Biography of Joseph Leo Mankiewicz (1909-1993)

Director, screenwriter and film producer American born in Wilkes Barre (Pennsylvania) on February 11, 1909 and died on February 5, 1993 in Belford (New York).

Son of German immigrants, his father was a professor at New York City College, which allowed him to have contact with the intellectual world of the city during his childhood and youth. He studied at Stuyvesant High School and earned the Bachelor of Arts from the University of Columbia. He was sent by his father to Berlin for further training. There he looked for work, was part of the city theatre groups and discovered the essence of cinema, circumstances that led him to the study of the UFA, in where he translated into English the intertitles of the German at the end of the 1920s films.

He returned to the United States called for his brother Herman, playwright and journalist, who had joined the world of cinema in Hollywood as a screenwriter. Joseph, first in the Famous Players-Lasky and then at the Paramount, progressed relentlessly assuming all kinds of work having as a point in common writing, and became of the intertitles comic scripts for Jack Oakie (Moon of June, 1931) and W. C. Fields (at full throttle, 1932) and ambient music for Bing Crosby (Too much harmony, 1933). In these years he was nominated for the Oscar for the adapted screenplay that he wrote with Sam Mintz for the adventures of Skippy (1931), film directed by Norman Taurog and starring Jackie Cooper child.

He collaborated in several films from the RKO Radio until he entered the Metro Goldwyn Mayer good, because each of the scripts was written for S. Woody van Dyke (public enemy number 1, 1934;) I live my life, 1935) and King Vidor (our daily bread, 1934) became notable successes and have luxury deals led by Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, William Powelland Myrna Loy . Over ten years, Mankiewicz worked as a producer for the Studio of Louis B. Mayer, and his work came out movies that would be for history as undoubted quality titles (fury, 1936, by Fritz Lang;) Three comrades, 1938, from Frank Borzage; Philadelphia stories, 1940, George Cukor; The woman of the year, 1942, GeorgeStevens; and the keys of the Kingdom, 1944, John M. Stahl).

He immediately joined the direction with a series of films that allowed her to become aware of what was work of custom and have to undergo a new study patterns, as it was the case of the 20th Century-Fox. Very soon, however, showed their qualities in letter to three wives (1949), with an effective script and a narrative structure that evolves according to a very novel story. Mankiewicz won two Oscar for direction and screenplay, awards that placed him in a privileged location which, to the surprise of many, confirmed the following year when the Academy Eva awarded with six statuettes his film naked (1950), an excellent job allowing the Director get two other awards. Certainly the confrontation between a first actress (a great interpretation of Bette Davis) and another applicant (a superb Anne Baxter) who only has in mind to achieve the success, allowed Mankiewicz demonstrate their mastery of the Mise en scène, the effectiveness of a well-constructed script from a structure temporary (on which moves the past in a flash-back) resulting in the drama of history.

After directing operation Cicero (1952), one of the best detective intrigues filmed in Hollywood, and Julio César (1953), with exceptional performances of Marlon Brando, James Mason and John Gielgud, Mankiewicz founded his own production company, Figaro Inc., which addressed more released projects and that facilitated her deepening the topics that so fascinated him (pride, success, money(, the decline of culture, etc.) and that had to do with the American Society of the time. From the Countess (1954) barefoot to the footprint (1972) director continued delving deep into the interior of his characters detail, showing the reality of his gestures and actions, by removing the apparent and giving life to a patent coldness. He developed a cinema of feelings, emotions, experiences that transcend the framework of the plan to offer the viewer a mosaic of intentions that inevitably arise from the hidden side of each character representing, as a whole, within the story, the society that welcomes you in the story but also and with more force, the society and the time in which Mankiewicz created history.

Beyond the cinema spectacle (Cleopatra, 1963) and skip a gender norms as American as the western (the day of cheaters, 1970), attempted to confirm that any space and atmosphere is good so the characters become invulnerable or fall to the bottom of the well, always that the Viewer is caught by an appearance that the story will be manipulating against.

Mankiewicz was, without a doubt, one of the most personal Directors that has given Hollywood. He demonstrated a mastery of dialogue, which built effectively planning that exceeded the pace and design classic for much of the film of its time. Perhaps structure was repeated in flashback in several of his films; the credibility of the story, however, was also given by artistic picture selected for each of his works and knowledge applied in the major works director of photography Leon Shamroy, demonstrating that the results have much to do with what is done at the front and back of the camera. Fundamental to understand the cinema of author not only from the position of director, for Jean-Luc Godard it was a complete artist, Mankiewicz showed that you reached their goals thanks to all those who surrounded him.


As a director

[It was almost all his films screenwriter]

1946: Dragonwyck Castle; Only at night. 1947: The late George Apley; The ghost and Mrs. Muir. 1948: Escape. 1949: Letter to three wives; Hatred between brothers. 1950: A ray of light; Eva naked. 1951: Whispers in the city. 1952: operation Cicero. 1953: julio César. 1954: The Barefoot Contessa. 1955: Them. 1958: A quiet American. 1959: suddenly, last summer. 1963: Cleopatra. 1967: women in Venice. 1970: The day of cheaters. 1972: The footprint.

As a screenwriter and co-writer

1929: Fast company. 1930: The Paramount galas; Bold/slightly Scarlet love; Only saps work; Lion society; Boys from Syracuse. 1931: The gang Buster; I'm going to Paris; June Moon; The adventures of Skippy; Newly rich; Two soldiers; Dude ranch; Forbidden adventure; Touchdown. 1932: The bride of blue; This reckless Age; At full throttle; If I had a million. 1933: Diplomanias; Emergency call; Alice in the country of wonders; Musical cocktail. 1934: Public enemy number 1; The our daily bread; When the devil looms. 1935: I live my life. 1943: The keys of the Kingdom (and producer).

As a producer

1936: Three thugs; Fury; The gorgeous hussy; Love on the run. 1937: The bride wore red; Double wedding. 1938: Mannequin; Three comrades; The black angel; The radiant hour; A christmas Carol. 1939: Huckleberry Finn. 1940: Strange Cargo; Philadelphia stories. 1941: Footmarks feminine; The wild mand of Borneo. 1942: Woman of the year; Meeting in France; Cairo. 1958: I want to live.

Writer of intertitles

1929: The dummy; The man I love; Close harmony; The studio murder mystery; River romance; Thunderbolt; The girl in the Saturday night; The mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu; The virginian.


BINH, N.Y.: Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Madrid: Cátedra, 1994.

DICK, Bernard F.: Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1983.