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Subject: Very good call. The often today-dismissed director Del Mann erned an Academy Award for his directing "Marty", and assisting character actor Ernest Borgnine in earning his 'Best Actor' Oscar for their film, "Marty" (1955). -Backstory ...
FUN FACT: Mann was the only director to win an Oscar for his FIRST film, a record that stood nearly 50 years!
...In 1954, Mann won a Best Director Emmy nomination for the "Producers' Showcase" episode "Our Town," a musical adaptation featuring the young Paul Newman and the singing talents of swinging Frank Sinatra. Ironically, the TV play of "Marty," considered the summit of TV's Golden Age in retrospect, went unrecognized during the nascent industry's awards season, though it did receive an excellent buzz via word of mouth. (The live "Marty" was captured via kinescope, a method of reproduction that involved shooting a 16-mm copy of the broadcast off of a TV monitor for rebroadcast to the West Coast in the days before coast-to-coast TV hookups, let along videotape; such programs were seldom rebroadcast after the initial showing due to the poor quality of the 'scope.) That situation would change once "Marty" moved from New York to Hollywood.
It's said that superstar Burt Lancaster and his producing partner Ben Hecht were looking for a property to generate a tax write-off for their successful indie production company, Hecht-Lancaster. That property was Marty, shot in B+W in the standard Academy ratio of 4:3 in an era when the blockbuster, like Cecil B. DeMIlle's epic remake of "The Ten Commandments," shot in color in the wide-screen processes of CinemaScope, Cinerama and VistaVision, were all the rage. (The box office gross of the 1956 "Ten Commandments," if adjusted for inflation, would rival the grosses generated by the top block busters of the present era.) Color, widescreens and spectacle were considered to be the necessary ingredients to get people out of the house where they were planted in front of the TV and back into the theaters. And here was a low-budget, B+W film with no production values and no stars based on a TV play that had appeared free on TV (Hollywood's great enemy) just two years before!
Remaking "Marty" seemed an honorable way to generate a tax-write off, so the story goes, while associating the company with quality, but Hecht-Lancaster refused to spend much money on it. The budget was limited to just under $350,000. (It's said that "Marty" was the first Oscar-winning film in which the advertising costs exceeded the budget.) Rod Steiger, who did not want to be bound contractually to Hecht-Lancaster, refused to reprise the eponymous title role, so it was turned over to Burt Lancaster's "From Here to Eternity" co-star, 'Ernest Borginine' . Having assayed Fatso Judson and other screen heavies in his brief cinema career, Borgnine had never played a sympathetic supporting character, let alone a lead, on film before.
Possibly due to its unpromising prospects, Burt Lancaster didn't bother putting his name on the picture as a producer, leaving that honor (and the Oscar that lay in "Marty's future) to Hecht. No wonder the success of "Marty" caught everyone flat-footed! It's perhaps the supreme case in Hollywood's checkered flirtation with "quality" cinema that quality not only won out, but more importantly, paid off (and paid off handsomely at that!).
The movie "Marty" was a critical success before it was a commercial success. Shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955, it was the first American film to win the Golden Palm (an award which, in the French manner, is shared by its director). In release, the film returned $3 million in rentals ($21 million in 2005 dollars), which was a considerable amount in the mid-1950s. More importantly for Hecht-Lancaster, its low-budget made "Marty" one of the most profitable movies ever made.
The critical recognition and boffo box office made "Marty" a sleeper at the 1956 Academy Awards, at which Mann won the Oscar as Best Director of 1955 and Chayevsky copped the Best Adapted Screenplay trophy. In addition to the original "auteurs," Ernest Borgnine won the Best Actor Oscar and Harold Hecht picked up the gong for Best Picture. Betsy Blair and Joe Mantell also received nominations in Best Supporting Acting categories, and on the technical side, "Marty" was nominated for Best B+W Cinematography (Joseph LaShelle) and Best B+W Art Direction-Set Decoration ( Ted Haworth, Walter M. Simonds, Robert Priestley). Until Sam Mendes duplicated the feat in 2000, Mann was the only director to win an Oscar for his first film.
Though he could not know it then, "Marty" was the highpoint of Mann's career. While Chayevsky went on to win two more Oscars, Mann never won another Oscar nomination, though he did pick up two more Emmy nominations in 1972 and 1980 during his productive career. More significantly, Delbert Mann had the respect of his peers: in addition to his three subsequent Directors Guild of America nominations to go along with his win for "Marty," the DGA honored him with its Robert B. Aldrich Achievement Award in 1997 and an Honorary Life Membership in 2002.
Del Mann directed 8 performers to Oscar nominations: Joe Mantell, Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Shirley Knight, Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Carolyn Jones, and Wendy Hiller. Borgnine (1956-Best Actor: Marty (1955)), Hiller (1959 - Best Supp. Actress - Separate Tables (1958)), and Niven (1959 - Best Actor: Separate Tables (1958)) won for their roles.
-courtesy of IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood