The names Herman J. and Joseph L. Mankiewicz are nothing short of legendary, as the brothers wrote, produced, and directed over 150 films. Among their many achievements, Herman wrote the screenplay for Citizen Kane (1941), while Joseph wrote and directed All About Eve (1950).
Though the brothers dreamed of careers in New York’s vibrant theater scene, they found success in films. Nonetheless, they experienced much discontentment during their careers in filmmaking, and their yearning for careers in theater never went away. Herman, in particular, was a former Algonquin Round Table regular who later gambled away his earnings, was fired from several major studios, and met an untimely end at age 55. Joe, on the other hand, became a major success as a writer, producer, and director, but struggled with uppers and downers during his career, leading to him being very publicly fired by Darryl F. Zanuck.
In The Brother’s Mankiewicz: Hope, Heartbreak, and Hollywood Classics by Sydney Ladensohn Stern, Stern offers an intriguing and thorough portrait of the Mankiewicz Brothers. Drawing from interviews, diaries, letters, and additional papers in private collections, Stern successfully depicts the personal and professional lives of these two accomplished and complicated men.
The Brother’s Mankiewicz: Hope, Heartbreak, and Hollywood Classics is available for purchase via the University Press of Mississippi.