Joseph Leo Mankiewicz – Style Icon

Joseph  Mankiewicz is has had a direct influence in making films that rank amongst the best ever made.  Just running through his list is like reading off everyone’s favorite movies.  Seeing his name at the beginning of a film calmed you, reassured you and let you know that you were about to witness something special.  His words and his direction are the reasons that you love some of the movie stars that you love.  Ladies and gentlemen, Joseph Leo Mankiewicz.  Style Icon.NAME: Joseph Leo Mankiewicz
OCCUPATION: Director, Producer, Screenwriter
BIRTH DATE: February 11, 1909
DEATH DATE: February 05, 1993
EDUCATION: Columbia University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
PLACE OF DEATH: Mount Kisco

BEST KNOWN FOR: American producer, director, and screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz was known for creating memorable characters. He worked with many major Hollywood stars.

Joseph Leo Mankiewicz (11 February 1909 – 5 February 1993) was an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. Mankiewicz had a long Hollywood career and is best known as the writer-director of All About Eve (1950), which was nominated for 14 Academy Awards and won six. He was brother to screenwriter and drama critic Herman J. Mankiewicz who also won an Oscar for co-writing Citizen Kane (1941).

Comfortable in a variety of genres and able to elicit career performances from actors and actresses alike, Joseph L. Mankiewicz combined ironic, sophisticated scripts with a precise, sometimes stylised mise en scène. Mankiewicz worked for seventeen years as a screenwriter for Paramount and as a producer for MGM before getting a chance to direct at Twentieth Century-Fox. Over six years he made 11 films for Fox, reaching a peak in 1950 and 1951 when he won consecutive Academy Awards for Screenplay and Direction for both A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve.

During his long career in Hollywood, Mankiewicz wrote forty-eight screenplays, including All About Eve, for which he won an Academy Award. He also produced more than twenty films including The Philadelphia Story which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1941. However, he is best known for the films he directed, twice winning the Academy Award for Best Director. In 1944, he produced The Keys of the Kingdom, which starred Gregory Peck, and featured Mankiewicz’s then-wife, Rose Stradner, in a supporting role as a nun.

In 1951, Mankiewicz left Fox and moved to New York, intending to write for the Broadway stage. Although this dream never materialised, he continued to make films (both for his own production company Figaro and as a director-for-hire) that explored his favourite themes — the clash of aristocrat with commoner, life as performance and the clash between people’s urge to control their fate and the contingencies of real life.

In 1953, he directed Julius Caesar for MGM, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play. It received widely favorable reviews, and David Shipman, author of the book The Great Movie Stars: The Hollywood Years, called it “perhaps the finest Shakespeare film ever made”. The film serves as the only record of Marlon Brando in a Shakespearean role; he played Mark Antony, and received an Oscar nomination for his performance.

In 1958, Mankiewicz directed The Quiet American, an adaptation of Graham Greene‘s 1955 novel about the seed of American military involvement in what would become the Vietnam War. Mankiewicz, under career pressure from the climate of anti-Communism and the Hollywood blacklist, distorted the message of Greene’s book, changing major parts of the story to appeal to a nationalistic audience. A cautionary tale about America’s blind support for “anti-Communists” was turned into, according to Greene, a “propaganda film for America”.

Cleopatra consumed three years of Mankiewicz’s life and ended up both derailing his career and causing severe financial losses for the studio, Twentieth Century-Fox. Mankiewicz made more films, however, garnering an Oscar nomination for Best Direction in 1972 for Sleuth, his final directing effort, starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine. In 1983, he was a member of the jury at the 33rd Berlin International Film Festival.

He was the younger brother of Herman J. Mankiewicz. His sons are Eric Reynal (from his first marriage), the late writer/director Tom Mankiewicz and producer Christopher Mankiewicz. He also has a daughter, Alex Mankiewicz. His great-nephew is radio & television personality Ben Mankiewicz, currently on TCM.

Mankiewicz, who died in 1993, six days before his 84th birthday, was interred in Saint Matthew’s Episcopal Churchyard cemetery, Bedford, New York.

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