Born Emil Anton Bundsmann in San Diego, Mann started out as an actor, appearing in plays off-Broadway in New York City.
In 1930, his interests turned to stage direction and he began to immerse himself in the techniques of Rouben Mamoulian, David Belasco and Chester Erskine. In 1934, Mann founded a theatrical stock company that developed into Long Island's Red Barn Playhouse.
Four years later, Mann went to Hollywood as a casting director for David O. Selznick, where his films included "Intermezzo" and "Rebecca." By 1942, he was working as an assistant director.
Well respected for his acute visual sensitivity toward the American Western landscape, Mann was known for effortlessly blending natural vistas with human drama. His dramas verged on classical tragedy, often showing anguished heroes attempting to resolve personal pain and confusion.
His films included "El Cid," Winchester 73," Men in War" and "Bend of the River."
He died in Berlin during production of "A Dandy in Aspic," starring Mia Farrow. The film, his 45th, was finished with star Laurence Harvey stepping in to complete it.