Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Highest Rated: 100% The Barefoot Contessa (1954)

Lowest Rated: 40% I Live My Life (1935)

Birthday: Feb 11, 1909

Birthplace: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, USA

Like his older brother Herman J. Mankiewicz, American producer/ director/ writer Joseph Mankiewicz displayed a streak of brilliance from an early age. Before he was 20, the younger Mankiewicz was the assistant Berlin correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and an English translator for the subtitles of German-made films. Brother Herman, already ensconced in Hollywood as a high-priced screenwriter, invited Joseph to try his luck in Tinseltown in 1929. Mankiewicz's first assignment at Paramount was composing subtitles for the silent versions of the studio's sound pictures. He also concocted special comedy material for Jack Oakie movies, which led to several years of employment on such nonsensical film farces as Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey's Diplomaniacs (1933) and W.C. Fields' Million Dollar Legs in 1932. (Fields paid Joseph 50 dollars for the lifetime rights to the phrase "My little chickadee.") Mankiewicz moved to MGM in 1934, where he expressed a desire to direct; MGM head Louis B. Mayer told him "You have to learn to crawl before you can walk," and made him a producer instead. For the next six years, Mankiewicz produced such enduring films as Fury (1936), The Philadelphia Story (1940), and Woman of the Year (1942). Realizing that Mayer would never let him direct, Mankiewicz switched to 20th Century Fox in 1944, where he made his directorial debut with Dragonwyck that same year. His films' scripts during the Fox period were distinguished by a high level of literacy and wit, most notably evidenced in A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and All About Eve (1950), both of which won Mankiewicz Oscars for Best Writer and Best Director. While his cameramen praised his visual sense, however, his directorial style tended to be flat and perfunctory, with dialogue given precedence over staging and characterization. Still, it was superb dialogue, even when there was way too much of it (as in People Will Talk [1952]). Leaving Fox in 1952 to freelance, Mankiewicz directed one of the all-time best Shakespeare films for MGM, 1953's Julius Caesar, its appeal heightened by the offbeat (and effective) casting of Marlon Brando as Antony and Edmond O'Brien as Casca. The Barefoot Contessa the following year contained all the virtues and vices of the Mankiewicz's technique: on the plus side, a complex, involved story and memorably etched individual characters; on the minus side, an excessive running time, interminable dialogue sequences, and too many arbitrarily inserted author's messages. (Was a three-minute diatribe about greedy oil companies really necessary in the middle of a romantic drama?) Curiously, when Mankiewicz had an opportunity to make a truly volatile political statement in The Quiet American (1958), he muffed it by totally altering the message and the denouement of Graham Greene's original novel. Willing to tackle any subject matter, the director made the 1955 film version of Guys and Dolls and tried valiantly to bring coherence to the troubled 1963 version of Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor. After that debacle, Mankiewicz's movies became fewer and extremely uneven in quality. He was back in the groove with his last film, however: Sleuth (1972), a marvelous cat-and-mouse affair starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine. The recipient of dozens of industry awards, Mankiewicz spent his last decade in semi-retirement, regaling TV talk show and college-lecture audiences with his erudite (and admittedly self-aggrandizing) anecdotes of the Hollywood of old. Mankiewicz was the father of screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, and the uncle of two other writers of note, Don and Frank Mankiewicz.

Highest Rated Movies



No Score Yet Cleopatra 50th Anniversary Director Screenwriter 2013
No Score Yet Spencer Tracy Legacy Actor 1987
No Score Yet George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey Himself 1984
96% Sleuth Director 1972
No Score Yet King: A Filmed Record...Montgomery to Memphis Director 1970
80% There Was a Crooked Man Director Producer 1970
57% The Honey Pot Producer Screenwriter Director 1967
No Score Yet Carol for Another Christmas Producer Director 1964
62% Cleopatra Director Screenwriter 1963
65% Suddenly, Last Summer Director 1959
No Score Yet The Quiet American Director Producer Screenwriter 1958
91% Guys and Dolls Director Screenwriter 1955
100% The Barefoot Contessa Producer Screenwriter Director 1954
95% Julius Caesar Director Screenwriter 1953
100% 5 Fingers Screenwriter 1952
100% People Will Talk Director Screenwriter 1951
No Score Yet The Guy Who Came Back Director Screenwriter 1951
90% No Way Out Director Screenwriter 1950
99% All About Eve Screenwriter Director 1950
71% House of Strangers Director 1949
94% A Letter to Three Wives Screenwriter Director 1949
No Score Yet Escape Director 1948
73% The Pirate Screenwriter 1948
100% The Ghost and Mrs. Muir Director 1947
No Score Yet The Late George Apley Director 1947
89% Somewhere in the Night Screenwriter Director 1946
No Score Yet Dragonwyck Screenwriter Director 1946
No Score Yet The Keys of the Kingdom Producer Screenwriter 1944
No Score Yet Reunion in France Producer 1942
No Score Yet Cairo Producer 1942
92% Woman of the Year Producer 1942
No Score Yet The Feminine Touch Producer 1941
100% The Philadelphia Story Producer 1940
75% Strange Cargo Producer 1940
No Score Yet The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn Producer 1939
100% A Christmas Carol Producer 1938
No Score Yet The Shining Hour Producer 1938
100% Three Comrades Producer 1938
No Score Yet Shopworn Angel Producer 1938
No Score Yet Mannequin Producer 1937
No Score Yet Double Wedding Producer 1937
No Score Yet The Bride Wore Red Producer 1937
80% Love on the Run Producer 1936
No Score Yet The Gorgeous Hussy Producer 1936
100% Fury Producer 1936
40% I Live My Life Screenwriter 1935
No Score Yet Forsaking All Others Screenwriter 1934
85% Our Daily Bread Screenwriter 1934
80% Manhattan Melodrama Screenwriter 1934
71% Alice in Wonderland Screenwriter 1933
No Score Yet Emergency Call Screenwriter 1933
No Score Yet Diplomaniacs Screenwriter 1933
No Score Yet If I Had a Million Screenwriter 1932
86% Skippy Screenwriter 1931


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