November 13, 2007–Delbert Mann, who adapted Paddy Chayefsky's classic teleplay “Marty” into an Oscar-0inning feature, died on Sunday (Nov 11). He was 87.
Mann died of pneumonia at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his son Fred Mann said Monday.
Mann's 1955 feature version of “Marty” won four Oscars: best picture, director, best actor for Ernest Borgnine and best screenplay for Chayefsky. The low-budget film with mostly little-known actors told the stark, poignant but sentimental tale of Borgnine's 34-year-old Brooklyn butcher who felt he was too ugly to find love. His life is changed when he meets an equally shy but sweet woman played by Betsy Blair.
“I knew we had a good story because I had already done it on television,” Mann once said, “But I certainly never expected it to be the hit that it turned out to be.”
Using techniques he brought from TV, Mann took a mere 16 days to shoot the film version of “Marty,” plus an additional three days for retakes. This compared with 45 days for typical features of that time, with epic pictures running far beyond that.
He followed “Marty” with 1957's “The Bachelor Party,” which was also popular. They were some of the first examples of TV's emerging role in Hollywood, not anymore as a rival medium but as a synergistic one.
The two teleplays were first seen in 1953 on “Philco-Goodyear Playhouse,” considered one of the best dramatic anthology series of television's Golden Age. Rod Steiger played the title role in the television “Marty,” while the woman he befriends was played by Nancy Marchand.
Mann and producer Fred Coe collaborated on more than 100 of the live Sunday night “Playhouse” productions.
Mann's other feature include “Desire Under the Elms” (1957), “Separate Tables” (1958), “Middle of the Night” (1959), “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” (1960), “The Outsider” (1961), “That Touch of Mink” (1962), “A Gathering of Eagles” (1963), “Dear Heart” (1964), “Fitzwilly” (1967), “Kidnapped” (1971), “Night Crossing” (1982) and “Bronte” (1983).
Despite his success with feature films, Mann returned to the TV medium after a lengthy absence in the 1960s.
“I missed the excitement and concentration that live TV gave us in the old days,” Mann said at the time. “I was able to achieve the artistic freedom I can't get in films.”
Mann directed a string of prestigious prime-time productions, including “Heidi” (1968), “David Copperfield” (1970), “Jane Eyre” (1971), “The Man Without a Country” (1973), “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1979) and “The Last Days of Patton” (1986).
“Heidi” enraged professional football fans across America on Nov. 15, 1968, when NBC decided to cut away from the dramatic final minutes of a New York Jets-Oakland Raiders game to begin the television movie at its scheduled time.
A native of Lawrence, Kansas, Mann received his first dramatic training at Vanderbilt University, graduating in 1941. He later attended Yale's School of Drama after a stint as a bomber pilot in World War II.
Mann went on to take a directing job at the Town Theatre, a community playhouse in Columbia, S.C., succeeding Coe, who became Mann's mentor. Mann was affiliated with the Town from 1947 to 1949, before moving to New York to work with Coe in television.
Mann's wife, Ann Caroline, died in 2001. In addition to Fred Mann, he is survived by sons David and Steven. His daughter, Susan, died in an automobile accident in 1976.