Dudley Manlove
Class of 1931

By © Robert J. Kiss, Ph.D., May, 2003

Dudley Manlove
(11 Jun 1914 - 17 Apr 1996)

By the time Dudley Devere Manlove joined Oakland High School in 1927, he was already well-known throughout the Bay Area, having spent the past decade as a successful child performer in vaudeville. His mother Flossie, who had theatrical aspirations, trained Dudley and promoted him in the press as 'Oakland's golden haired boy' from almost as soon as he could walk, while his father Fred's job with the Southern Pacific Company gained the family cut-price rail tickets that allowed Master Dudley (as he was billed) to undertake personal appearance tours at theatres across California. Such was the popularity of Manlove's act - in which the youngster exhibited great versatility by combining dancing, singing and comedy routines with piano- and accordion-playing - that these tours by 1923 took in venues as far east as Illinois. Manlove thereafter joined the hugely successful O'Neill Sisters Kiddie Revue, based in San Francisco, while also gaining employment in a string of silent movies shot in Northern California, which found him playing opposite early box office stars Robert Frazer, Marie Walcamp, and Mary Pickford. After joining Oakland High School, Dudley Manlove began to focus his attention particularly on accordion-playing and tap dancing. Indeed, he was held in sufficient regard as a 'seasoned professional' that he was actually paid for his performances in school dramas and musical productions throughout his time there.

Manlove's professional life changed course dramatically around the time of his graduation in 1931, when he was knocked down in a hit-and-run accident in Oakland, and had to undergo major heart surgery. Eager to stay in showbusiness, but advised against strenuous physical activity by doctors, Manlove now joined local radio station KLX, where he started out as an announcer and player in radio dramas, before inventing the craze of 'snap dancing' - clicking his fingers over the airwaves with such astonishing dexterity that he could in this way 'impersonate' famous tap dancers. This unique talent again carried Manlove across America - this time even reaching New York, as he gave live performance after live performance on different radio stations. Returning to Oakland, Manlove settled into many years of lending his commanding baritone voice to presenting and announcing duties at Bay area stations including KROW, KTAB, KSFO and KYA, before becoming a staff announcer at NBC in San Francisco in 1944, a position he retained for ten years. Early on in his time at NBC, Manlove happened to be on duty during the night in 1945 when the end of World War Two was declared, an historic event that he was first to announce to San Francisco's listening public, whose elation at the news took the form of street parties that spontaneously filled the city.

In 1954, Manlove's professional career took a further new turn, as a result of various factors including the demise of radio drama production in San Francisco under the influence of television; the collapse of his second marriage, to singer Patty Prichard; and the drawn-out death of his father to cancer. Manlove, who had long fostered a desire to return to movies after his experiences during the silent period, now relocated to Hollywood. However, while frequently able to find employment on television shows including Dragnet, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Schlitz Playhouse, the movie roles he had hoped for proved thin on the ground. Apart from bit-parts in a few major productions - albeit including one highly memorable performance as the radio presenter who opens the Gary Cooper drama Ten North Frederick (1958) - the only more substantial roles for the actor came in poverty row productions like Plan 9 from Outer Space (1956) and Creation of the Humanoids (1962). Essentially retiring from the screen in the early 1960s, Manlove still enjoyed playing the star as he drove around Beverly Hills and Hollywood Boulevard in his white Cadillac.

After nearly twenty years of being ignored, the emergence of home video during the late 1970s and 1980s suddenly resurrected the figure of Dudley Manlove, as b-pictures that had been more or less ignored on their original release now found new and more appreciative audiences who relished these films' low production values and wild narratives, as well as their frequently alternative non-mainstream aesthetics, dialogue and performances. Foremost among these rediscoveries, which gained enormous cult followings, was director Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space; the only production on which Dudley Manlove had ever received top billing in the credits. With his overblown (yet highly memorable) dialogue, foppish uniform, and stilted silent-era performance style as the alien 'Eros', Manlove now found himself a cult figure too. Overnight, a whole generation of youthful aficionados seemed able to quote his celebrated speech "All you of Earth are idiots!" [audio] from Plan 9, and - to his surprise and consternation - interviewers again started to seek out the actor at his Apple Valley home; few, however, realized quite how chequered and colorful Manlove's seven decades in showbusiness had actually been.

Robert J. Kiss, Ph.D., is currently writing a book-length biography of Dudley Manlove, entitled "All You of Earth are Idiots!".
He can be contacted at: robertjameskiss@hotmail.com