Joseph L. Mankiewicz - Director

Nationality: American. Born: Joseph Leo Mankiewicz in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, 11 February 1909. Education: Stuyvesant High School, New York; Columbia University, B.A., 1928. Family: Married 1) Elizabeth Young, 1934 (divorced 1937), one son; 2) Rosa Stradner, 1939 (died 1958), two sons; 3) Rosemary Matthews, 1962, one daughter. Career: Reporter for Chicago Tribune , and stringer for

Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Variety in Berlin, 1928; with help of brother Herman, became junior writer at Paramount, 1929; writer for MGM, 1933, then producer, from 1935; contract taken over by Twentieth Century-Fox, 1943; directed La Bohème for Metropolitan Opera, New York, 1952; formed Figaro Inc., independent production company, 1953. Awards: Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay, for A Letter to Three Wives , 1949, and for Best Director and Best Screenplay, for All about Eve , 1950. Died: 5 February 1993.

Films as Director:


Dragonwyck (+ sc); Somewhere in the Night (+ co-sc)


The Late George Apley ; The Ghost and Mrs. Muir




A Letter to Three Wives (+ sc); House of Strangers (+ co-sc, uncredited)


No Way Out (+ co-sc); All about Eve (+ sc)


People Will Talk (+ sc)


Five Fingers (+ dialogue, uncredited)


Julius Caesar (+ sc)


The Barefoot Contessa (+ sc)


Guys and Dolls (+ sc)


The Quiet American (+ sc)


Suddenly, Last Summer


Cleopatra (+ co-sc)


The Honey Pot (+ co-p, sc)


There Was a Crooked Man . . . (+ pr)



Other Films:


Fast Company (Sutherland) (sc, dialogue)


Slightly Scarlet (co-sc); The Social Lion (Sutherland) (sc, adaptation and dialogue); Only Saps Work (Gardner and Knopf) (sc, dialogue)


The Gang Buster (Sutherland) (sc, dialogue); Finn and Hattie (Taurog) (sc, dialogue); June Moon (Sutherland) (co-sc); Skippy (Taurog) (co-sc); Newly Rich ( Forbidden Adventure ) (co-sc); Sooky (Taurog) (co-sc)


This Reckless Age (sc); Sky Bride (co-sc); Million Dollar Legs (Cline) (co-sc); "Rollo and the Roadhogs" and "The Three Marines" sketches of If I Had a Million (sc)


Diplomaniacs (co-sc); Emergency Call (co-sc); Too Much Harmony (Sutherland) (sc); Alice in Wonderland (McLeod) (co-sc)


Manhattan Melodrama (Van Dyke, W.S.) (co-sc); Our Daily Bread (Vidor) (sc, dialogue); Forsaking All Others (Van Dyke, W.S.) (sc)


I Live My Life (Van Dyke, W.S.) (sc)


Three Godfathers (pr); Fury (Lang) (pr, co-story, uncredited); The Gorgeous Hussy (Brown) (pr); Love on the Run (Van Dyke, W.S.) (pr)


The Bride Wore Red (Arzner) (pr); Double Wedding (pr)


Mannequin (Borzage) (pr); Three Comrades (Borzage) (pr); The Shopworn Angel (pr); The Shining Hour (Borzage) (pr); A Christmas Carol (pr)


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ( Huckleberry Finn ) (pr)


Strange Cargo (Borzage) (pr); The Philadelphia Story (Cukor) (pr)


The Wild Man of Borneo (pr); The Feminine Touch (Van Dyke, W.S.) (pr)


Woman of the Year (Stevens) (pr); Cairo (Van Dyke, W.S.) (pr); Reunion in France (pr)


The Keys of the Kingdom (Stahl) (pr, co-sc)



More about All about Eve , with Gary Carey, New York, 1972.

By MANKIEWICZ: articles—

"Putting on the Style," in Films and Filming (London), January 1960.

"Measure for Measure: Interview with Joseph L. Mankiewicz," with Jacques Bontemps and Richard Overstreet, in Cahiers du Cinéma in English (New York), February 1967.

"Auteur de films! Auteur de films!," in Positif (Paris), September 1973.

Interview with Michel Ciment, in Positif (Paris), September 1973.

Interview with A. Charbonnier and D. Rabourdin, in Cinéma (Paris), June 1981.

Interview with David Shipman, in Films and Filming (London), November 1982.

Laffel, J., "Joseph L. Mankiewicz" (interview), in Films in Review (New York), vol. 42, no. 7–8, July-August 1991, and no. 9–10, September-October 1991.


Taylor, John, Joseph L. Mankiewicz: An Index to His Work , London, 1960.

Brodsky, Jack, and Nathan Weiss, The Cleopatra Papers: A Private Correspondence , New York, 1963.

Geist, Kenneth, Pictures Will Talk , New York, 1978.

Dick, Bernard F., Joseph L. Mankiewicz , Boston, 1983.

La Polla, Franco, L'Insospettabile Joseph Leo Mankiewicz , Venice, 1987.

Mérigeua, Pascal, Mankiewicz , Paris, 1993.

On MANKIEWICZ: articles—

Nugent, Frank, "All about Joe," in Collier's (New York), 24 March 1951.

Reid, John, "Cleo's Joe," in Films and Filming (London), August and September 1963.

Göw, Gordon, "Cocking a Snook," in Films and Filming (London), November 1970.

Springer, John, "The Films of Joseph Mankiewicz," in Films in Review (New York), March 1971.

Segond, J., "More about Joseph L. Mankiewicz," in Positif (Paris), September 1973.

Geist, K., "Mankiewicz: The Thinking Man's Director," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), April 1978.

Tesson, Charles, "All about Mankiewicz," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), October 1980.

Charbonnier, A., "Dossier-auteur (II): Joseph L. Mankiewicz—le temps et la parole," in Cinéma (Paris), July/August 1981.

Farber, S., and M. Green, "Family Plots," in Film Comment (New York), July/August 1984.

Buckley, M., and J. Nangle, "The Regency Salutes the Brothers Mankiewicz," in Films in Review (New York), October and November 1984.

"Joseph L. Mankiewicz," in Film Dope (London), December 1987.

Obituary in Cinéma (Paris), no. 504, 15 February 1993.

Obituary in Télérama (Paris), no. 2249, 17 February 1993.

Obituary in Mensuel du Cinéma , no. 4, March 1993.

TMoullet, L., and P. Merigeau, "Mankiewicz: l'art de le machination," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), no. 465, March 1993.

Obituary in EPD Film (Frankfurt), vol. 10, no. 4, April 1993.

Kazan, Elia, and V. Amiel, "Joe Mankiewicz en son île d'Elbe /Mankiewicz, ou le geste interdit," in Positif (Paris), no. 386, April 1993.

* * *

Few of Joseph Mankiewicz's contemporaries experimented so radically with narrative form. In The Barefoot Contessa , Mankiewicz (who wrote most of the films he directed) let a half-dozen voice-over narrators tell the Contessa's story, included flashbacks within flashbacks, and even showed one event twice (the slapping scene in the restaurant) from two different points of view. Multiple narrators tell the story in All about Eve , too, and in the non-narrated framing story for that film, Mankiewicz uses slow motion to make it seem as if the elapsed time between the beginning of the film and the end is only a few seconds. For much of the film, The Quiet American also has a narrator, and he seems almost totally omniscient. Apparently, he looks back at events with a firm understanding of their development and of the motivation of the people involved. But in the end, we find out that the narrator was wrong about practically everything, and so gave us an inaccurate account of things. A Letter to Three Wives is made up, primarily, of several lengthy flashbacks, and hallucinogenic flashback sequences provide the payoff to the story in Mankiewicz's adaption of the Tennessee Williams play Suddenly Last Summer. Mankiewicz's films, then, stand out in part because of the way they tell their stories. But there are also thematic motifs that turn up again and again, and one of the most important is the impact of the dead upon the living. Frequently, a dead character is more important in a Mankiewicz film than any living one. The Late George Apley , of course, concerns someone who has already died. Understanding a mother's dead son is the key for the psychiatrist in Suddenly Last Summer. In The Ghost and Mrs. Muir , it is the presence of the non-corporeal sea captain that makes the film so entertaining. The Barefoot Contessa opens with the Contessa's funeral, and then various mourners tell us what they know about the woman who has just been buried. And, of course, a famous funeral scene forms the centerpiece of another Mankiewicz film: Mark Antony's oration in Julius Caesar. It is Antony's stirring performance as a eulogist that turns his countrymen against Brutus.

Indeed, Mankiewicz's films deal constantly with the notion of effective and highly theatrical performance. All about Eve , for instance, is all about performing, since it concerns people who work on the Broadway stage. The barefoot contessa goes from cabaret dancer to Hollywood star. In The Honey Pot , an aging man pretends to be dying, to see how it affects his mistress. And in Sleuth , one marvels at the number of disguises worn by one man in his attempt to gain revenge on another.

Perhaps because he began as a screenwriter, Mankiewicz has often been thought of as a scenarist first and a director only second. But not only was he an eloquent scriptwriter, he was also an elegant visual stylist whose talents as a director far exceeded his reputation. He is one of the few major American directors who was more appreciated during the early years of his career than during the later stages. He won consecutive Best Director Academy Awards in 1949 and 1950 (for A Letter to Three Wives and All about Eve ), but after the 1963 disaster Cleopatra , Mankiewicz's standing as a filmmaker declined rapidly.

—Eric Smoodin

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