Thursday, February 12, 2009

Joseph L. Mankiewicz Centenary

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Biography for
Joseph L. Mankiewicz More at IMDbPro »

Date of Birth
11 February 1909, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, USA

Date of Death
5 February 1993, Bedford, New York, USA (heart failure)

Birth Name
Joseph Leo Mankiewicz

5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Biography
Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on February 11, 1909, Joseph Leo Mankiewicz first worked for the movies as a translator of intertitles, employed by Paramount in Berlin, the UFA's American distributor at the time (1928). He became a dialoguist, then a screenwriter on numerous Paramount productions in Hollywood, most of them Jack Oakie vehicles. Still in his 20s, he produced first-class MGM films, including The Philadelphia Story (1940). Having left Metro after a dispute with studio chief Louis B. Mayer over Judy Garland, he then worked for Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century-Fox, producing The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), when Ernst Lubitsch's illness first brought him to the director's chair for Dragonwyck (1946). Mankiewicz directed 20 films in a 26-year period, successfully attempted every kind of movie from Shakespeare adaptation to western, from urban sociological drama to musical, from epic film with thousands of extras to a two-character picture. A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and All About Eve (1950) brought him wide recognition along with two Academy Awards for each as a writer and a director, seven years after his elder brother Herman J. Mankiewicz won Best Screenplay for Citizen Kane (1941). His more intimate films like The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), The Barefoot Contessa (1954)--his only original screenplay--and The Honey Pot (1967) are major artistic achievements as well, showing Mankiewicz as a witty dialoguist, a master in the use of flashback and a talented actors' director (he favored English actors and had in Rex Harrison a kind of alter-ego on the screen).

IMDb Mini Biography By: Vincent Merlaud

Rosemary Matthews (14 December 1962 - ?)
Rose Stradner (28 July 1939 - 27 September 1958) (her death) 2 children
Elizabeth Young (20 May 1934 - 20 May 1937) (divorced) 1 son

Father of producer Christopher Mankiewicz, writer-director Tom Mankiewicz and of Alexandra Mankiewicz.

Brother of writer Herman J. Mankiewicz

Uncle of Don Mankiewicz and the late novelist Johanna Mankiewicz Davis.

President of the Screen Directors Guild. [1950-1951]

To date the only filmmaker to have won Oscars for writing and directing two years in a row. (2004)

Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 714-722. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987. Biography in: Cheryl Bray Lower & R. Barton Palmer, "Joseph L. Mankiewicz: Critical Studies and Guide to Resources with Annotated Bibliography and Filmography." Pages 5-23. Jefferson NY: McFarland & Co., 2001.

Granduncle of Timothy, Jesse, Antonia and Nick Davis (Johanna's children), John Mankiewicz (Don's son), Ben Mankiewicz and Josh Mankiewicz (Frank's sons).

Uncle of Frank Mankiewicz, noted writer and Democratic political strategist who once worked as Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's press secretary. Frank Mankiewicz serves as Vice Chairman of Hill & Knowlton Public Relations in Washington, DC.

Directed 12 different actors in Oscar-ominated performances: George Sanders, Anne Baxter, Bette Davis, Celeste Holm, Thelma Ritter, Marlon Brando, Edmond O'Brien, Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Rex Harrison, Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier. Sanders and O'Brien won Oscars for their performances in one of Mankiewicz's movies.

Is portrayed by Victor Raider-Wexler in Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story (1995) (TV) and by Phillip Lye in The Mystery of Natalie Wood (2004) (TV)

Member of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1983

Suffered from a painful dermatological condition which caused his fingertips to split open. This ailment was often brought on by the stress of filmmaking, and he can be seen in many photographs wearing white film editor's gloves while directing.

Ernst Lubitsch was his cinematic idol.

Was awarded the Italian Order of Merit in 1965, in gratitude for his having made four movies in Italy. He was the first American to receive the honor.

Obliged as a disciplinary measure to write some episodes of the TV series "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin" (1954), he wrote a script in which the dog behaved like a perfect coward and, instead of saving a boy from a fire, made him fall down into the flames.

Personal Quotes
I think it can be said fairly that I've been in on the beginning, rise, peak, collapse, and end of the talking picture.

I got a job at Metro and went to see Louis B. 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.

There were always financial crises. Someone would come out from the east and announce that the business was in deep trouble, and what would happen was that they'd reduce the number of matzo balls in Louis B. Mayer's chicken soup from three to two. Then they'd fire a couple of secretaries and feel virtuous.

[on the birth of the famous line usually attributed to Spencer Tracy] I was walking into the commissary on the day Kate [Katharine Hepburn] and Spencer met for the first time in the corridor. Kate said, "I'm afraid I'm a little tall for you, Mr Tracy". I turned to her and said, "Don't worry, Kate, he'll soon cut you down to size".

The death of Hollywood is Mel Brooks and special effects. If Mel Brooks had come up in my day he wouldn't have qualified to be a busboy.

[at the premiere of Cleopatra (1963) after being asked how he felt now that the movie was finally in the can and about to have its first showing] I feel like the guillotine is about to drop.

[at the premier of Cleopatra (1963) when host Bert Parks called the film "a wonderful, wonderful achievement"] You must know something I don't.

(on Katharine Hepburn] The most experienced amateur actress in the world.

I am never quite sure whether I am one of the cinema's elder statesman or just the oldest whore on the beat.

I don't see why democracy should suddenly equalize literacy and illiteracy. I believe that people should have to qualify for voting privileges. Each person should have a vote, but some should count for more than others because some people know more than others and are better qualified to vote.

Every screenwriter worthy of the name has already directed his film when he has written his script.

I felt the urge to direct because I couldn't stomach what was being done with what I wrote.

Cleopatra (1963) $3,000,000

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