03 February, 2009
Joseph Leo Mankiewicz was an American Academy Award-winning director, screenwriter, and producer.
Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to Franz Mankiewicz (?–1941) and Johanna Blumenau, immigrants from Poland. He had a sister, Erna Mankiewicz (1901–1979), and a brother, Herman J. Mankiewicz, a screenwriter.
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.
Mankiewicz, who died in 1993, was interred in Saint Matthew's Episcopal Churchyard cemetery, Bedford, New York.