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Joseph Mankiewicz DIRECTOR


Joseph Leo Mankiewicz was born February 11, 1909 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to Jewish immigrants. He had a sister, Erna, and a brother, Herman, who also went on to become a screenwriter. Mankiewicz’s brilliance was shown at an early age, as he graduated from high school at only age fifteen. He then went on to obtain bachelor’s degree at Colombia University. Following, he moved to Berlin, Germany to become a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune as well as act as an English translator for German films. His brother Herman, already a well-off screenwriter in Hollywood, encouraged him to come to the film industry capital in 1929.

His brother got Mankiewicz a job at Paramount writing dialogues and screenplays. He wrote several titles and films before earning his first Oscar nomination for “Skippy” (1931). In 1933 he switched over to Metro Goldwyn Mayer to continue writing. After working on many screenplays like “Alice in Wonderland” (1933), “Forsaking All Others” (1934), and “I Live My Life” (1935), he Mankiewicz decided to try his hand at directing. MGM’s head, Louis B. Mayer told him “You have to learn to crawl before you can walk”, and instead made him a producer. His first production was “Fury” (1936), and following came numerous other pictures such as “The Bride Wore Red” (1937), “Three Comrades” (1938), “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (1939), “The Feminine Touch” (1941), and “Reunion in France” (1942). His production of “The Philadelphia Story” (1940) was nominated as Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

Realizing MGM was not going to allow him to direct, Mankiewicz switched to 20th Century Fox in 1944. His debut picture was “Backfire” (1946), followed by his own story “Dragonwyck” (1946). The new director persisted in directing and was rewarded for his writing and directing skills when he released “A Letter to Three Wives” (1949), which won Oscars for both Best Writing and Best Director. The film centered around a single letter that was sent to three separate women, stating that their husband had run off with another woman. In the film, the women were enabled to share their humiliation and agonize over which one had been left by their spouse. Only one year later, Mankiewicz was again nominated for Best Writing in “No Way Out” (1950). Additionally, he won Best Director and Best Writing for “All About Eve” (1950), which focused on a young ingénue and her circle of theater friends. In 1952, the director left Fox to freelance.

Soon following, he was nominated for another Academy Award for Best Directing in “5 Fingers” (1952). After, MGM asked him to direct and adapt “Julius Caesar” (1953), based off of Shakespeare’s play. Next, Mankiewicz wrote and directed “The Barefoot Contessa” (1954), earning the screenwriter yet another Oscar nomination for Best Writing. The following year, he made “Guys and Dolls”, which was so successful that the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) invested in the director’s independent production company, Fargo. In 1958 he directed and returned as a producer in “The Quiet American”, an adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel about the beginning of America’s involvement in what would become the notorious Vietnam War. Mankiewicz distorted the message because of anti-communistic pressures in order to appeal to nationalistic audiences, making Greene feel that the product was simply a “propaganda film for America”.

In 1963 he was given the challenge of taking over the direction of “Cleopatra” with Elizabeth Taylor. Unfortunately, it ended up costing a great deal money and received awful film reviews. The director decided to take a break from directing after the failure of the film, only directing and producing the made for TV picture “Carol for Anther Christmas” (1964) before returning behind the screen in 1967 with “The Honey Pot”. He produced his last film, “There Was a Crooked Man…”, which he also directed, in 1970. Shortly after, he directed his final feature, the mysterious thriller “Sleuth” (1972). He went out with a bang, for it earned a Best Director Academy Award nomination. The only other film that bore his name after the release of the latter was the TV movie “A Letter to Three Wives” (1985), which was based off of his 1949 screenplay.

For his writing contributions to the motion pictures, he was bestowed with a Laurel Award for Screen Writing Achievement from the Writers Guild of America. He was also given a DGA Honorary Life Member Award and Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of America. Additionally, his name was inscribed on a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. After retirement, Mankiewicz lived a quiet life in New York. On February 5, 1993, he died from heart failure. During his entire career, he was involved in over sixty films, many of which became integrated as important features of the film industry. In an interview with The New York Times, the legendary screenwriter/producer/director stated “I’ve lived without caring what anybody thought of me, I followed very few rules. I think I’ve written some good screenplays, gotten some good performances, and made some good movies.” He sure was right, and his pictures and abundant awards prove it.


1985       A Letter to Three Wives

1972       Sleuth 

1970       There Was a Crooked Man...

1970       King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis

1967       The Honey Pot

1964       Carol for Another Christmas 

1963       Cleopatra 

1959       Suddenly, Last Summer 

1958       The Quiet American

1955       Guys and Dolls 

1954       The Barefoot Contessa 

1953       Julius Caesar 

1952       5 Fingers 

1951       People Will Talk

1950       All About Eve

1950       No Way Out 

1949       House of Strangers 

1949       A Letter to Three Wives

1948       Escape

1947       The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

1947       The Late George Apley

1946       Backfire 

1946       Somewhere in the Night 

1946       Dragonwyck 

1944       The Keys of the Kingdom 

1942       Reunion in France

1942       Cairo 

1942       Woman of the Year 

1941       The Feminine Touch 

1941       The Wild Man of Borneo 

1940       The Philadelphia Story 

1940       Strange Cargo 

1939       The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

1938       A Christmas Carol 

1938       The Shopworn Angel 

1938       Three Comrades  

1938       The Shining Hour

1937       Mannequin

1937       Double Wedding 

1937       The Bride Wore Red 

1936       Love on the Run

1936       The Gorgeous Hussy 

1936       Fury 

1936       Three Godfathers  

1935       I Live My Life

1934       Forsaking All Others 

1934       Our Daily Bread 

1934       Manhattan Melodrama

1933       Alice in Wonderland 

1933       Too Much Harmony 

1933       Emergency Call 

1933       Diplomaniacs 

1932       If I Had a Million 

1932       Million Dollar Legs

1932       Sky Bride 

1932       This Reckless Age 

1931       Sooky 

1931       Newly Rich

1931       Dude Ranch 

1931       Skippy 

1931       June Moon 

1931       Finn and Hattie 

1931       The Gang Buster 

1930       Only Saps Work 

1930       The Social Lion 

1930       Paramount on Parade

1930       Slightly Scarlet 

1929       The Virginian 

1929       The Saturday Night Kid

1929       Fast Company

1929       The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu 

1929       River of Romance 

1929       Thunderbolt

1929       The Studio Murder Mystery

1929       The Man I Love 

1929       Woman Trap

1929       Close Harmony 

1929       The Dummy  

Matinee Classics - A Letter to Three Wives starring Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, Kirk Douglas and Paul Douglas
Matinee Classics - All About Eve starring Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Thelma Ritter, Gregory Ratoff, Barbara Bates and Marilyn Monroe
Matinee Classics - Suddenly Last Summer starring Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Montgomery Clift, Albert Dekker, Mercedes McCambridge, Gary Raymond, Mavis Villers, Patricia Marmont, Joan Young, Maria Britneva, Sheila Robbins and David Cameron
Matinee Classics - The Barefoot Contessa starring Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien, Marius Goring, Valentina Cortese, Rossano Brazzi, Elizabeth Sellars, Warren Stevens, Franco Interlenghi, Mari Aldon, Bessie Love, Diana Decker, Bill Fraser, Alberto Rabagliati and Enzo Staiola
Matinee Classics - The Ghost and Mrs. Muir starring Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, George Sanders, Edna Best, Vanessa Brown, Anna Lee, Robert Coote, Natalie Wood, Isobel Elsom and Victoria Horne

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