I bought this book because Anthony Mann has directed some of my favorite films – THE TALL TARGET, , THE NAKED SPUR, WINCHESTER 73, BEND OF THE RIVER, THE GLENN MILLER STORY. And being a Noir fan, I liked his 40s ‘B’s like RAILROADED, T-MEN,RAW DEAL, DESPERATE.


Anthony Mann

Anthony Mann

But I guess I’m not the ‘serious filmgoer’ referred to in Warren French’s foreword. I got lost when he quotes Basinger on BORDER INCIDENT, “…..moved figures and camera within that frame to redefine meaning until the possibilities of these redefinitions had been exhaustively explored.”

Maybe I should have stopped right there and realised this book is written more for film students and academics and ‘serious filmgoers’,  The book is not a biography, we learn little of Mann the man (so to speak).

It was first written in 1979 and updated in 2007.The author admits many of her readers saw it as an auteur study , though that was not necessarily her intention. Of auterism she says, “It brought awareness that films were more than their dialogue”. 

Isn’t that stating the obvious.

The ‘auteur’ theory, coined by French critics, maintains that the director is all – a film is his personal vision.

Personally I prefer an analogy I read – the writer is the architect, the director and crew are the foreman and construction workers.  Frivolous of course but without a script, there is no film.

Anthony Mann had some of the best writers and the author acknowledges them – Borden Chase, Philip Yordan, Dudley Nichols and Reginald Rose. But I was reminded that this book is an academic study when she says that these writers provided scripts that ” suited his desire for purity and clarity”.  Oh my.



Of Mann’s westerns with James Stewart, Basinger says they “secured the actor’s future as a legendary star.”

Wasn’t Stewart already  an Oscar-winning legend, with 15 years experience before his films with Mann.

On The Glenn Miller Story……”it is not a typical Mann film but it would be impossible to define it as directed by anyone else.”

This film had a solid script, cast and music. Any decent director could have made it a success.


Not discussed in the book  and surely of importance in assessing Mann’s methods:

The creative input of producers, editors, cinematographers (though John Alton is given credit) , production designers – and actors.

How involved was he in scripts.

How he interacted with his actors – did he rehearse much? Was he a one-take  or ten-take director?

What made him want to film 7 films in a row with the same actor (Stewart).

How important was music in his films.

How often did he have final edit on his films?

Questions that are possibly not all answerable, but surely worthy of discussion.


Jeanine Basinger rates Anthony Mann as one of the greatest ever  Hollywood directors. Is he up there with Hitchcock, Hawks, Lang, Capra,Wyler, Curtiz, Stevens, Cukor, Wellman, Lubitsch?

I don’t think so.

The book’s cover photo  is from THUNDER BAY, with James Stewart and Joanne Dru.

Amazingly, on You Tube is a 17 minute interview Anthony Mann did for the BBC in 1967 when he was  filming Dandy in Aspic ( which,sadly, he didn’t finish,dying from a heart attack in April 1967). The interview was part of a series, The Movies, and this segment was called, ‘Action speaks louder than words.’

He spoke enthusiastically:

“David Selznick gave me my first glimpse of the picture business – he allowed me to make tests for him – Gone With The Wind, Tom Sawyer. Gradually I became deeply interested in film.”

       “I have been influenced by three or four directors – Murnau – he was the man who could tell a story without any dialogue – he worked more in silent films anyway – and could create an emotion by their use of long shot to gradual closer, closer shot.”

Other books on Anthony Mann.





I can’t find any reviews of this one.




Jmaes Stewart, Millard Mitchell, Ralph Meeker. THE NAKED SPUR







6 responses »

  1. You make some very good comments. To study any director as an auteur you must study all his or her films and find reasons to categorize them in a certain way; their use of mise en scene, of lighting, music, props, etc, The French critics of the New Wave had a particular interest in Hollywood films, which at first glance is difficult since they were for mass production and for a wide audience. It is hard to see patterns in a vast array of genres unless you deliberately go looking for them. It is easier to see such directors as Hitchcock, Renoir, Lang, Von Sternberg and even Wilder as targets for the auteurs than Mann. The only time I find patterns that fuel the auteur theory is in his B Noirs. Thanks in no short measure to the use of lighting and music these films are easily recognised as Anthony Mann films. I suspect John Alton was as much the architect of the mise en scene in films like ‘T-Men, and Desperate,’ as Mann was, maybe more. To round off this observation I would like to say the auteur theory is out of date and somewhat discredited. I find the idea useful, but little more.

  2. I l9ove film history and story of productions and the lives of the people that made them but can’t get into the studies end of books. I’d like to read a Mann bio and learn of his films and association with Jimmy but apparently this won’t be the one.

  3. Maybe the best bet is the bios of Jimmy Stewart. I expect they will have some info on Mann.
    I’ve just ordered two books of interviews with classic Hollywood writers, hopefully interesting.
    Like you, I love to go behind the scenes.

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