David Manners – Nova Scotia’s First Movie Star
David Manners is arguably the most significant actor to ever hail from Nova Scotia. The suave Halifax-born thespian, who made 38 movies in Hollywood between 1930 and 1936, was the star of not one, not two, but three enduring horror classics made by Universal Studios: Dracula, The Black Cat and The Mummy.
Born Rauff de Ryther Duan Acklom, Manners took advantage of his smooth good looks, athletic bearing and sophisticated-sounding mid-Atlantic accent to work his way onto the Hollywood A-list. Taking his mother’s maiden name for a more manageable moniker, the young actor was in high demand for leading man roles against some of the most eligible females stars of the time.
It’s those Universal horror films that keep Manners’ name and face in circulation today, however. In the credits to Todd Browning’s Dracula from 1931, Manners gets equal billing with Bela Lugosi, who he also co-starred with in The Death Kiss. In Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Black Cat, from 1934, Manners would face not only Lugosi but the immortal Frankenstein actor himself, Boris Karloff, who had also co-starred with the in-demand Haligonian in Karl Freund’s The Mummy in 1932.
Manners was receiving, at one point in his career, 100,000 fan letters a week. Up to his passing he was still receiving fan mail from star-struck punters who explained just how much seeing Dracula, The Mummy and The Black Cat had changed their lives.
Never comfortable with Hollywood, which he found to be a “false place,” the iconoclastic Manners retired from the screen in 1936 at the height of his fame. He moved to the desert, painted and wrote novels, one of which is set in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, and performed on stage until his retirement from acting altogether in the 1950s. He passed away in December 1998 at the age of 97, one of the last links to the earliest years of Hollywood.Read more