Joseph L. Mankiewicz

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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Joseph L. Mankiewicz.jpg
BornJoseph Leo Mankiewicz
(1909-02-11)February 11, 1909
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedFebruary 5, 1993(1993-02-05) (aged 83)
Bedford, New York, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart attack
OccupationWriter, director, producer
Years active1929–1972
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Young (m. 1934–37)
Rose Stradner (m. 1939–58)
Rosemary Matthews (m. 1962–62)
ChildrenEric Reynal
Tom Mankiewicz
Christopher Mankiewicz
Alex Mankiewicz
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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Joseph L. Mankiewicz.jpg
BornJoseph Leo Mankiewicz
(1909-02-11)February 11, 1909
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedFebruary 5, 1993(1993-02-05) (aged 83)
Bedford, New York, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart attack
OccupationWriter, director, producer
Years active1929–1972
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Young (m. 1934–37)
Rose Stradner (m. 1939–58)
Rosemary Matthews (m. 1962–62)
ChildrenEric Reynal
Tom Mankiewicz
Christopher Mankiewicz
Alex Mankiewicz

Joseph Leo Mankiewicz (February 11, 1909 – February 5, 1993) was a film director, screenwriter, and producer. Mankiewicz had a long Hollywood career, and twice won the Academy Award for both Best Director and Best Writing, Screenplay, for A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and All About Eve (1950).

Early life[edit]

Joseph Mankiewicz was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to Franz Mankiewicz (died 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 (1897–1953), who became a screenwriter.[4][5] Herman also won an Oscar for co-writing Citizen Kane (1941).[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 entering the motion picture business.

Hollywood career[edit]

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 1950 and 1951 when he won consecutive Academy Awards for Screenplay and Direction for both A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve, which was nominated for 14 Academy Awards and won six.

During his long career in Hollywood, Mankiewicz wrote forty-eight screenplays. 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 Best Director. 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.[citation needed]

In 1953 he directed Julius Caesar for MGM, an adaptation of Shakespeare's play. 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".[8] 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 nationalistic audience. A cautionary tale about America's blind support for "anti-Communists" was turned into, according to Greene, a "propaganda film for America".[9]

Cleopatra consumed two years of Mankiewicz's life and ended up both derailing his career and causing extreme severe financial losses for the studio, Twentieth Century-Fox, which were not fully recovered until Rodgers and Hammerstein's immensely popular and acclaimed The Sound of Music was released two years later. Mankiewicz made more films, however, garnering an Oscar nomination for Best Direction in 1972 for Sleuth, his final directing effort, starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine. In 1983, he was a member of the jury at the 33rd Berlin International Film Festival.[10]

Family history[edit]

He was the younger brother of Herman J. Mankiewicz. His sons are Eric Reynal (from his first marriage), the late writer/director Tom Mankiewicz, and producer Christopher Mankiewicz. He also has a daughter, Alex Mankiewicz. His great-nephew is radio & television personality Ben Mankiewicz, who currently can be seen on TCM. He also was the uncle of Frank Mankiewicz, a well-known political campaign manager who officially announced the death of the assassinated presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy, in 1968. He was not related to the similar sounding British screenwriter, Wolf Mankowitz.


Mankiewicz died of a heart attack on February 5, 1993, six days before his 84th birthday, and was interred in Saint Matthew's Episcopal Churchyard cemetery, Bedford, New York.[7]



YearTitleProduction companyCastNotes
1946Dragonwyck20th Century FoxGene Tierney / Vincent Price
BackfireRichard Conte / John Ireland
Somewhere in the NightRichard Conte / John Hodiak / Nancy Guild
1947The Late George ApleyRonald Colman
The Ghost and Mrs. MuirGene Tierney / Rex Harrison / George Sanders
1948EscapeRex Harrison / Peggy Cummins / William Hartnell
1949A Letter to Three WivesJeanne Crain / Linda Darnell / Ann Sothern
House of StrangersEdward G. Robinson / Susan Hayward / Richard Conte
1950No Way OutRichard Widmark / Sidney Poitier / Linda Darnell
All About EveBette Davis / Anne Baxter / George Sanders
1951People Will TalkCary Grant / Jeanne Crain / Hume Cronyn
19525 FingersJames Mason / Danielle Darrieux
1953Julius CaesarMetro-Goldwyn-MayerMarlon Brando / James Mason / John Gielgud
1954The Barefoot Contessa20th Century FoxHumphrey Bogart / Ava GardnerTechnicolor film
1955Guys and DollsSamuel Goldwyn / Metro-Goldwyn-MayerMarlon Brando / Jean Simmons / Frank SinatraEastmancolor film
1958The Quiet American20th Century FoxAudie Murphy / Graham Greene
1959Suddenly, Last SummerElizabeth Taylor / Montgomery Clift / Katharine Hepburn
1963CleopatraElizabeth Taylor / Richard Burton / Rex HarrisonDeLuxe film
1964A Carol for Another ChristmasABCSterling Hayden / Peter SellersTelevision film
1967The Honey PotFamous Artists ProductionsRex Harrison / Susan Hayward / Maggie SmithTechnicolor film
1970King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to MemphisCommonwealth United EntertainmentCo-directed with Sidney Lumet / Documentary film
There Was a Crooked Man...Warner Bros.Kirk Douglas / Henry Fonda / Hume CronynTechnicolor film
1972SleuthPalomar PicturesLaurence Olivier / Michael CaineColor film



Academy Awards
1931SkippyNominatedBest Adapted Screenplay
1941The Philadelphia StoryNominatedBest Picture
1950A Letter to Three WivesWonBest Director
WonBest Writing, Screenplay
1951All About EveWonBest Director
WonBest Writing, Screenplay
No Way OutNominatedBest Original Screenplay
19535 FingersNominatedBest Director
1955The Barefoot ContessaNominatedBest Original Screenplay
1973SleuthNominatedBest Director
Directors Guild of America
1949A Letter to Three WivesWonOutstanding Directorial Achievement
1951All About EveWonOutstanding Directorial Achievement
19535 FingersNominatedOutstanding Directorial Achievement
1954Julius CaesarNominatedOutstanding Directorial Achievement
1981WonHonorary Life Member Award
1986WonLifetime Achievement Award
Writers Guild of America
1950A Letter to Three WivesWonBest Written American Comedy
1951All About EveWonBest Written American Comedy
NominatedBest Written American Drama
No Way OutNominatedThe Robert Meltzer Award
1952People Will TalkNominatedBest Written American Comedy
1955The Barefoot ContessaNominatedBest Written American Drama
1956Guys and DollsNominatedBest Written American Musical
1963WonLaurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement

Directed Academy Award Performances[edit]

Academy Award for Best Actor
1953Marlon BrandoJulius CaesarNominated
1963Rex HarrisonCleopatraNominated
1972Michael CaineSleuthNominated
1972Laurence OlivierSleuthNominated
Academy Award for Best Actress
1950Anne BaxterAll About EveNominated
1950Bette DavisAll About EveNominated
1959Katharine HepburnSuddenly, Last SummerNominated
1959Elizabeth TaylorSuddenly, Last SummerNominated
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1950George SandersAll About EveWon
1954Edmond O'BrienThe Barefoot ContessaWon
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1950Celeste HolmAll About EveNominated
1950Thelma RitterAll About EveNominated


  1. ^ 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." 
  2. ^ Joseph L. Mankiewicz. 1983. 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 ..." 
  3. ^ "Dr. Frank Mankiewicz". 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, ..." 
  4. ^ "Joseph Mankiewicz Weds. MGM Producer Marries Rose Stradner, Viennese Actress". New York Times. July 29, 1939. Retrieved July 2, 2008. 
  5. ^ "Erna Mankiewicz Stenbuck, 78, Retired New York Schoolteacher". 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. ..." 
  6. ^ "H. J. Mankiewicz, Screenwriter, 56. Winner of Academy Award in 1941 Dies. Playwright Was Former Newspaper Man.". 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." 
  7. ^ a b Flint, Peter (February 6, 1993). "Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Literate Skeptic of the Cinema, Dies at 83". 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." 
  8. ^ David Shipman The Story of Cinemas, Volume 2: From "Citizen Kane to the Present Day, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1984, p.852
  9. ^ Alford, Matthew (November 14, 2008). "An offer they couldn't refuse". The Guardian (London). 
  10. ^ "Berlinale: 1983 Juries". Retrieved November 14, 2010. 

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