Biography of Joseph Mankiewicz

Joseph L. Mankiewicz was a famous producer, director, and screenwriter. He wrote a total of 48 screenplays throughout his long career. He is notable for having won both the Best Director and Best Screenplay Oscar for two separate films, A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve. He was also nominated for Academy Awards for his work on Skippy, The Philadelphia Story, No Way Out, 5 Fingers, The Barefoot Contessa, and Sleuth, some for directing and some for writing. He was known for sophisticated writing and subtly comic and dramatically compelling directorial style.

Mankiewicz was born in Pennsylvania to German Jewish parents. His older brother Herman preceded him in heading to Hollywood, and was a successful screenwriter himself—Herman won the Academy Award for cowriting one of the most famous American films of all time, Citizen Kane. After studying at Columbia and then for a time in Berlin, Joseph joined his brother in Hollywood as a screenwriter, co-writing the 1929 film Fast Company. He was soon directing and producing for MGM. After producing such successful films as The Philadelphia Story, Mankiewicz moved on to directing, starting with Dragonwyck and Somewhere in the Night in 1946. His other directorial efforts include The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, No Way Out, All About Eve, Julius Caesar, The Barefoot Contessa, Guys and Dolls, The Quiet American, and Suddenly, Last Summer.

Many cite the 1963 film Cleopatra as Mankiewicz's biggest failure, a huge critical flop and a costly film for 20th Century Fox. After taking 2 years to direct the historical epic, Cleopatra was very poorly received and many see it as his final large-scale stab at film directing. In his later years, he became something of a recluse, and died at 83 in Mount Kisco, New York.

Study Guides on Works by Joseph Mankiewicz

Although no credit is actually given on screen, Joseph Mankiewicz ‘s Oscar-winning screenplay for All About Eve is actually based on a short story titled “The Wisdom of Eve” by Mary Orr. Actress Elisabeth Bergner related a story of an understudy...

All About Eve was a critically acclaimed film in 1950 when it came out, and brought huge accolades for its cast as well as its director Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Mankiewicz adapted the witty and sophisticated script from a short story called "The...