Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Eye Candy of the Day: Oh Mr. Manners

One thing I love about writing this blog is that it encourages me to watch all kinds of old movies and to "discover" all kinds of actors and post gratuitous numbers of photos of them. It's a poorly kept secret that I wish I was the editor of one of those old movie magazines from the thirties.

David Manners was born Rauf Acklom in Nova Scotia, Canada in 1900. He came to Hollywood in 1930. He signed with First National & Vitaphone before it became part of the Warner empire. He was lucky in that his first film was a decent sized part working with the great James Whale on the war movie Journey's End. He pitched hay and woo to Ruth Chatterton in The Right to Love, fell under Myrna Loy's vampish spell in The Truth about Youth and wore a turban with Loretta Young in Kismet (1930).

He got his big break as Johnathan Harker in Tod Browning's classic production of Dracula, starring Bela Legosi. It's interesting that he got his start with James Whale and yet never acted in one of Whale's horror movies, but went on to do his best known work in the genre. The Mummy and, The Black Cat, and The Death Kiss soon followed, building on Manners' popularity as a leading man.

Outside of horror movies, Manners was sought after to play the "palpitating playboy" (Gosh I wish I'd come up with that phrase!) in Beauty and the Boss and Three Broadway Girls (AKA The Greeks Had A Word for It) and Torch Singer (1933). He played a character with the unfortunate name, Dick Cheney in The Ruling Voice (1931)

Manners had memorable parts in two great pre-code womens' films, Man Wanted and The Miracle Woman. It was in Man Wanted that I first noticed Manners and like Kay Francis, could really appreciate his qualities as a secretary. Manners plays a blind song-writer who falls for a fake faith healer in The Miracle Woman. One of the more interesting aspects of this part is that his character relays most of his emotions via a ventriloquist dummy. Manners manages, amazingly, to make this less creepy than it sounds.

He sported a southern accent in the civil war drama, Hearts in Bondage in 1936, his last year in Hollywood. David Manners, in looks so much like an early 1990s Ralph Fiennes in personality more like a late 90s Brendan Fraser. Perhaps if Manners had been able to play the kind of challenging and provocative roles that Ralph has made a career of, he might have stuck with acting in Hollywood. Instead, he retired as his popularity was waning only slightly and took up novel writing among other things. His last film was playing second lead to another recent obsession of mine, Herbert Marshall alongside Katharine Hepburn in a Woman Rebels. I guess playing second lead in a "Box office Poison" era Hepburn film wasn't enough to tempt him away from retirement. He had played opposite Hepburn as her romantic interest in her first film, A Bill of Divorcement.

Manner's returned to acting on the stage in the late forties and fifties in Oscar Wilde's Lady Windemere's Fan and The Importance of Being Earnest. Manners continued to write and after publishing two novels, he also wrote a pair of self-help books published in the seventies and eighties. He died in 1998 in Santa Barbara, California. I've started a small David Manners Gallery. I'd be happy for any additions.


kittypackard said...

"It's a poorly kept secret that I wish I was the editor of one of those old movie magazines from the thirties."

I can think of no one better suited for the role, my dear!

Thanks for the background on Mr. Manners! Having only seen A Bill of Divorcement it was very enlightening indeed ...

sexy said...
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