield’ (1969), ‘The Man Without a Country’ (1973), ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ (1979), ‘The Gift of Love: A Christmas Story’ (1983), ‘The Last Days of Patton’ (1986) and ‘Lily in Winter’ (1994).
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Ann Caroline Gillespie in 1942, whom he met during his graduation days at the ‘Vanderbilt University’.
The couple were blessed with four children - Susan, Steven, Fred and David. In 1976 a car accident took away the life of their daughter Susan.
On October 10, 2001, Ann died of Alzheimer's disease.
Mann succumbed to pneumonia on November 11, 2007, at the age of 87 years at the ‘Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’ in Los Angeles, California, United States.

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