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David Manners, 1900-1998, Reclusive Early Actor
Posted by: Fred Graham (ID *****8725) Date: December 16, 2002 at 16:44:22
  of 317

For those who loved the early "Dracula" and other films ...
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Wednesday, January 6, 1999
Halifax-born star died with little notice - by LOIS LEGGE -- Halifax Herald - www.herald.ns.ca -

The Halifax-born actor performed with some of history's biggest movie stars. Actors like Lucille Ball and Marlon Brando have credited him with giving them their major breaks in the film industry. His name was among the earliest to grace the Hollywood Walk of Stars. But when David Manners died at 98 on Dec. 23 [1998] in a Santa Barbara, Calif., retirement community, the news made nary a ripple in the city where he was born.

Garry Shutlak, senior archivist at Nova Scotia Public Archives, and Halifax author Allan Marble are among the few who instantly recognized the actor's name when they saw an obituary this week. "He seemed like quite an interesting character," Mr. Shutlak said of the once-youthful, handsome star who performed in classic 1930s horror flicks - Dracula with Bela Lugosi, The Mummy and Black Cat with Boris Karloff - and a string of romances with such actresses as Loretta Young, Claudette Colbert, Katherine Hepburn and Lucille Ball.

Born Rauff de Ryther Duan Acklom on April 30, 1900, in Halifax, the actor lived in the city with his father George, a schoolteacher, and mother Lillian until he was nine. His father ran the then-Tower Road boys school Harrow House, where prominent families of the day sent their children, said Mr. Marble, who included Mr. Manners in his 1976 book Nova Scotians At Home and Abroad. As a young man, Mr. Manners attended the University of Toronto to obtain a forestry degree, but later trained in acting at Hart House Theatre in Toronto, making his theatrical debut in 1924. He eventually changed his name to Manners, his mother's maiden name. While starting out in theatre in Toronto, New York and Chicago, Mr. Manners later moved to Hollywood, primarily, he said later, because - as a lifelong asthmatic - he sought clean air.

While obscure to the majority of the movie-going public, his name still had resonance with Hollywood's elite in 1978, when an article about him appeared in the magazine Atlantic Advocate. According to the article's author, Charles Foster, Mr. Manners' past female co-stars were particularly enamoured.

"Just a dear to work with and a totally professional and talented actor," recalled Ms. Hepburn. "Every girl in town wanted to work with him," echoed Ms. Young, who appeared with Mr. Manners in five films. "He was the dream actor, handsome, charming and totally genuine." And Ms. Ball confessed: "I still have a thing for him after all those years." Even the reclusive Mr. Brando - who made his Broadway debut opposite Mr. Manners in 1946's Truckline Cafe - told Mr. Foster that he owed his entire career to the Halifax-born actor.

Mr. Manners himself was far less enraptured by Hollywood. After 36 films in six years during the 1930s, he turned his back on Hollywood and blamed increased smoking in studios for his departure. He returned briefly to acting in the late 1940s but had by then become a novelist, penning 1941's Convenient Season, set in Bridgetown. "Few moments, even fewer people, were memorable enough for me to want to remember," he said in 1978, noting he had never even seen his famous star. "I suppose it's an honour," he told Mr. Foster. "But tell me, would you like your name trodden on by hundreds of dirty shoes every day of the year?"


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