Herman J. (1897–1953) and Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1909–1993) wrote, produced, and directed over 150 pictures. With Orson Welles, Herman wrote the screenplay for Citizen Kane and shared the picture’s only Academy Award. Joe earned the second pair of his four Oscars for writing and directing All About Eve, which also won Best Picture.
Despite triumphs as diverse as Monkey Business and Cleopatra, Pride of the Yankees and Guys and Dolls, the witty, intellectual brothers spent their Hollywood years deeply discontented and yearning for what they did not have—a career in New York theater. Herman, formerly an Algonquin Round Table habitué, New York Times and New Yorker theater critic, and playwright-collaborator with George S. Kaufman, never reconciled himself to screenwriting. He gambled away his prodigious earnings, was fired from all the major studios, and drank himself to death at fifty-five. While Herman drifted downward, Joe rose to become a critical and financial success as a writer, producer, and director, though his constant philandering with prominent stars like Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, and Gene Tierney distressed his emotionally fragile wife, who eventually committed suicide. He wrecked his own health using uppers and downers in order to direct Cleopatra by day and finish writing it at night, only to be very publicly fired by Darryl F. Zanuck, an experience from which he never fully recovered.
Drawing on interviews, letters, diaries, and other documents still in private hands, The Brothers Mankiewicz provides a uniquely intimate behind-the-scenes chronicle of the lives, loves, work, and relationship between these complex men.
THE BROTHERS MANKIEWICZ in the news
In an interview with Wellesnet.com Sydney talks about who really wrote Citizen Kane, what Herman Mankiewicz thought of Orson Welles, and how Herman got along with his more famous brother, Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
“…beautifully researched and deftly structured …”
“This model biography tells a story of two gifted brothers, only one of whom exceeded expectations. But underneath the surface wit and brio, The Brothers Mankiewicz is a harrowing tale of a subtly lethal sibling rivalry that ultimately strangled them both.”
Scott Eyman, critic, biographer of John Ford, John Wayne, Ernst Lubitsch and next year, Cary Grant.
AIRMAIL NEWS, November 2019
“The author of a new book on the Mankiewicz brothers reckons with an especially timely concern: Were her subjects predatory monsters?”
COMMENTARY, December 2019
The fascinating tale of Herman Mankiewicz’s screenplay, “The Mad Dog of Europe, excerpted from The Brothers Mankiewicz.
More praise for THE BROTHERS MANKIEWICZ
“UNUSUALLY well written” –Terry Teachout, critic, author, biographer
“a fascinating dual portrait… also a thorough and judicious assessment of their extraordinary contributions to cinema.”
– Molly Haskell, film critic, author: From Reverence to Rape; Steven Spielberg: A Life in Films
“everything there is to know about the Golden Age of Cinema, as seen through the eyes of two amazing siblings… a generous, knowledgeable, fascinating account – I couldn’t put it down.”
– Patricia Bosworth, biographer of Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda. Vanity Fair contributing editor
“smooth as butter…full of great film history. I was amazed to find out how much I didn’t know.” – Marion Meade, biographer of Dorothy Parker, Nathanael West, Buster Keaton, Woody Allen