Saturday, May 14, 2016

Born Today May 14: Miles Mander


Born Lionel Henry Mander in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire UK (in the English Midlands); he was the second son of Theodore Mander of the prominent industrial family of the same name (Theodore was the builder of Wrightwick Manor).  His older brother Geoffrey Mander was a prominent member of Parliament for years.  The younger Mander, however, seems to have a case of wonder lust.  After a childhood education at Harrow in Middlesex and Loretto School east of Edinburgh in Scotland, he set out of University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The plan was for him to follow in the family business, but he soon developed an interest in aviation, and followed that passion into service for his country in World War I, where he served as a captain the Royal Army Service Corps.  After the war, he set out for New Zealand, where he spent most of his twenties on his uncle Martin Mander's sheep farm. He returned to Great Britain in 1918 and began to write both novels and plays.  He also became a film exhibitor, this was his first foray into the world of motion pictures.  By 1920 he had managed to get his first part in film in a minor role; the film was Testimony, a marriage melodrama based on a novel.  His name change came about when he was credited early on sometime as "Luther Miles," presumably because of the prominence of his family, the name stuck, with his changing the last name for his real first name. Throughout the 1920's he had steady work as an actor; but he also has credits as and producer, writer and a director.   His first producer credit came in 1923 with The Man Without Desire , a strange early sci/fi-fantasy film about life suspension, with the subject being reanimated 200 years later.  His first writing credit came in Lovers in Araby, a film that he also acted in.  He made his directorial debut two years later with The Whistler (1926), a DeForest Phonofilm production.  The next film that he made with them was truly revolutionary; they allowed him to direct a very early musical based on a sequel to Lover in Araby, entitled The Sheik of Araby, utilizing thier patented sound-on-film-process.  It was simply a musical number performed by then popular singer Paul England.  The next film that he appeared in that featured sound was Balaclava (1928), but the sound version was released two years after the silent original.  His big breakthrough also came in 1928 with a film that he wrote, directed and starred in:  The First Born.  The film was a huge critical success and gained the attention of Hollywood--to this day it remains one of the great classics of the silent era. The first film that he starred in that featured sound effects that had been perfected into early mono was The Crooked Billet (1929) (it seems that Britain had a slightly different path to sound film--as they just didn't have the ability to promote films in early full sound due to theaters not being owned by studios, so they often overdubbed sound to partial sound effect films and re-released them when theaters finally released around 1930 or 1931 that they had to upgrade or die). Miles Mander went on to be a well know character actor in Hollywood in sound film; a rarity for an actor without stage training who became a star in the silent era.  In 1930, he appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Murder!, Hitchcock's third full length sound film.  He is probably best known by film buffs for his portrayal of Cardinal Richelieu in the comedic Allan Dwan directed The Three Musketeers, starring Don Ameche and featuring the The Ritz Brothers, with appearances by Lionel Atwill and John Carradine. Mander died of a sudden heart attack event in the famous original Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles at the age of 57 on February 8 1946.  Well, if you had to go that dramatically, then the Brown Derby was the place to do back in those days!  He was buried in Ocean View Burial Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada under his birth name.  

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