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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Born Joseph Leo Mankiewicz
February 11, 1909(1909-02-11)
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died February 5, 1993 (aged 83)
Bedford, New York, U.S.
Occupation Writer, Director, Producer
Years active 1929 - 1972
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Young (1934–1937)
Rose Stradner (1939–1958)
Rosemary Matthews (1962)

Joseph Leo Mankiewicz (11 February 1909 – 5 February 1993) was an American film director, screenwriter, and producer.


Early life

Mankiewicz was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to Franz Mankiewicz (?–1941) and Johanna Blumenau, Jewish immigrants from Germany.[1][2][3] He had a sister, Erna Mankiewicz (1901–1979), and a brother, Herman J. Mankiewicz, who became a screenwriter.[4][5][6]

At age four, Mankiewicz moved with his family to New York City where he graduated in 1924 from Stuyvesant High School.[7] In 1928, he obtained a bachelor's degree from Columbia University. For a time he worked in Berlin, Germany, as a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune newspaper before being lured into the motion picture business.

Film career

Comfortable in a variety of genres and able to elicit career performances from actors and actresses alike, Joseph L. Mankiewicz combined ironic, sophisticated scripts with a precise, sometimes stylised mise en scène. Mankiewicz worked for seventeen years as a screenwriter for Paramount and as a producer for MGM before getting a chance to direct at Twentieth Century-Fox. Over six years he made 11 films for Fox, reaching a peak in 1949 and 1950 when he won consecutive Academy Awards for Screenplay and Direction for A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve.

During his long career in Hollywood, Mankiewicz wrote forty-eight screenplays, including All About Eve, for which he won an Academy Award. He also produced more than twenty films including The Philadelphia Story which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1941. However, he is best known for the films he directed, twice winning the Academy Award for Directing. In 1944, he produced The Keys of the Kingdom, which starred Gregory Peck, and featured Mankiewicz's then-wife, Rose Stradner, in a supporting role as a nun.

In 1951, Mankiewicz left Fox and moved to New York, intending to write for the Broadway stage. Although this dream never materialised, he continued to make films (both for his own production company Figaro and as a director-for-hire) that explored his favourite 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.

In 1953, for MGM, he directed Julius Caesar, an adaptation of Shakespeare's play. It received widely favorable reviews, and David Shipman, author of the book The Great Movie Stars: The Hollywood Years, called it "perhaps the finest Shakespeare film ever made". 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 1958, Mankiewicz directed The Quiet American an adaptation of Graham Greene's 1955 novel about the seed of American military involvement in what would become the Vietnam War. Mankiewicz, under career pressure from the climate of anti-Communism and the Hollywood blacklist, distorted the message of Greene's book, changing major parts of the story to appeal to a national audience. A cautionary tale about America's blind support for "anti-Communists" was turned into, according to Greene, a "propaganda film for America."

Cleopatra consumed three years of Mankiewicz's life and ended up both derailing his career and causing severe financial losses for the studio, Twentieth Century-Fox. Mankiewicz made more films, however, garnering an Oscar nomination for Best Direction in 1972 for Sleuth starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, his final production.

He was the younger brother of Herman J. Mankiewicz. His sons are writer/director Tom Mankiewicz and producer Christopher Mankiewicz. He also has a daughter named Alexandra Mankiewicz. His great-nephew is radio & television personality Ben Mankiewicz, currently on TCM.

Mankiewicz, who died in 1993, was interred in Saint Matthew's Episcopal Churchyard cemetery, Bedford, New York.[7]




Year Title Production company Cast Notes
1946 Dragonwyck 20th Century Fox Gene Tierney / Vincent Price
Backfire Richard Conte / John Ireland
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 Southern
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 Marlon Brando / James Mason / John Gielgud
1954 The Barefoot Contessa Humphrey Bogart / Ava Gardner Technicolor film
1955 Guys and Dolls Marlon Brando / Jean Simmons / Frank Sinatra Eastmancolor film
1958 The Quiet American Audie Murphy / Graham Greene
1959 Suddenly, Last Summer Elizabeth Taylor / Montgomery Clift / Katharine Hepburn
1963 Cleopatra Elizabeth Taylor Color film
1964 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



Year Film Result Category
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 Original Screenplay
1951 All About Eve Won Best Director
Won Best Original 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
1949 A Letter to Three Wives Won Outstanding Directorial Achievement
1951 All About Eve Won Outstanding Directorial Achievement
1953 5 Fingers Nominated Outstanding Directorial Achievement
1954 Julius Caesar Nominated Outstanding Directorial Achievement
1981 Won Honorary Life Member Award
1986 Won Lifetime Achievement Award
Writers Guild of America
1950 A Letter to Three Wives Won Best Written American Comedy
1951 All About Eve Won Best Written American Comedy
Nominated Best Written American Drama
No Way Out Nominated The Robert Meltzer Award
1952 People Will Talk Nominated Best Written American Comedy
1955 The Barefoot Contessa Nominated Best Written American Drama
1956 Guys and Dolls Nominated Best Written American Musical
1963 Won Laurel Award for Screen Writing Achievement

Further reading

  • Brodsky, Jack; Nathan Weiss (1963). The Cleopatra Papers. Simon and Schuster.  
  • Mankiewicz, Joseph L.; Gary Carey (1972). More About 'All About Eve'. Random House.  
  • Geist, Kenneth L. (1978). Pictures Will Talk: The Life and Films of Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Scribners. ISBN 0-68415-500-1.  
  • Cheryl Bray Lower: Joseph L. Mankiewicz: Critical Essays and Guide to Resources. Jefferson, NC, McFarland & Co., 2001. ISBN 0-78640-987-8
  • Bernard F. Dick: Joseph L. Mankiewicz. New York, Twayne Publishers, 1983. ISBN 0-80579-291-0
  • Oderman, Stuart, Talking to the Piano Player 2. BearManor Media, 2009. ISBN #1-59393-320-7.


  1. ^ The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives. Charles Scribner's Sons. 1998. ISBN 0684806207. "Mankiewicz was the youngest of three children born to the German immigrants Franz Mankiewicz, a secondary schoolteacher, and Johanna Blumenau, a homemaker."  
  2. ^ Joseph L. Mankiewicz. 1983. ISBN 0805792910. "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 ..."  
  3. ^ "Dr. Frank Mankiewicz". New York Times. 1941-12-05. "Mankiewicz, Mr. Frank, dearly beloved husband of Johanna, devoted father of Herman, Joseph, and Mrs. Erna Stenbuck. Services Park West Memorial Chapel, ..."  
  4. ^ "Joseph Mankiewicz Weds. MGM Producer Marries Rose Stradner, Viennese Actress". New York Times. 1939-07-29. Retrieved 2008-07-02.  
  5. ^ "Erna Mankiewicz Stenbuck, 78, Retired New York Schoolteacher". New York Times. 1979-08-19. Retrieved 2008-07-02. "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. ..."  
  6. ^ "H. J. Mankiewicz, Screenwriter, 56. Winner of Academy Award in 1941 Dies. Playwright Was Former Newspaper Man.". New York Times. 1953-03-06. "His brother, Joseph, is a well known screen author, producer and director. ... A sister, Mrs. Erna Stenbuck of New York, also survives."  
  7. ^ a b Flint, Peter (1993-02-06). "Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Literate Skeptic of the Cinema, Dies at 83". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-01. "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."  

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Joseph L. Mankiewicz (February 11, 1909February 5, 1993) was a Hollywood screenwriter, director and producer.


  • I am never quite sure whether I am one of the cinema's elder statesmen or just the oldest whore on the beat.
  • I have a lot to be sad about. Not bitter in any way. But I think it can be fairly said that I've been in on the beginning, the rise, peak, collapse and end of the talking picture.
    • "Joseph Mankiewicz, Master of the Movies," interview by Paul Attanasio, Washington Post (1986-06-01)
  • I got a job at Metro and went in to see Louis Mayer, who told me he wanted me to be a producer. I said I wanted to write and direct. He said, "No, you have to produce first, you have to crawl before you can walk." Which is as good a definition of producing as I ever heard.
    • Quoted in Leslie Halliwell, Halliwell's Who's Who in the Movies, 15th edition (Harper Collins, 2003, ISBN 0-060-53423-0), p. 312
  • Every screenwriter worthy of the name has already directed his film when he has written his script.
    • Quoted in Leslie Halliwell, Halliwell's Who's Who in the Movies, 15th edition (Harper Collins, 2003, ISBN 0-060-53423-0), p. 312

See also

External links

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