Classic Movies · Stuff You Should Know

“I’ve been lookin’ for a girl every Saturday night of my life…”


Frequent TDOY commenter and long-time online chum Pam has sent me an e-mail that informs me of Oscar-winning director Delbert Mann’s passing. He was 87.

Betsy Blair and Ernest Borgnine in Marty (1955)

He’s perhaps best known for his 1955 Academy Award-winning film Marty (which also won awards for actor Ernest Borgnine and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky), a production that he first introduced as a television play in 1953. In fact, much of Mann’s earlier work was in the medium’s golden age, having been hired by his old pal Fred Coe to direct for NBC-TV’s Philco Television Playhouse in 1950. Mann also directed and produced plays for The Goodyear Television Playhouse and Producer’s Showcase. Among the highlights from these shows: a 1953 production of another Chayefsky play, The Bachelor Party (which Mann would direct for the big screen in 1957); the memorable presentation of Our Town (1955), starring Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint (and introduced Frank Sinatra’s classic Love and Marriage); and a televised adaptation of the 1936 feature film (which had previous been presented on Broadway) The Petrified Forest in 1955, which allowed Humphrey Bogart to reprise his role of fugitive convict Duke Mantee (one of only two occasions Bogie appeared on television).

Academy Award-winners David Niven and Wendy Hiller in Separate Tables (1958)

With the silver screen success of Marty and The Bachelor Party, Mann directed other memorable movies including Separate Tables (1958; which won Best Acting Oscars for David Niven and Dame Wendy Hiller), The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960), Lover Come Back (1961) and The Outsider (1961). In the late 1960s, however, Mann yearned to return to his roots and went back to working in television. His first small screen production was Heidi (1968), an adaptation of the Johanna Spryi novel which earned a bit of notoriety in television history when NBC cut away from a down-to-the-wire New York Jets-Oakland Raiders game in order to start the TV movie at its scheduled time. (Before the cutaway, the Jets were up 32-29 over the Raiders, but the Raiders capitalized on penalties and timeouts to score two touchdowns and win the day, 43-32.)

R.I.P., Delbert. You will be missed.

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