Joseph L Mankiewicz
- Category : Writers-Playwright-script
- Type : PSP
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Split - Small (20)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Explanation 1
American film director, producer and writer who created many legendary films during Hollywood's golden era of the '30, '40s and '50s.
Mankiewicz arrived in Hollywood after his brother Herman helped pave the way for intellectual East Coast writers to earn high salaries in the Hollywood screen-writing departments. Joseph Mankiewicz wrote screenplays and produced and directed star features as studios vied for his talents. He won four Oscars in the space of two years for writing and directing "A Letter to Three Wives," 1949 and "All About Eve" in 1950.
Throughout his years in Hollywood, he sported a rivalry with his older brother who earned an Oscar for writing the screenplay of "Citizen Kane" in 1941. Joseph once said, "Everyone else has a mother or father complex, but I have a Herman complex!" Despite his many box office success stories, Mankiewicz was in charge of one of the biggest film flops of all time, "Cleopatra," in 1963.
Joseph's father, Franz, emigrated to New York from Germany in 1892. A German-Jewish news reporter and editor, his dad prized education over everything. He went back to school in his forties and later earned his PhD to became a professor at New York City College. Joseph was the middle child between his older brother Herman and his sister Erna. Artists, intellectuals, and scientists were invited to dinner at the Mankiewicz household.
The boys grew up with heady, intellectual dinner conversations. Their tyrannical father made life a misery for the reckless and irresponsible Herman in spite of his "A" grades in school. Joseph was more disciplined than his brother and was determined to make his father proud of him. Both Herman and Joseph entered Columbia University at age of 15 and graduated at 26. Joseph went to school at the University of Berlin where he studied literature and languages. He wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and join the teaching profession as an academic scholar.
In 1928, he fell in love with the Berlin theater. He knew he could not return to New York and teach literature in college. He decided to earn a career in the arts, though feeling that he betrayed his father's ideals. In 1930, he joined his brother Herman, already in Hollywood, and became a junior writer at the Paramount Studio. He loved words and recognized that talking pictures were the force of the future.
Prior to working in film, he was both a caption writer for silent films in the '20s and a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He wrote "Diplomanics," 1933 and "I Live My Life," 1935. In 1935, Mankiewicz moved to MGM and began producing such films as "The Philadelphia Story" in 1940.
Slowly, Mankiewicz's career began to rise in the ranks at MGM and in the late '40s, he began to direct films. After his brother received his Oscar for "Citizen Kane," Joseph watched his brother's career wane in the film industry. Mankiewicz directed "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," 1947 "House of Strangers," 1949, "Julius Caesar," 1953, "The Barefoot Contessa," 1954, "Guys and Dolls," 1955 and "Suddenly Last Summer," 1959. In 1961, Fox Studios hired Mankiewicz to replace director Rouben Mamoulian after already sinking $6 million into "Cleopatra" without producing a foot of usable film. Mankiewicz believed that he was capable of turning the disaster into an artistic masterpiece. As cost continued to rise daily, he had to control the extra-marital indiscretions of his two stars, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as they shot footage in Rome. Darryl F. Zanuck took control of the picture in 1963 and cut Mankiewicz's four-hour film to three hours, sparking off their film rivalry. Angered over the "Cleopatra" fiasco, Mankiewicz retired from film for three years. He returned with "The Honey Pot" in 1967. His last movie in which he was nominated for an Oscar was the film "Sleuth" in 1972.
Mankiewicz used his knowledge of psychology in order to date and impress Hollywood actresses. He had an affair with Judy Garland which upset her mother and MGM head Louis B. Mayer. He encouraged Garland to seek psychiatric help while she was under contract with MGM. He married actress Elizabeth Young and they divorced in a few months. His second marriage was to Rosa Stradner, a gifted actress from the Vienna theater. They married in 1939 and he demanded that she give up her acting for housekeeping duties. The marriage was shaky at best, producing two sons, Christopher in 1940 and Tom in 1942. Elizabeth drank heavily as she watched her husband's successful film career.
In 1942, she fell into a catatonic state and admitted to Menninger Clinic for nine months. Unhappy with the spoiled environment of Hollywood, Mankiewicz moved his family to live in New York City.
In 1953, his brother Herman died, that same year that Joseph sent his 13-year-old son to see a therapist. Five years later his son Christopher realized that his shrink reported everything he said back to his father.
In 1958, under the strain of an unhappy marriage, his wife Rosa committed suicide by swallowing an overdose of sedatives. Mankiewicz had affairs with only well-known Hollywood actresses like Joan Crawford, Gene Tierney, and Linda Darnell.
Mankiewicz was tight with his money. His son Christopher referred to him as being miserly. His brother Herman on the contrary loved to give out money to his friends and show everyone a good time. Herman loved to gamble and was always after his "idiot brother" to pay for his gambling debts.
"Mank," as he was called, died of heart failure on 2/05/1993, Mount Kisco, NY.