Director Delbert Mann, who won an Oscar for “Marty” and served as president of the Directors Guild of America, died Nov. 11 in Los Angeles of pneumonia. He was 87.
Services will be at 2 p.m. Nov. 16 in Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church.
Mann directed the live TV version of the Paddy Chayefsky script “Marty,” in 1953, which starred Rod Steiger and became the first made-for-TV drama to be turned into a feature film. The feature version of “Marty” won 1955’s best picture Oscar, along with Oscars for Mann, Chayefsky and film version star Ernest Borgnine. Pic also won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and the director award from the DGA for Mann.
“No matter what the movie people may say or think about (the new medium) television, they have it to thank for ‘Marty,'” wrote Bosley Crowther in his New York Times review.
Mann’s 16 feature credits include “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs,” “Desire Under the Elms” with Sophia Loren, “Separate Tables,” “Middle of the Night” and Doris Day films, “Lover Come Back” with Rock Hudson and “That Touch of Mink” with Cary Grant.
Born in Lawrence, Kans., he graduated Vanderbilt U. in Nashville, Tenn. On his first day at Vanderbilt, he met his future wife, Ann Gillespie, to whom he was married for 59 years until her death in 2001. He was one of a group that formed Nashville’s Community Playhouse with director-producer Fred Coe, who became his mentor. After serving in the Army Air Corps, where he took advantage of being stationed in England to see plays in London.
After the war, he graduated from the Yale School of Drama. Coe asked him to come to New York to become a stage manager and assistant director NBC, where he began directing dramatic shows for series including Philco Television Playhouse, Playhouse 90 and Omnibus.
From the late 1960s into the 1990s, he directed more than two dozen films for television including classic literature adaptations “David Copperfield,” “Jane Eyre,” “Kidnapped,” the Golden Globe Award-winning “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “Heidi,” which famously interrupted a climactic moment in a 1968 Jets vs. Raiders football game.
He again directed live TV in 1981 and ’82 with “Live: All the Way Home” with Sally Field and William Hurt, and “The Member of the Wedding” with Pearl Bailey and Dana Hill, both for NBC.
He also directed six plays and an opera. In 1998, he published his memoirs, “Looking Back … at Live Television and Other Matters.”
He was elected to the Directors Guild of America’s National Board of Directors in 1958, and served as DGA President for two terms from 1967-1971. He continued to serve as a member of the Directors Guild Foundation and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation up until his death, and served as a member of the Board of Governors of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. In 2002, he received the DGA Honorary Life Member Award.
Mann is survived by three sons and seven grandchildren.
Donations may be made to the Fred Coe Visiting Professorship at Vanderbilt U. in Nashville.