A resident of the "Far Side of Paradise" in critic Andrew Sarris' groundbreaking 1968 study of Hollywood film, Anthony Mann forged a successful career helming genre pictures whose artistry often put Hollywood's avowed "prestige" films to shame. Though his crime movies and Westerns never won Mann prizes in his lifetime, he earned the adulation of the 1950s French critics and ensuing generations of cinéastes for his integration of character insight and settings, as well as his skill with action.
Born in Southern California, Mann relocated to New York City with his family when he was ten. An aspiring actor from childhood, Mann quit high school in 1923 after his father died. Soon after his Broadway debut as a walk-on, Mann moved to larger roles on and off-Broadway. Along with acting, Mann also worked as a production manager, stage manager, and set designer, but he realized by the 1930s that directing was his preferred vocation. Mann's relative success as a Broadway director attracted Hollywood's attention by the late '30s. Producer David O. Selznick hired Mann in 1938 to be a talent scout and casting director, giving Mann his first taste of film directing as the supervisor on screen tests for Gone With the Wind (1939), Rebecca (1940), and Intermezzo (1939).