Mankiewicz moved with his family to New York City where he graduated in 1924 from Stuyvesant High School. In 1928, he obtained a bachelor's degree from Columbia University. For a time he worked in Berlin, Germany, as a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune newspaper before being lured into the motion picture business.
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 Directing. In 1944, he produced The Keys of the Kingdom, which starred his wife, Rose Stradner, and Gregory Peck.
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 national audience. A cautionary tale about America's blind support for "anti-Communists" was turned into, according to Greene, a "propaganda film for America."
He was the younger brother of Herman J. Mankiewicz. His sons are writer/director Tom Mankiewicz and producer Christopher Mankiewicz. He also has a daughter named Alexandra Mankiewicz. His great-nephew is radio & television personality Ben Mankiewicz, currently on TCM.
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 1949 and 1950 when he won consecutive Academy Awards for Screenplay and Direction for A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve.
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.
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 production.
|Year||Film||Oscar nominations||Oscar wins|
|Somewhere in the Night|
|1947||The Late George Apley|
|The Ghost and Mrs. Muir||1|
|1949||A Letter to Three Wives||3||2|
|House of Strangers|
|1950||No Way Out||1|
|All About Eve||14||6|
|1951||People Will Talk|
|1954||The Barefoot Contessa||2||1|
|1955||Guys and Dolls||4|
|1958||The Quiet American|
|1959||Suddenly, Last Summer||3|
|1964||Carol for Another Christmas|
|1967||The Honey Pot|
|1970||King: a Filmed Record...Montgomery To Memphis||1|
|There Was a Crooked Man...|
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