CBH firstname.lastname@example.org_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-02-18 published
His voice resonated on airwaves
Veteran read news, hosted shows on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio and television for four decades
By Allison LAWLOR Tuesday, February 18, 2003 - Page R7
Harry MANNIS, a popular Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announcer and host whose warm, deep voice graced the country's airwaves for four decades, died last month in Toronto. He was 82.
Mr. MANNIS started his career with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in Halifax at the end of the Second World War. He was known across the country, not only for reading the radio news, but hosting a number of programs including Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio's Themes and Variations and Anthology. His voice was also often heard on the Project, Stage and Fourth Estate.
"He had that great resonance that I envied, " said his long-time friend and former radio personality Max FERGUSON. "As an announcer I have always considered him the best."
Mr. MANNIS preferred radio but also ventured into television, reading the Toronto metro news and hosting What's New?, a news magazine geared toward youth, which was launched in 1972.
In radio, he said, you had the option of sitting at the microphone in an old T-shirt (although Mr. MANNIS himself was most often smartly dressed in a turtleneck sweater and dress coat). He also found it less stressful than television. "It's easier on the nerves. Only one thing can be a problem -- reading, " he said in an interview in 1975.
A modest, unassuming man, who stood at just over six-feet tall, Mr. MANNIS admitted to still having a bout of nerves after almost three decades in the business.
"Even after 29 years I haven't been able to conquer this feeling, " he said in 1975.
"When I was doing the Toronto metro television news, I had a recurring nightmare that when I'd go on the air, all the pages of the news would be mixed up. It's never happened, but you never know, " he said.
It was that same fear that prompted him to meticulously check his work before sitting down in front of the microphone. If he didn't know a word, or its proper pronunciation, instead of guessing and taking the risk of being wrong on-air he would head right to the public broadcaster's man in charge of language and make sure he got it right.
"Harry never mispronounced a word, Mr. FERGUSON said.
But like any new radio broadcaster, Mr. MANNIS, who didn't lack a wry humour, had a couple of small announcing mishaps in the early years. One day in Halifax, the city experienced a power failure. The show still having to go on, Mr. MANNIS was forced to read the news from the master control room with someone holding a flashlight over his shoulder.
Another time, when his microphone was switched on for a station call he happened to be looking at a drama producer whose last name was Appleby. Before he knew it, the words coming out of his mouth were: "This is CBH, Applefax."
"Relax for a minute and it's fatal, Mr. MANNIS said in the 1975 interview. "The minute a mike is turned on, I visualize a million pairs of ears glued to their radios or television sets, all eagerly awaiting to pounce on my slightest mispronunciation. Is it any wonder the tongue cleaves to the palate, the eyes become glazed, the hand holding the script trembles like a leaf in a gale?"
Harry MANNIS was born in Toronto on April 11, 1920. He was the youngest of three children born to Jessie and Benjamin MANNIS, who owned a furrier shop. Harry attended Oakwood Collegiate Institute and met his wife Elizabeth when she moved in two doors down. The couple married in 1942 and later had a daughter.
"He was like any nice young man, Elizabeth MANNIS said. "He was private. He wasn't flamboyant."
After high school, Mr. MANNIS briefly attended the University of Toronto before leaving to join the Royal Canadian Air Force. Stationed in England during the war, he returned home to Canada in 1946. Uncertain about what to do next, he decided to enroll in a radio-announcing course at Toronto's Ryerson Institute of Technology (now Ryerson University).
"We all liked the way he read things at home, " said Elizabeth MANNIS, who was one of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's first female announcers.
Impressed with his voice quality and enunciation (which was untrained), they told him not to bother with school and sent him to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for an audition. He was hired the next day for an announcing job in Halifax. Within two weeks of his audition, he was reading the radio news on the East Coast.
"I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, Mr. MANNIS said of his quick entry into the radio world.
He had had a brush with the airwaves before the war. After learning to play the piano, violin and clarinet by ear as a child, he decided to try his hand at singing, fancying himself a pop star one day.
When he was 17, he appeared on an amateur radio hour show singing a pop song. He thought he had found the key to his success until, as he put it, "the pianist refused to play slowly, and I refused to sing fast, and the result was pandemonium."
"Music came naturally to him, " Elizabeth said. "The same with announcing, he didn't have to struggle with it."
Mr. MANNIS remained with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation until his retirement in the mid-1980s. He was widely liked and respected by his colleagues, who called him a "class act." Judy MADDREN, host of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio's World Report, wrote in a condolence note to his family that Mr. MANNIS was a "true gentleman" who always treated her with respect and without condescension.
An animal lover, Mr. MANNIS and his wife took in stray animals and supported a local organization called the Toronto Wildlife Centre, which helps rehabilitate injured wildlife.
Mr. MANNIS died of cancer on January 2 in a Toronto hospital. Besides his wife, he leaves daughter Kate and two grandchildren.
Harry MANNIS, born in Toronto on April 11, 1920; died in Toronto on January 2, 2003.
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