Delbert Mann

Oscar-winning director of 'Marty'


Delbert Mann, film and television director: born Lawrence, Kansas 30 January 1920; married 1942 Ann Caroline Gillespie (died 2001; three sons, and one daughter deceased); died Los Angeles 11 November 2007.

Delbert Mann had the rare distinction of winning an Oscar as best director for his first movie, Marty (1955). A poignant tale of a butcher who feels himself too ugly to find love but whose life changes when he meets a shy, homely woman, Marty was originally a television play directed by Mann. He shot the film version, using television techniques, in just 19 days, and it won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival before winning four Academy Awards, including best film, best actor and best original screenplay.

After a patchy career in cinema, during which his work ranged from accomplished dramas like Separate Tables and hit comedies such as That Touch of Mink to the forgettable trifles Mister Buddwing and Fitzwilly, Mann returned to television, becoming one of the medium's most prolific and notable directors.

Born in Lawrenceville, Kansas, in 1920, he was studying political science at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, when he became involved in community theatre. After Yale School of Drama, he served as a bomber pilot and squadron intelligence officer in the Second World War. He then worked as director of Town Theatre, Columbia, South Carolina, and stage manager at the Wellesley Summer Theatre, Massachusetts, before going to New York in 1949, and joining NBC as a floor manager and assistant director.

He was soon directing plays for the network's prestigious Philco-Goodyear Playhouse, one of the best showcases for original drama, and he also directed live episodes of one of the earliest network situation comedies, Mary Kay and Johnny. Fred Coe, with whom Mann had earlier worked in Nashville, had become one of NBC's top producers, and it was he who assigned Mann to the two Paddy Chayevsky plays that secured his reputation, Marty, broadcast on 24 May 1953, and The Bachelor Party. Their success won him a Hollywood contract and the chance to film Marty, with Ernest Borgnine replacing Rod Steiger, who was committed to filming Oklahoma!

As the lonely Bronx butcher who finds middle-aged love with an introverted school-teacher (Betsy Blair), Borgnine graduated from character player to star. The film's enormous success surprised even the director. Mann was so sure that he would not win the Oscar (his competition included David Lean and Elia Kazan) that he had no speech prepared and said simply, "Thank you very much." Mann's work for the cinema was sometimes criticised for lack of cinematic flair, but his sense of drama and direction of players were considered exemplary. Several performers won Oscars or nominations in Mann's films.

His second film was an adaptation of Chayevsky's The Bachelor Party (1957), an exploration of the foibles and passions exposed at a party given by a group of New York book-keepers. Though less popular than Marty, it won praise for its depiction of urban frustration – its message, like that of the later Sondheim musical Company, seemed to be that marriage is depressing but it is better than being alone – and for the performances from such players as Jack Warden, E.G. Marshall and Carolyn Jones, with Jones being nominated for an Oscar for her touching portrayal of a love-starved Greenwich Village existentialist.

Another play transcription, Terence Rattigan's Separate Tables (1957), became one of Mann's finest films. On stage, it had taken the form of two one-act plays set in a hotel, with its two stars playing different couples in each play but with the same supporting cast. The film skilfully integrated both plays, with the leading roles taken by four players. Wendy Hiller won an Oscar for her performance, as did David Niven for his bravura depiction of a poseur with a dark secret.

Mann continued to favour theatrical properties, which benefited from his tight framing, though when he collaborated with Chayevsky again on the story of a May-December romance, Middle of the Night (1959), he opened it out enough to give a potent evocation of its New York setting.

William Inge's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about small-town adultery and prejudice, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960), was sensitively handled by Mann, with Shirley Knight winning a supporting actress Oscar nomination, but The Outsider (1962) was a muddled account of the tragic life story of Ira Hayes, the Pima Indian who was one of those in the famous Second World War photograph of the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima.

Mann then, in a radical departure, directed Doris Day and Rock Hudson in one of the funniest films the two stars made together, Lover Come Back (1961), and he followed it with another hit comedy, That Touch of Mink (1962). It was to be Mann's last big success with theatrical movies – subsequent films included A Gathering of Eagles (1962), Dear Heart (1963), and, his last film, a Disney production, Night Crossing (1982), which told the true story of two families who escaped from East to West Germany in a hot air balloon.

Mann continued to work on television throughout his career. He was nominated for Emmys for Breaking Up (1977) and All Quiet on the Western Front (1979), the latter reuniting him with Ernest Borgnine. He had won his first Emmy nomination in 1955 when he directed an engaging musical version of Thornton Wilder's Our Town, featuring Paul Newman and in which Frank Sinatra, as the narrator, introduced the James Van Heusen-Sammy Cahn standard "Love and Marriage". Mann's later television work included praised versions of David Copperfield (1970), with Laurence Olivier, and Jane Eyre (1971) starring Susannah York and George C. Scott.

Tom Vallance

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone