Birthday: February 11, 1909
Died At Age: 83
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Also Known As: Joseph Leo Mankiewicz
Born in: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, United States
Famous as: Writer, Director, Producer
Spouse/Ex-: Elizabeth Young (m. 1934–37), Rose Stradner (m. 1939–58), Rosemary Matthews (m. 1962–93)
father: Franz Mankiewicz
mother: Johanna Blumenau
siblings: Herman J. Mankiewicz (brother)
children: Alex Mankiewicz, Christopher Mankiewicz, Eric Reynal, Tom Mankiewicz
Died on: February 5, 1993
place of death: Bedford, New York, United States
U.S. State: Pennsylvania
City: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Joseph L. Mankiewicz was an American screenwriter, producer and a film director who became famous for making classic films during the 1940s and 1950s that helped him win several ‘Academy Awards’. He experimented with various genres during his film career such as gothic, musical comedies, film noirs, espionage, westerns, dramas, epics, and many more. Sometimes he tried to combine different genres in his films to give them a greater impact. Though he made only 20 films during his entire career, some of the films were so impressive that they left their mark on the audience for years to come. He even invented a genre of his own which dealt with the analysis of each character in depth that gave him his independent style of directing a film. Most of his films contained shots of the interior of a building and stressed on the inner beings of each character which was quite different from the other film makers who preferred outdoor shots and landscapes for their films. His films were devoted to bringing out the conflicts and tensions that occur regularly in familiar backgrounds of daily life.
Childhood & Early Life
Joseph Leo Mankiewicz was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, USA on February 11, 1909 to German Jewish immigrants Franz Mankiewicz, who taught German and French, and Johanna Blumenau.
He had an older brother, Herman who later became a very successful screenwriter in Hollywood. He also had a younger sister, Erna.
The family moved to New York City when Joseph was only four years old.
He graduated from the ‘Stuvesant High School’ in 1924.
After finishing school Joseph obtained a bachelor’s degree from the ‘Columbia University’ in 1928.
After getting his bachelor’s degree at the age of 19, his father sent him to Germany to study drama at the ‘University of Berlin’ but he became a translator of movie subtitles instead.
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Joseph L. Mankiewicz was selected by ‘Chicago Tribune’ as a reporter in Berlin and he started writing English subtitles for German movies at the ‘UFA Studios’.
In 1929 he moved to Hollywood, California, USA where he joined his elder brother in writing film scripts. He did his initial screenwriting for ‘Paramount Pictures’ for seventeen years.
In 1934 he became a producer for MGM with the help of Louis B. Mayer.
He produced two films starring Katharine Hepburn which were ‘The Philadelphia Story’ in 1940 and ‘The Woman of the Year’ in 1942 which starred Spencer Tracy.
In 1943 he joined ‘20th Century Fox’ as a screenwriter and producer and worked with Darryl F. Zanuck in the film ‘The Keys of the Kingdom’ in 1944 which starred Gregory Peck and Mankiewicz’s wife Rose Stradner in the supporting role of a nun.
In 1946 he got his first chance at directing the mystery film ‘Dragonwyck’ starring Gene Tierney and Vincent Price when Ernst Lubitsch had to step down as director because of ill health.
Mankiewicz got his first real success in directing with the film ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir’ in 1947 which starred Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney.
He acted as the screenwriter and director for the film ‘A Letter to Three Wives’ in 1949 for which he won two Oscars. He became famous for his screenwriting ability with this film.
He made ‘All About Eve’ with Betty Davis in the lead in 1950 which received 14 ‘Academy Award’ nominations and won six of them.
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He served as the President of the Screen Director’s Guild from 1950 to 1951 during which he had to appear before the HUAC.
In 1951 he left ‘20th Century Fox’ and moved to New York after the HUAC affair and founded his own independent production company named ‘Figaro’. During this time he wanted to write plays for the Broadway stage but his dream never materialized.
While based in New York he made the film ‘Julius Caesar’ in 1953 with Marlon Brando in the main role which was moderately successful.
Mankiewicz directed ‘The Barefoot Contessa’ in 1954 and ‘Guys and Dolls’ in 1955.
His film ‘The Quiet American’ made in 1958, an adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel, was considered a controversial film meant for propaganda only.
He next made a film titled ‘Suddenly, Last Summer’ with Elizabeth Taylor in the lead role in 1959.
The film ‘Cleopatra’ made with a lavish budget in 1963 with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the lead roles failed to impress the public too much.
His films ‘The Honey Pot’ in 1967 and ‘There Was a Crooked Man’ in 1970 were fairly successful at the box-office.
His last film ‘Sleuth’ starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine in 1972 was one of his great successes during the end of a career spanning about 30 years.
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In 1983 he served as a member of the jury at the ‘Berlin International Film Festival’.
Awards & Achievements
Joseph L. Mankiewicz received an ‘Academy Award’ nomination for ‘Best Picture’ in 1941 for ‘The Philadelphia Story’.
He won two Oscars for ‘Best Direction’ and ‘Best Screenplay’ for ‘A Letter to Three Wives’ in 1949.
He won ‘Academy Award’ for ‘Best Direction’ and ‘Best Screenplay’ for ‘All About Eve’ in 1950.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Elizabeth Young on May 20, 1934 and divorced her on May 20, 1937. He had a son, Eric from this marriage.
On July 28 1939 he got married to actress Rose Stradner who died on September 27, 1958. He had two sons, Christopher and Tom with her.
He married Rosemary Mathews on December 14, 1962 who was with him till his death. He had a daughter, Alexandra from this marriage.
He suffered from a severe dermatological problem brought on by the stress of film making due to which his fingertips used to split open. He used to wear white gloves while directing his films to hide the disfigurement.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz died of heart failure in Mount Kisco, New Work, USA, on February 5, 1993 a few days before his 84th birthday.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz is the only director in the history of Hollywood cinema to have received Oscar for ‘Best Director’ and ‘Best Screenplay’ for films in two consecutive years.