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Anthony Mann Profile
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Anthony Mann Profile
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Although he worked in a number of genres, notably film noir and historical spectacle, director Anthony Mann (1906-1967) is remembered most vividly for his Westerns starring James Stewart. These remarkable films, which included The Man From Laramie (1955), bridged the gap between noir and outdoor adventure, between the innocent approach of Westerns of the 1940s and the cynical, violent style of such Mann-influenced directors as Sam Peckinpah and Sergio Leone. Considered something of a journeyman in his prime, Mann later was "discovered" by French critics who placed him in the auteur category of filmmakers.

Mann, who would have turned 100 this month, was born Emil Anton Bundmann in Port Loma, CA. After early experience on the New York stage as actor and director, he joined producer David O. Selznick's company in 1938 to work as casting director and supervisor of screen tests. Mann gained early directing experience in low-budget productions at various studios, attracting attention for the violent noir thriller Raw Deal (1948) and his first Western, the noir-flavored Devil's Doorway (1950).

Mann's first major production-and first film with Stewart-was Universal's Winchester '73 (1950), a revisionist Western in which Stewart's conflicted hero proves to be as filled with rage and violence as his enemies. While lending layers of depth to Stewart's onscreen persona, the film established Mann's trademark blend of brutal action and a psychological tension that seems reflected in the barren landscapes. It was a hugely popular success that led to four more Mann/Stewart Westerns, including The Naked Spur (1953) and The Far Country (1955). The movie also established the precedent of a star taking a profit percentage, leading to enormous wealth for Stewart and other film actors. Not all of the collaborations between Stewart and Mann were Westerns, however, and they also made the popular biopic The Glenn Miller Story (1954) and Strategic Air Command (1955), in which Stewart plays a former bomber pilot turned baseball star who agrees to assist the U.S.'s aerial defense.

In the 1960s, Mann turned to superscaled historical epics beginning with Cimarron (1960), an elaborate remake of Edna Ferber's saga that opens with the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889. Mann's "epic" phase reached its apex with The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), a spectacle complete with an elaborate reconstruction of the Roman Forum, numerous soldiers and a harrowing chariot race-plus an intelligent script and an all-star cast headed by Alec Guinness and Sophia Loren. Although now considered a classic of its type, the movie came at the end of a cycle of film epics and was not embraced by the public.

by Roger Fristoe

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