Ask Me

Before he wrote ‘Body Snatchers,’ this author used his farming roots for inspiration

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Q: Screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring, who wrote the screenplay for the original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” had roots in the Valley. Can you tell me more about him?

Phil Tavlian, Fresno

A: According to a 1933 Fresno Bee story, Daniel Mainwaring was born on July 22, 1902, on Sampson Mountain near Dunlap, although some other sources put his birthplace in Oakland and birthdate in February. He came to this area when his parents “moved to a farm in the Garfield district of Clovis,” the story said. Mainwaring attended Clovis schools and graduated from Clovis High School in 1921.

While attending then-Fresno State College, Mainwaring worked as an assistant reference librarian for the Fresno County Library. He graduated from Fresno State in 1924 and got his first job as a “newspaperman” in 1925. It’s not clear which newspaper employed him, but The Bee story says that from the mid-1920s to the early 1930s Mainwaring was “a newspaperman in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.” He also worked for The Bee “for a short time.”

Mainwaring published his first novel, “One Against the Earth,” in 1933 at the age of 30. His New York publishers said of the work, “In the writing there is a fusing of stark realism and poetry that is often overwhelming in its effect. It is a notable first effort.”

The book is set in the Clovis area, and Mainwaring said he got the idea for the book “while I lived on my father’s ranch.”

Mainwaring said the novel tells “the story of Eugene Hamus, a youth with a beauty-questioning soul who loves the earth yet fears it and tries to escape from it. His only heritage from his father is a wanderlust that tears him from his farm and sends him in quest of happiness.” After three disastrous love affairs the novel’s protagonist “returns to Clovis and tries to find happiness again in the simple duties of the farm.”

Writing under the pseudonym Geoffrey Homes, Mainwaring continued writing novels, producing one or two books a year during the 1930s. Titles included “The Man Who Murdered Himself,” “The Doctor Who Died at Dusk” and “The Man Who Didn’t Exist.”

By 1941 Mainwaring was married and lived on both coasts. An Aug. 10, 1941 Bee story describes the couple’s visit to Huntington Lake. “Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Bryon entertained as their house guests Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Mainwaring of New York City and Hollywood. Mainwaring is a writer of mystery novels and completed one while visiting Lakeshore. The couple spent two weeks at the resort. Last Saturday evening Mr. and Mrs. Bryon complimented the visitors at a barbecue supper.”

Mainwaring wrote the screenplay for the 1947 film “Build My Gallows High” from his novel “Out of the Past.” Starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas, the movie was called “one of the greatest of all film noirs” by the late film critic Roger Ebert.

He wrote the screenplay for the original 1956 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” science fiction horror film about mysterious pods containing duplicates of people that float to earth, sent by creatures intent on replacing the human race. Jack Finney wrote the serialized story for Collier’s magazine in 1954 and published it as a novel in 1955.

Mainwaring later wrote episodes for popular 1960s television shows, including for “Mannix,” which starred late Fresno native Mike Connors as a Los Angeles-based private detective.

Mainwaring died in Los Angeles in 1977 at age 74. His simple headstone in the Clovis District Cemetery says only “In Memory of Daniel G.H. Mainwaring, 1902-1977.” He was survived by his wife, Sally, daughters Dannie Hoffpauir and Deborah Mainwaring, and a grandchild, Christien Hoffpauir.

Below Mainwaring’s stone is another stone engraved with two names, Peggy Mainwaring and Isabel Mainwaring. There are no dates on the stone and Clovis Cemetery records do not list dates. Mainwaring’s parents, Edward and Constance, are also buried there.

Q: The business where I work once had an office at 169 N. Clark St. near Community Regional Medical Center. I was wondering about the history of some prior tenants. If my memory serves me right, it was an eye doctor’s office.

Sean Ryan, Fresno

A: The office building at 169 N. Clark St. was built around 1965. The first time it is listed in Fresno city directories was in 1966 as Associated Employees Optical Lab and Optical Goods Wholesale, founded by Dr. Eugene Laisne. The business was managed by Loyd Manfredo.

According to a 1968 Fresno Bee story, Manfredo, Philip Martin and John Martin purchased the business from Laisne. “The partners are operating the business under the name of Martin Optical Service. The company is a wholesale manufacturer of optical products for Central California,” the story said. John Martin of Modesto was an “inactive partner.” Manfredo and Philip Martin each had 20 years experience in similar laboratory work.

The building was listed in city directories as vacant in 1969. It was occupied by Martin Optical from 1970 through 1987.

More about: After an answer about the Mefford and Rankin airfields in Tulare was published on June 25, Roy Cotton of Dinuba wrote to share a memory sparked by that history.

“It is interesting that you gave some background on Mefford Field and Rankin Field,” Cotton wrote. “When I was about 6, in 1941, my family was invited home with some other Baptists for Sunday dinner. They explained that a couple of fellows were going to parachute out of an airplane that afternoon. The folks lived in Pixley where we attended church.

“After Sunday dinner we hopped in our nearly-new 1940 Chevrolet sedan and drove up to the airport. We parked alongside Highway 99, as did many others. Sure enough, after a few minutes’ wait two fellows jumped out of the airplane. We saw the two chutes coming down very slowly. To my recollection, they landed without incident.”

Cotton said the memory of that event brought a couple of things to mind. The first was that parachuting was in its infancy back then. “That was probably the first time any of us ever saw someone jump from an airplane. The other thought was that it took the fellows a long time to reach the ground,” he wrote.

“That is one of my many childhood memories. We saw it happen and there was not much excitement. As I recall, we all got into our Chevrolet and returned to Pixley, where we spent the balance of the afternoon visiting.”

Note to readers: Ask Me is on the lookout for your questions. Please send them to askpaulalloyd@yahoo.com or by mail to Paula Lloyd, c/o The Fresno Bee Newsroom, 1626 E St., Fresno CA 93786. Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number.

Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer.

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