Papa Doug Manchester is in the movies! Actually, you can delete that exclamation point. He makes cameo appearances in films produced by Los Angeles–based Motion Picture Corporation of America. He has already appeared in two of the company’s films: Talhotblond, televised last year on Lifetime, and The Sweeter Side of Life, shown this year on Hallmark Channel. He is slated to appear in a series called The Saint. It’s a shoot-’em-up chock-full of derring-do, macho males, and scantily clad ladies.
Yahoo! Finance says of this film company, “Low budget doesn’t always mean low-brow, but the Motion Picture Corporation [of America] has more than its share of the latter.” Among its films: Beverly Hills Ninja and Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2. Oh.
Realistically, Papa Doug appears to be in mini- or micro-cameo roles. I watched Talhotblond twice before I found him. He could be seen on the screen for one — or, at most, two — seconds. It’s actually a good movie, based on a real incident. A 47-year-old man, loving father of two daughters, goes from midlife crisis to insane jealousy as a result of having an online fantasy relationship with a fetching 18-year-old female who professes to love him. He tells her he is a young Marine in Afghanistan. The middle-aged man’s wife discovers the online affair and banishes him to the garage. But then one of his young coworkers, a close friend, also begins electronically flirting with the young lady. In a rage, the 47-year-old kills the young man. Then, the contrite middle-ager discovers that, all along, he was really conversing online with the teenager’s mother, who, too, is middle-aged. But it’s too late; he is on his way to a long stretch in prison.
Papa Doug gets his 1 or 2 seconds of glory in the first 7 minutes and 48 seconds of the film. One of the daughters is in a swim meet attended by the then-happy family. The camera pans the audience, and there is Papa Doug cheering, flanked by two beautiful females. Then — whoosh — he is gone, never to come back in the film, at least as far as I could determine. I scoured the other group shots and couldn’t find him.
Fifteen people are listed in the credits at the end. The 13th is Papa Doug Manchester, playing himself. Papa Doug is also listed in film publicity and in materials produced by the industry bible, Internet Movie Database, called IMDb.
The Sweeter Side of Life appears to be a treacly comedy about a privileged Manhattan housewife whose husband dumps her but who finds happiness resuscitating her father’s bakery. It was written by actor/singer and former soap-opera star Michael Damian (who was born in Bonsall) and his wife. The Saint series dates back to the 1960s but will be “rebooted,” in Hollywood lingo, or revamped and revitalized. The comedy was not yet available to buy or rent when I worked on this column, and the latter, being in pre-production, is not available. But the promotional streamer for The Saint features a young vixen, clad in a semi-bikini, directing someone to “the Manchester suite” in a hotel.
How can a one- or two-second appearance merit a listing in the credits? Charles Hauck, longtime Hollywood producer, says there might have been a prior agreement; Manchester could have had other appearances, however brief, that “hit the cutting-room floor.” However, the agreement might have held.
Why would a megamillionaire want a brief cameo role in a movie? Certainly not for the money. “It is fairly common for investors or minor producers to be given little guest cameo appearances as ego ribbons, usually in party scenes. In modern terms, it’s a tweet,” says David Elliott, former movie reviewer for the Union-Tribune and the Reader.
In trying to interview the chief executive of Motion Picture Corporation of America, I was only able to reach his executive assistant, a chap named Vince. I explained that I wanted to know how Papa Doug Manchester got the cameo roles. Was he an investor? Friend of somebody? Something else? Vince promised to get back and never did. I left four messages with him and got no reply. So I called Francisco González, who appears to be a very busy man. He is senior vice president of sales and acquisitions, executive producer of Talhotblond and The Sweeter Side of Life, and co-executive producer of The Saint. Growled González, “I am not allowed to give out any information like that.”
I concluded that Motion Picture Corporation of America doesn’t want to talk about this. I sent queries to Manchester’s assistant. I got nothing back. That didn’t surprise me: in my 40 years of covering San Diego, I can’t remember an instance in which Manchester answered one of my queries.
I think it is a safe bet that Manchester gets into the movies as a perk related to film investments. I contacted people I knew in the industry — producers, critics, executives — and detected either an ignorance of this investor quid pro quo or a reluctance to talk about it.
But an internet check shows that the practice of rewarding investors with cameo roles is not unusual. The Movie Fund helps recruit investors — hedge funds, rich individuals — for various films. One of the lures: “speaking cameo roles,” says the fund. Scarlet Cherub Productions, fishing for investors for The Road to Transylvania, offered as an additional benefit a “cameo role (if you like).” The makers of a flick called Crooked Arrows, about young people playing lacrosse, said a perk would be “consideration for your kids in a cameo role.” Director and screenwriter David O. Russell, hunting money for a movie, attempted to auction off a cameo role with an estimated value of $50,000.
In his promotional material, Manchester does not mention his roles or investments in movies. He lists numerous companies he founded or cofounded, his real estate deals, his multiple charities — but no movies. And his role as owner of San Diego’s major newspaper puts him in the spotlight.
Papa Doug may feel that his movie roles would put him in a spotlight he would like to avoid. Cracks retired critic Elliott, “It must feel strange to be known as Papa Doug when your main achievement is orphaning journalists by canning them.”