With all the attention paid to Herman J. Mankiewicz with the release of Mank, it is an opportune time to focus on Joseph L. Mankiewicz: Herman’s younger, quieter, yet more prolific and accomplished brother. Joe was brought to Hollywood by his brother, where he was given a writing job at Paramount at the ripe age of twenty. He started writing titles for silent films and eventually moved on to dialogue and screenplays, some of it uncredited.
He continued this work at MGM, where he spent a decade. It was also at MGM that he was given an opportunity to produce, shepherding projects and ideas from inception through production, including some of the studio’s biggest hits—Fury (1936), A Christmas Carol (1938), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939), The Philadelphia Story (1940), and Woman of the Year (1942).
Mankiewicz moved to Twentieth Century-Fox for the opportunity to direct and cement his legend. He directed eleven features for Fox and achieved the unmatched feat of winning back-to-back Academy Awards in both writing and directing for A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and All About Eve (1950). This spring, the Dryden brings you a series of some of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s best films, demonstrating a legacy of cinematic achievement that can stand on its own.
Events in this Series
The Other Mank Mankiewicz’s second film with Gene Tierney (after Dragonwyck) is this haunting, supernatural romance from the novel by R. A. Dick. Most known for Bernard Herrmann’s beautiful sea-swept score, the film was also nominated for an Academy Award for Charles Lang’s black-and-white cinematography.
The Other Mank Mankiewicz’s peak came in the late 1940s and early 1950s as he received Academy Awards in back-to-back years for both writing and directing—a feat that has so far never been matched. The first of these films was A Letter to Three Wives, based on a Cosmopolitan short story by John Klempner that was expanded by the author into the novel A Letter to Five Wives before Fox purchased the rights for adaptation.
The Other Mank Mankiewicz’s last film under his Fox contract is this dramatization of real-life events in World War II. A valet at the British embassy in neutral Turkey (James Mason) has ambitions to move beyond his station and becomes a spy for the German government, photographing sensitive military documents and selling them.
The Other Mank After Mankiewicz left MGM, he formed his own production company, Figaro, and started work on The Barefoot Contessa, which he had originally conceived of as a novel. This is Mankiewicz’s first color film, and he made the most of the beauty shooting on location in Italy.
The Other Mank Mankiewicz’s first film back at MGM was also the first Shakespeare adaptation out of Hollywood in nearly twenty years. The film was produced by John Houseman, who had also produced Orson Welles’s stage adaptation in 1937, but Mankiewicz opted for a more traditional approach, eschewing the modern-dress interpretation of the theatre production.
The Other Mank Tennessee Williams’s gothic play (adapted by Gore Vidal) is given the big-screen treatment with a typical Mankiewicz touch. Patrician southern widow Mrs. Venable (Katharine Hepburn) summons newly arrived neurologist Dr. Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) to her home to talk about her niece, Catherine Holly (Elizabeth Taylor), who appears to have gone mad after the death of Venable’s son.