Joseph L. Mankiewicz

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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1950).jpg
Joseph Leo Mankiewicz

(1909-02-11)February 11, 1909
DiedFebruary 5, 1993(1993-02-05) (aged 83)
Other namesJoseph L. Mankiewicz
Alma mater Columbia University (BA)
  • Screenwriter
  • director
  • producer
Years active1929–1972
(m. 1934;div. 1937)
(m. 1939;died 1958)
Rosemary Matthews
(m. 1962)
Children4, including Tom Mankiewicz
Relatives Herman J. Mankiewicz (brother)
See Mankiewicz family

Joseph Leo Mankiewicz ( /ˈmæŋkəwɪts/ ; February 11, 1909 – February 5, 1993) was an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. Mankiewicz had a long Hollywood career, and won both the Academy Award for Best Director and the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in consecutive years for A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and All About Eve (1950), the latter of which was nominated for 14 Academy Awards and won six. [1]


Comfortable in a variety of genres and able to elicit career performances from actors and actresses alike, Mankiewicz combined ironic, sophisticated scripts with a precise, sometimes stylized mise en scène.

Mankiewicz worked for seventeen years as a screenwriter for Paramount Pictures and as a writer and producer for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer before getting a chance to direct at 20th Century Fox. Over six years, he made 11 films for Fox.

During his over 40-year career in Hollywood, Mankiewicz wrote 48 screenplays. He also produced more than 20 films, including The Philadelphia Story (1940) which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Woman of the Year (1942), for which he introduced Katharine Hepburn to Spencer Tracy. [1]

Early life

Mankiewicz was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, to Franz Mankiewicz (died 1941) and Johanna Blumenau, Jewish emigrants from Germany and Courland, respectively. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] Besides his older sister, Erna Mankiewicz Stenbuck (1901–1979), he had an older brother, Herman J. Mankiewicz (1897–1953), who brought him to Hollywood to become a screenwriter. [1] [6] [7] Herman also won an Oscar for co-writing Citizen Kane (1941). [8]

At age four, Mankiewicz moved with his family to New York City, graduating in 1924 from Stuyvesant High School. [9] He followed his brother to Columbia University, where he majored in English and wrote for the Columbia Daily Spectator, and after he graduated in 1928, [10] he moved to Berlin, where he worked at several jobs, including translating film intertitles from German to English for UFA. [1] [2]

Hollywood career


In 1929 Mankiewicz got a contract to work as a writer at Paramount, through his brother Herman. Herman was one of the writers on The Dummy (1929), on which Mankiewicz wrote titles. He also did titles for Close Harmony (1929) and The Man I Love (1929) with Jack Oakie, The Studio Murder Mystery (1929), Thunderbolt (1929), The River of Romance (1929), The Saturday Night Kid (1929) with Clara Bow, The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu (1929), and The Virginian (1929) with Gary Cooper.

Mankiewicz started to be credited on screenplays for films like Fast Company (1929) starring Jack Oakie and Slightly Scarlet (1930) and he worked on the script for The Light of Western Stars (1930) with Richard Arlen and Paramount on Parade (1930). Mankiewicz wrote The Social Lion (1930) with Oakie, Only Saps Work (1930), The Gang Buster (1931) with Arlen, Finn and Hattie (1931) with Oakie, and June Moon (1931) with Oakie.

He also did the scripts for Skippy (1931) with Jackie Cooper, Dude Ranch (1931) with Oakie, Newly Rich (1931), and Sooky (1931), a sequel to Skippy. This was followed by This Reckless Age (1932), Sky Bride (1932) with Arlen and Oakie, Million Dollar Legs (1932) with Oakie and W.C. Fields, Night After Night (1932) (uncredited), and If I Had a Million (1932). He was borrowed by RKO for Diplomaniacs (1933) and Emergency Call (1933). He returned to Paramount for Too Much Harmony (1933) with Oakie and Bing Crosby, Meet the Baron (1933) (uncredited), and the all-star Alice in Wonderland (1933).


Mankiewicz signed a long-term contract with MGM. He wrote Manhattan Melodrama (1934), which was a huge hit. He freelanced for King Vidor to work on Our Daily Bread (1934). At MGM he wrote Forsaking All Others (1934) with Clark Gable, Joan Crawford and Robert Montgomery as well as After Office Hours (1935) with Gable and Constance Bennett, Reckless (1935) with Jean Harlow and William Powell, Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935), and I Live My Life (1935) with Crawford.

Mankiewicz was promoted to producer with Three Godfathers (1936). On most of his films as producer he would work uncredited on the script. Mankiewicz had a commercial and critical success with Fury (1936), the first American film directed by Fritz Lang. Mankiewicz produced a series of films starring Crawford: The Gorgeous Hussy (1936), Love on the Run (1936), The Bride Wore Red (1937), and Mannequin (1937).

Mankewicz also produced Double Wedding (1937) with William Powell and Myrna Loy; Three Comrades (1938), with Margaret Sullavan and Robert Taylor and director Frank Borzage, famously rewriting F. Scott Fitzgerald; The Shopworn Angel (1938) with Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart; and The Shining Hour (1938) with Sullavan and Crawford, directed by Borzage. He also did some uncredited writing on The Great Waltz (1938), and the script which became The Pirate (1948).

He produced A Christmas Carol (1938); The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939) with Mickey Rooney; and Strange Cargo (1940) with Gable and Crawford, directed by Borzage. He had a huge hit with The Philadelphia Story (1940) starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart. It was followed by The Wild Man of Borneo (1941), and The Feminine Touch (1941), then he had another big success with Hepburn, Woman of the Year (1942). Mankiewicz's final productions at MGM were Cairo (1942) with Jeanette MacDonald and Reunion in France (1942) with Crawford and John Wayne.

20th Century Fox

Mankiewicz received an offer at 20th Century Fox that included the right to direct. His first film for the studio was The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), which he wrote with Nunnally Johnson and produced. It co-starred his wife Rose Stradner.

Mankiewicz made his directorial debut with Dragonwyck (1946), which he also wrote; Gene Tierney and Vincent Price starred. He followed it with Somewhere in the Night (1946), a film noir which he co-wrote. He worked as director only on The Late George Apley (1947) with Ronald Colman, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1948) with Tierney and Rex Harrison, and Escape (1948) with Harrison. All were based on scripts by Philip Dunne.

Mankiewicz had a huge success with A Letter to Three Wives (1949), which he wrote and directed, winning Oscars for both; Sol Siegel produced. He and Siegel collaborated again on House of Strangers (1949), on which Mankiewicz did some uncredited writing. Mankewicz wrote and directed No Way Out (1950), which launched the career of Sidney Poitier; Darryl F. Zanuck was credited as producer. Zanuck also took that credit on Mankiewicz's next film, All About Eve (1950), which quickly became regarded as a classic.

Mankewicz adapted and directed People Will Talk (1951), also produced by Zanuck, which starred Cary Grant and Jeanne Crain. He did some uncredited work on the script for I'll Never Forget You (1952). His last film under contract with Fox was 5 Fingers (1952), starring James Mason and Danielle Darrieux.


In 1951 Mankiewicz left Fox and moved to New York, intending to write for the Broadway stage. Although this dream never materialized, he continued to make films (both for his own production company Figaro and as a director-for-hire) that explored his favorite themes – the clash of aristocrat with commoner, life as performance and the clash between people's urge to control their fate and the contingencies of real life.[ citation needed ]

In 1953 he adapted and directed Julius Caesar for MGM, an adaptation of Shakespeare's play produced by John Houseman. It received widely favorable reviews, and David Shipman, in The Story of Cinema, described it as a "film of quiet excellence, faltering only in the later moments when budget restrictions hampered the handling of the battle sequences". [11] The film serves as the only record of Marlon Brando in a Shakespearean role; he played Mark Antony and received an Oscar nomination for his performance.


In 1953, Mankiewicz set up his own production company, Figaro. Its first production was The Barefoot Contessa (1954) which Mankiewicz wrote, produced and directed; it starred Humphrey Bogart and Ava Gardner. Sam Goldwyn hired him to write and direct the film version of the musical Guys and Dolls (1955). This was a huge hit but not highly regarded critically. Brando starred along with Frank Sinatra and Jean Simmons.

In 1958 Mankiewicz wrote and directed The Quiet American for Figaro, an adaptation of Graham Greene's 1955 novel about American military involvement in what would become the Vietnam War. Mankiewicz, influenced by the climate of anti-Communism and the Hollywood blacklist, switched the message of Greene's book, changing major parts of the story. A cautionary tale about America's blind support for "anti-Communists" was turned into, according to Greene, a "propaganda film for America". [12]

That year Figaro produced I Want to Live! (1958) though Mankiewicz had relatively little to do with it. He directed Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) for producer Sam Spiegel, from a script by Gore Vidal and a play by Tennessee Williams. Elizabeth Taylor, Hepburn and Montgomery Clift starred. It was a hit at the box office but attracted mixed reviews.


In 1961, 20th Century Fox was producing Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor and hired Mankiewicz to replace director Rouben Mamoulian. [1] Mankiewicz accepted a lucrative contract, which he came to regret. The film consumed two years of his life and ended up both derailing his career and adding to severe financial losses for the studio, Twentieth Century-Fox.

Later career

Mankiewicz produced and directed Carol for Another Christmas (1964) for television. He wrote and directed The Honey Pot (1967) for United Artists and Charles K. Feldman, and produced and directed There Was a Crooked Man... (1970), as well as doing some uncredited work on the documentary King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis (1970). Mankiewicz garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Direction in 1972 for Sleuth , his final directing effort, starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, who also received Oscar nominations.

In 1983, he was a member of the jury at the 33rd Berlin International Film Festival. [13]

Family history

Mankiewicz was the younger brother of legendary Hollywood screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, co-writer (with Orson Welles) of Citizen Kane among numerous other films.

His sons are Eric Reynal (from his first marriage, to actress Elizabeth Young), [14] producer Christopher Mankiewicz, and writer/director Tom Mankiewicz. He also has a daughter, Alex Mankiewicz.

He was the uncle of Frank Mankiewicz, a well-known political campaign manager who officially announced the assassination of presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, and the late Johanna Mankiewicz Davis, a writer who was struck and killed by a taxicab in New York City at the age of 36. [15]

His great-nephews include writer-filmmaker Nick Davis (Johanna's son), NBC Dateline reporter Josh Mankiewicz and television personality Ben Mankiewicz (Frank's sons).


Mankiewicz died of a heart attack on February 5, 1993, six days before his 84th birthday. He was interred in Saint Matthew's Episcopal Churchyard cemetery in Bedford, New York. [9]



YearTitleProduction companyCastNotes
1946 Dragonwyck 20th Century Fox Gene Tierney / Vincent Price
Somewhere in the Night Richard Conte / John Hodiak / Nancy Guild
1947 The Late George Apley Ronald Colman
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir Gene Tierney / Rex Harrison / George Sanders
1948 Escape Rex Harrison / Peggy Cummins / William Hartnell
1949 A Letter to Three Wives Jeanne Crain / Linda Darnell / Ann Sothern
House of Strangers Edward G. Robinson / Susan Hayward / Richard Conte
1950 No Way Out Richard Widmark / Sidney Poitier / Linda Darnell
All About Eve Bette Davis / Anne Baxter / George Sanders
1951 People Will Talk Cary Grant / Jeanne Crain / Hume Cronyn
1952 5 Fingers James Mason / Danielle Darrieux
1953 Julius Caesar Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Marlon Brando / James Mason / John Gielgud
1954 The Barefoot Contessa Figaro / United Artists Humphrey Bogart / Ava Gardner Technicolor film
1955 Guys and Dolls Samuel Goldwyn / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Marlon Brando / Jean Simmons / Frank Sinatra Eastmancolor film
1958 The Quiet American Figaro / United Artists Audie Murphy / Michael Redgrave Graham Greene
1959 Suddenly, Last Summer Columbia Elizabeth Taylor / Montgomery Clift / Katharine Hepburn Tennessee Williams
1963 Cleopatra 20th Century Fox Elizabeth Taylor / Richard Burton / Rex Harrison DeLuxe film
1964 A Carol for Another Christmas ABC Sterling Hayden / Peter Sellers Television film
1967 The Honey Pot Famous Artists Productions Rex Harrison / Susan Hayward / Maggie Smith Technicolor film
1970 King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis Commonwealth United Entertainment Co-directed with Sidney Lumet / Documentary film
There Was a Crooked Man... Warner Bros. Kirk Douglas / Henry Fonda / Hume Cronyn Technicolor film
1972 Sleuth Palomar Pictures Laurence Olivier / Michael Caine Color film



Academy Awards
1931 Skippy Nominated Best Adapted Screenplay
1941 The Philadelphia Story Nominated Best Picture
1950 A Letter to Three Wives Won Best Director
Won Best Adapted Screenplay
1951 All About Eve Won Best Director
Won Best Adapted Screenplay
No Way Out Nominated Best Original Screenplay
1953 5 Fingers Nominated Best Director
1955 The Barefoot Contessa Nominated Best Original Screenplay
1973 Sleuth Nominated Best Director
Directors Guild of America
1949A Letter to Three WivesWonOutstanding Directorial Achievement
1951All About EveWon
19535 FingersNominated
1954 Julius Caesar Nominated
1981WonHonorary Life Member Award
1986WonLifetime Achievement Award
Writers Guild of America
1950A Letter to Three WivesWonBest Written American Comedy
1951All About EveWon
NominatedBest Written American Drama
No Way OutNominatedThe Robert Meltzer Award
1952 People Will Talk NominatedBest Written American Comedy
1955The Barefoot ContessaNominatedBest Written American Drama
1956 Guys and Dolls NominatedBest Written American Musical
1963Won Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement

Directed Academy Award performances

Academy Award for Best Actor
1953 Marlon Brando Julius Caesar Nominated
1963 Rex Harrison Cleopatra Nominated
1972 Michael Caine Sleuth Nominated
Laurence Olivier Nominated
Academy Award for Best Actress
1950 Anne Baxter All About Eve Nominated
Bette Davis Nominated
1959 Katharine Hepburn Suddenly, Last Summer Nominated
Elizabeth Taylor Nominated
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1950 George Sanders All About Eve Won
1954 Edmond O'Brien The Barefoot Contessa Won
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1950 Celeste Holm All About Eve Nominated
Thelma Ritter Nominated

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Stern, Sydney Ladensohn (2019). The Brothers Mankiewicz: Hope, Heartbreak, and Hollywood Classics. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN   9781617032677.
  2. 1 2 1983 interview: (see talk page)
  3. The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives. Charles Scribner's Sons. 1998. ISBN   0-684-80620-7. Mankiewicz was the youngest of three children born to the German immigrants Franz Mankiewicz, a secondary schoolteacher, and Johanna Blumenau, a homemaker.
  4. Dick, Bernard F. (1983). Joseph L. Mankiewicz. ISBN   0-8057-9291-0. The father, Franz Mankiewicz, emigrated from Germany in 1892, living first in New York and then moving to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in to take a job ...
  5. "Dr. Frank Mankiewicz". The New York Times . December 5, 1941. Mankiewicz, Mr. Frank, dearly beloved husband of Johanna, devoted father of Herman, Joseph, and Mrs. Erna Stenbuck. Services Park West Memorial Chapel, ...
  6. "Joseph Mankiewicz Weds. MGM Producer Marries Rose Stradner, Viennese Actress". The New York Times . July 29, 1939. Retrieved July 2, 2008.
  7. "Erna Mankiewicz Stenbuck, 78, Retired New York Schoolteacher". The New York Times . August 19, 1979. Retrieved July 2, 2008. Erna Mankiewicz Stenbuck, a retired, teacher in the New York City schools, died Aug. 1 in Villach, Austria, where she had lived for several years. She was 78 years old. ... She was married in ... to Dr. Joseph Stenbuck, a New York City surgeon who died in 1951. They had no children. She is survived by a brother, Joseph L. ...
  8. "H. J. Mankiewicz, Screenwriter, 56. Winner of Academy Award in 1941 Dies. Playwright Was Former Newspaper Man". The New York Times . March 6, 1953. His brother, Joseph, is a well known screen author, producer, and director. ... A sister, Mrs. Erna Stenbuck of New York, also survives.
  9. 1 2 Flint, Peter (February 6, 1993). "Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Literate Skeptic of the Cinema, Dies at 83". The New York Times . Retrieved November 1, 2007. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, a writer, director and producer who was one of Hollywood's most literate and intelligent film makers, died yesterday at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y. He was 83 and lived in Bedford, N.Y.
  10. "Joseph Mankiewicz". Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  11. David Shipman The Story of Cinemas, Volume 2: From "Citizen Kane to the Present Day, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1984, p.852
  12. Alford, Matthew (November 14, 2008). "An offer they couldn't refuse". The Guardian. London.
  13. "Berlinale: 1983 Juries". Retrieved November 14, 2010.
  14. "Famed movie director Mankiewicz dies". Lancaster Eagle-Gazette . Lancaster, Ohio. AP. February 7, 1993. p. 24. Retrieved September 29, 2021 via
  15. "Writer Is Killed By Taxicab Here". The New York Times . July 27, 1974. Retrieved August 28, 2022.

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