|David Joseph Manners|
as John Harker in Dracula (1931).
|Born||Rauff de Ryther Duan Acklom
April 30, 1900
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
|Died||December 23, 1998
Santa Barbara, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Suzanne Bushnell (1929-1931; divorced)|
|Partner(s)||Bill Mercer (1948-1978; Mercer's death)|
Born Rauff de Ryther Daun Acklom in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Manners originally studied forestry at the University of Toronto, but he found it boring. Over his father's objections, he pursued a stage career and appeared in both Broadway and out-of-town productions. He came to Hollywood at the beginning of the talking films revolution after studying acting with Eva Le Gallienne, even though she had remarked that he was "a very bad actor" after seeing one of his stage performances. He once appeared on stage with Helen Hayes. His family moved to New York City in 1907 and to Hastings-on-Hudson, New York in 1922.
Manners was serendipitously "discovered" by the film director James Whale at a Hollywood party, and within a few years, he was a popular leading man, playing opposite such actresses as Katharine Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck, Gloria Stuart, Myrna Loy, Loretta Young, and Ann Dvorak. He was paired several times with Helen Chandler.
His very first film, directed by Whale, was destroyed before having been released, but with his second movie, Journey's End (1930), The New York Times and Variety officially bestowed their imprimatur upon the fledgling film actor. His subsequent film appearances in movies made at RKO Radio Pictures and Warner Brothers were critically praised (again including The New York Times, an early and prescient adherent of his acting abilities), and he was contracted by the latter studio.
In late 1930, he filmed his most famous role, as Jonathon Harker opposite Bela Lugosi, in Universal's 1931 horror classic, Dracula. Until the end of his life, Manners continued to receive fan mail from fans of the movie, although he claimed to have never seen the finished film. In his tenth movie, he co-starred with Barbara Stanwyck in Frank Capra's critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful The Miracle Woman (1931). The New York Times, again lauding Manners, featured this tribute, "Manners does exceptionally well with this sympathetic assignment".
During his brief tenure at Warners, which loaned him out to other studios quite frequently, Manners progressed from callow featured actor and leading man to finally attaining star stature with the lead in Crooner (1932). Shortly thereafter, he began to freelance with much success. One of the final films he made before the termination of his Warner Bros. contract, was RKO's A Bill of Divorcement. His co-star Katharine Hepburn commented that, "David was a big star. I was so nervous working with him ... He was... just a dear to work with and a totally professional and talented actor."
Lucille Ball, his costar in Roman Scandals, commented, "David wasn't in the one scene I did in Roman Scandals, but he watched every scene shot. He was tremendously enthusiastic, and he...invited me to supper. ... He was mobbed everywhere. All the time he kept telling me I had style and personality. He said if I persevered I'd get somewhere in Hollywood. Not once did he ever hint that he'd like to take me home to his boudoir. ... He was so utterly charming." Many studios vied for his talent and services besides RKO and Warner Brothers, including Columbia, Universal, Paramount, Fox Film Corporation, Tiffany Pictures, and United Artists.
Pursuit of other interests
After the success of Dracula, Manners worked for several years as a romantic leading man, and was most often seen in a tuxedo in romantic comedies and light dramas. The Last Flight (1931), a Lost Generation celebration of the high life in Paris, and Karl Freund's The Mummy (1932) with Boris Karloff were two standouts. But by 1936 he had grown bored with Hollywood, and abandoned his film career. He reportedly never acclimated to Hollywood, which he found to be "a false place". Although he was among the first group of actors to join the fledgling Screen Actors Guild in 1933, he returned to New York City. In 1936, he returned to California, living on a ranch near Victorville until 1956, and later in Pacific Palisades and Santa Barbara, living with his partner, writer Bill Mercer, for thirty years until Mercer's death in 1978.
In 1940, he officially changed his name to David Joseph Manners and became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He returned to the stage, working regularly until his retirement in the 1950s. Appearing on Broadway, in summer stock, and on tour, Manners was cast in a variety of productions, including the ill-fated Broadway production of the Agatha Christie play Hidden Horizon (1946). Marlon Brando, who was cast along with Manners in Maxwell Anderson's play Truckline Cafe (1946), said of his colleague, "I owe him my entire career."
He spent the remainder of his life in private pursuits, such as painting and writing. Several of his novels, published by Dutton, sold over 100,000 copies each. His reflections on philosophy were put forth in Look Through: An Evidence of Self Discovery, published in 1971 by El Cariso Publications.
|This section lacks ISBNs for the books listed in it. (October 2013)|
- Clive Hirschhorn. The Warner Bros. Story (New York: Crown Publishers, New York, 1979)
- Ephraim Katz. The Film Encyclopedia (New York: Harper Perennial, 1980)
- D. McMurchy. "David Manners: A Perfect Gentleman", Classic Images (July 1999), vol. 289
- David Morgan Jones. The Wonder Within You, Trafford Publishing (2006); ISBN 1-4120-5013-8; ISBN 978-1412050135
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to David Manners.|
- David Manners at Find a Grave
- David Manners at the Internet Movie Database
- David Manners at the Internet Broadway Database
- David Manners homepage
- David Manners 1997 interview, accessed October 1, 2007