Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Associated Press


Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Film: North side of the 6200 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Director | Screenwriter
Born Feb. 11, 1909 in Wilkes-Barre, PA
Died Feb. 5, 1993 of heart failure in Bedford, N.Y.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz was the witty writer who became a director and won Academy Awards for both disciplines in such classic films as "A Letter to Three Wives" and "All About Eve."

Mankiewicz won his first Academy Award nomination for the script of "Skippy" in 1931 when he was 22.

Known for writing clever and biting dialogue, he gave Margo Channing, the aging star of "Eve" played by Bette Davis, the immortal line: "Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night."

But he always believed that writing and directing were intertwined.

"I felt the urge to direct because I couldn't stomach what was being done with what I wrote," he once said. "Every screenwriter worthy of the name has already directed his film when he has written his script."

Mankiewicz, who coined the phrase "my little chickadee" for W.C. Fields, also introduced Spencer Tracy to Katharine Hepburn, beginning their legendary pairing on and off screen. As a producer, he helped to write the final scene of their first film, "Woman of the Year," in which the perfect Hepburn is unable to prepare Tracy's breakfast, endearing her character to women as well as men.

His directing credits included "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" in 1947; the highly acclaimed "Julius Caesar" with Marlon Brando, which he adapted from the Shakespearean play, in 1953; "Guys and Dolls," which he also scripted, in 1955, and Elizabeth Taylor's classic hit "Suddenly Last Summer" in 1959 and her disastrous "Cleopatra" in 1963.

He first wrote the titles interspersed through silent films such as "The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu" and graduated to dialogue and screenplays. He took one fling at acting, as a reporter in "Woman Trap" in 1929.

But his real metier seems to have been directing combined with writing.

"Directing, whether it be a play or a film, is the second half of a writer's work," he told The Times in 1991.

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    Academy Awards

    Year Category Work
    1930 Best Writing Adaptation Skippy Nomination*
    1949 Best Director A Letter to Three Wives Win
    1949 Best Screenplay A Letter to Three Wives Win
    1950 Best Director All About Eve Win
    1950 Best Screenplay All About Eve Win
    1950 Best Story and Screenplay No Way Out Nomination*
    1952 Best Director Five Fingers Nomination
    1954 Best Story and Screenplay The Barefoot Contessa Nomination
    1972 Best Director Sleuth Nomination
    * A joint nomination shared with other people.

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