Citizen Kane, All About Eve, and Cleopatra ... Brothers Herman and Joe Mankiewicz produced, directed, and/or wrote all three films and about 150 more in their stories careers including triumphs as diverse as the Marx Brothers’ Monkey Business, Pride of the Yankees, and Guys and Dolls.
Because of their incomparable success, they were generally one degree from every star and seminal moment in Hollywood yet Herman spent his Hollywood years deeply discontented and yearning for what he did not have—a career on Broadway. Herman was the older brother and Citizen Kane was his professional peak (the controversy over the writing credit began before they finished shooting and continues to this day). Already a gambler, he went to Hollywood to pay his debts but gambled away his prodigious earnings, got himself fired from all the major studios, and drank himself to death at the age of 55. Hollywood didn’t ruin him; it just didn’t save him.
The younger Joe was a go-getter from Day One following his brother to Hollywood. It didn’t take long for Joe to surpass his older brother becoming an important producer and director at MGM. Joe produced The Philadelphia Story and introduced Spencer Tracy to Katharine Hepburn. He was a critical and financial success, but his philandering with stars like Joan Crawford and Judy Garland distressed his wives, one of whom committed suicide and he was pushed out of MGM over his affair with Garland landing at 20th Century Fox, where his writer-director career began. He set a record with back-to-back pairs of Oscars for writing and directing A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and All About Eve (1950), the latter of which set a record for 14 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, which it ended up winning. Joe was a very successful multi-hyphenate until, out of duress, he took on Cleopatra (1963) for an ailing 20th Century Fox studio. He repeatedly tried to get the studio to halt production until they had a workable screenplay. Instead, he had to use pills to write by night and direct by day ruining his health, and then being blamed for the overrun and publicly fired. After that humiliation he never recovered his confidence. No major star or film during the years of the studio system were more than a degree or two from the Mankiewicz brothers.
If you love movies don’t miss this Master Class on the story which is also the story of Hollywood in its Golden Age.
Purchase The Brothers Mankiewicz: Hope, Heartbreak, and Hollywood Classics.
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