Hank Mann

Active - 1914 - 1959  |   Born - Jan 1, 1888   |   Died - Nov 25, 1971   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Romance, Western

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American comedian Hank Mann was a product of the turbulent tenement district of New York in the 1880s, where a kid had better learn to be handy with his fists or lose all his teeth by the age of 12. Putting his physical prowess to practical use, Mann became a circus acrobat, then headed westward for a job at Mack Sennett's Keystone studios. His junkyard-dog face was softened a bit by a huge paintbrush mustache, which emphasized his expressive, almost wistful eyes. Seldom a star comedian at Sennett, Mann quickly learned how to "catch flies" -- steal scenes, that is. In the most famous example of this, Mann played the foreman of a jury where Chester Conklin was on trial for his life; as Conklin energetically pleaded his case, Mann grabbed the audience's attention by silently yanking up his necktie in a hanging motion. Mann left Keystone for his own starring series at Fox, thence to a career as a character comic in feature films. He had the potential to be one of the top comedy stars of the era, but bad management and worse judgment left him broke by the late '20s. Mann was given a good break as Charlie Chaplin's contemptuous boxing opponent in City Lights (1931), and was provided with a meaty role as a house detective in the 1935 two-reeler Keystone Hotel, which reunited such former Sennett headliners as Ford Sterling, Ben Turpin, Chester Conklin and Marie Prevost. But Mann's talkie career consisted primarily of bit parts. He worked steadily in the films of Frank Capra, a friend from the silent days, and appeared prominently in two Three Stooge comedies, 1934's Men in Black (as a long-suffering janitor) and 1937's Goofs and Saddles (performing some bone-crushing pratfalls as a confused cattle rustler). Mann also showed up briefly in the two-reelers of such Columbia contractees as Andy Clyde, Buster Keaton and El Brendel. When jobs were scarce, Mann farmed out his services as a makeup artist, and also ran a small California malt shop. During the '50s, Hank Mann could always be relied upon for newspaper interviews about the good old days, and he was cast along with other silent comedy vets in such nostalgic feature films as Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops (1955) and Man of a Thousand Faces (1957).

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