Anthony Mann. Mann has 14 archiveable films—unreal—that’s the most at this point with the auteurs remaining who I haven’t yet mentioned as the best 156 directors of all-time. Still- it’s not just about quantity- he has three films that land in the top 100 of their respective decade (his case) even if there are no films of Mann’s landing in the top 500 of all-time (certainly a weakness). Mann is known for those psychological westerns with Jimmy Stewart but he had some strong noirs in there as well.

Best film: Winchester 73’. Mann isn’t an auteur with the big flashy masterpiece, so you wouldn’t get a massive argument from me if you opted for any one of the top 6-7 on the top 10 below. The narrative is absolutely perfect and Stewart is in his prime and it is a big performance.

The narrative is absolutely perfect and Stewart is in his prime and it is a big performance.

total archiveable films: 14

top 100 films:  0

top 500 films:  0

top 100 films of the decade: 3  (Raw Deal, Winchester 73’, The Naked Spur)

most overrated: Not really one for Mann. Man of the West is the only film in the TSPDT consensus top 1000 so I guess if forced to pick I’d go with that. Since it is their only film of his on the list it means they think this is his best and I have it fifth. You won’t get too stringent an argument from me though because the last time I saw it was on VHS in 2004 I think I may have missed some of the widescreen brilliance. The Far Country, Winchester 73’, The Naked Spur and Man from Laramie.  

most underrated: Winchester would be about #550 or so for me and it is 1398 here on TSPDT. The Tin Star is great and isn’t in the TSPDT top 2000 (shaking my head here)— same for Raw Deal

  • Raw Deal
  • It’s a perhaps not on the level of the very elite noir films but it’s on that second plane and certainly has great work from Anthony Mann behind the camera and John Alton the DP
  • I love the cast as well- O’Keefe isn’t awful but he isn’t remarkable either—I think 5 years later this role goes to Sterling Hayden and it’s better for it- he could do the “brute with a good heart” so well. But the rest of the cast is superb, Raymond Burr is perfect as the brutish heavy and John Ireland is as slippery as they come. But, as far as the acting, the one who steals the show is Claire Trevor. She does the voice over (and it’s sublime) and places the girl from the wrong side of the tracks (literally grew up here on “Corkscrew Alley”. It’s an interesting narrative nuance but she, as the narrator, doesn’t really know what’s going on with Burr and Ireland and the gangster’s side of the story
  • Love the street lamp lighting in the foreground shot used a few times
  • There’s an amazing scene (and most of the really good scenes are in the last half hour) with the telephone obstructing the mise-en-scene—totally in the foreground and sits there for 20-30 seconds (which is an eternity) and then it rings and it’s an important call. It’s Mann saying “this call is going to change everything” and it’s impeccably done
  • Again, Trevor is marvelous—there’s a close up on her with her own voice over and building music—it’s an amazing scene
  • Love the shot towards the end on the boat. It’s night and the light shining in is through the porthole
  • It’s hard to see the scene of Burr falling and not think of Rear Window
  • Probably the most famous scene is the fight sequences between O’Keefe and Ireland in the taxidermy shop with the big stuffed Bear. It’s gorgeous mise-en-scene. There is netting obstructing the frame—it certainly has a ton in common with von sternberg’s blue angel
  • Very sordid tale- banned by Joe Breen moral police but then they hired his son to help edit it
  • There’s some rough patches as well. There’s a shot of Burr really out of focus and then John Ireland flubs shuffling the cards-
  • The theremin music—an electronical instrument is quite spectacular and effective. It’s used in horror films and also in lost weekend
  • Highly Recommend- top 10 of the year quality film
probably the most famous scene is the fight sequences between O’Keefe and Ireland in the taxidermy shop with the big stuffed Bear. It’s gorgeous mise-en-scene. There is netting obstructing the frame—it certainly has a ton in common with von sternberg’s blue angel
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an innovative frame here from Raw Deal– an artist even if he doesn’t think he was one

gem I want to spotlight : The Tin Star. This one could fit in the underrated section as well. If Mann is still talked about today its for the westerns with Stewart— maybe noir-junkies talk about his work—but this western starring Anthony Perkins and Henry Fonda is lost—and shouldn’t be— the mise-en-scene work may be Mann’s best even if the narrative isn’t quite on par with Winchester or Naked Spur.

a shot we’d get from Leone a decade later– this is from 1957
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bouncing off a mirror with innovation in Tin Star
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the mise-en-scene work may be Mann’s best — doors and windows here like Ozu and Renoir

stylistic innovations/traits:

  • Psychological westerns (often the monomaniacal Jimmy Stewart character)—they made seven archiveable films together
  • Superior foreground/background mise-en-scene work, different depths of field,  framing (netting obstructing the frame in Raw Deal like von Sternberg, using doors and windows like Renoir and Ozu in The Tin Star)—Mann would also use the wide aspect ratios in his later work to take advantage of the entire frame on the left and right— if you caught his work in the pan and scan VHS days (like I did for a lot of it) it is worth another look
  • Men in War has some very detailed blocked, stacked faces like Varda’s La Pointe Courte or Ingmar Bergman’s work
  • I don’t like using personal quotes but this one is telling— From IMDB–
    [on Erich von Stroheim] “He drove me mad. He was a genius. I’m not a genius, I’m a worker. Geniuses sometimes end up very unhappy, without a penny. That’s what happened to Erich – and Preston Sturges, too”.—I think Mann is partly correct, his work is more utailitarian and pragmatic than von Stroheim— but John Ford would say the same thing and John Ford is absolutely an artist— so is Anthony Mann.
Psychological westerns (often the monomaniacal Jimmy Stewart character)—they made seven archiveable films together
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a great wrap shot from El Cid – Mann’s later work would take full advantage of the frame here
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this one is from Man of the West — Mann would often put action and characters on opposite sides of the frame– here we get that– plus the depth of field work — quite masterful

top 10

  1. Winchester 73’
  2. The Naked Spur
  3. Raw Deal
  4. Tin Star
  5. Man of the West
  6. The Man From Laramie
  7. Bend in the River
  8. The Furies
  9. Men in War
  10. T-Men

By year and grades

1947- T-Men R
1948- Raw Deal HR
1950- The Furies R/HR
1950- Winchester 73′ MS
1952- Bend of the River
1953- The Naked Spur HR/MS
1953- Thunder Bay R
1954- The Glenn Miller Story R
1955- The Far Country R
1955- The Man From Laramie R/HR
1957- Men In War R/ HR
1957- Tin Star HR
1958- Man of the West R/HR
1961- El Cid R

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives