My Life as a Mankiewicz
An Insider's Journey through Hollywood
Publication Year: 2012
The son of famed director and screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve , Guys and Dolls , Cleopatra ) and the nephew of Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, Tom Mankiewicz was genuine Hollywood royalty. He grew up in Beverly Hills and New York, spent summers on his dad's film sets, had his first drink with Humphrey Bogart, dined with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, went to the theater with Ava Gardner, and traveled the world writing for Brando, Sinatra, and Connery. Although his family connections led him to show business, Tom "Mank" Mankiewicz forged a career of his own, becoming a renowned screenwriter, director, and producer of acclaimed films and television shows. He wrote screenplays for three James Bond films -- Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973), and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) -- and made his directorial debut with the hit TV series Hart to Hart (1979--1984). My Life as a Mankiewicz is a fascinating look at the life of an individual whose creativity and work ethic established him as a member of the Hollywood writing elite.
Mankiewicz details his journey through the inner world of the television and film industries, beginning with his first job as production assistant on The Comancheros (1961), starring John Wayne. My Life as a Mankiewicz illuminates his professional development as a writer and director, detailing his friendships and romantic relationships with some of Hollywood's biggest stars as well as his struggle with alcohol and drugs. With the assistance of Robert Crane, Mankiewicz tells a story of personal achievement and offers an insider's view of the glamorous world of Hollywood during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Series: Screen Classics
This is an impressionistic yet detailed account of what was to be the most significant season of my life—that faraway summer of 1954. It took a half century to gain a true perspective on that unique experience, for when you are very young, you assume golden opportunities lie around every corner....
As a child, I was taken to a revival of Charlie Chaplin’s feature The Gold Rush. It had no talking, although in this version, Chaplin himself narrated. The bun dance enchanted me; suddenly I was aware that a totally different kind of film existed besides those with Betty Grable and Tyrone Power....
Chapter 1. Pastries at Rungsted
When I arrived, the day was shining. The Dreyers were staying at a modest painted house on a low hill surrounded by a yellow-green, abundant, leafy garden. I went up the round stone steps to ring the bell. Carl Theodor Dreyer opened the door himself, remarking gently, “The sun has come to light your visit.”...
Chapter 2. Small room with a view
Vedersø is located in a remote part of Jutland, which sticks up from Germany like a rather large thumb. To reach it, I took a series of trains with a boat in between—coming to the last part of the trip by bus. That is, I arrived as far as the village of Ulfborg, where there was a travelers’ inn....
Chapter 3. Sardines and cigars
Before lunch, we took a walk over the dunes to the North Sea, which crashed upon the shore some hundred yards behind the hotel. Walls of concrete helped keep the protective dunes from blowing away. There were several large pillboxes left as souvenirs from the Nazi occupation....
Chapter 4. Lambs in the front yard
There was a tiny bluish, oval-shaped glass, a type of lens Dreyer usually wore about his neck on a cord, made for him by a famous Venetian glassblower. If you looked into it, you could anticipate how objects might appear on-screen, since color values were transmuted to tones of black and white and gray....
Chapter 5. A feeling for atmosphere
Dreyer stood on a heath-covered dune facing the North Sea. “The sun was to set at eight twenty-six tonight,” he said. The horizon over the vast water instead had an opaque glow, a ghostly haze brushed dimly with pink. From the southwest, a procession of black clouds was heading toward Vedersø....
Chapter 6. The rain and the fiddle
The lip of Cay Kristiansen had healed. And Henrik Malberg
was well again. Scenes were to be shot of mad Johannes
leaving the house at night at the start of The Word.
Preben Lerdorff’s collar had to be turned up in a special way, as Christ’s cloak, to frame his face; the coat was fi xed in place by Fru Jensen with thread and needle. Sheep...
Chapter 7. Magic of the lens
A specialty of the hotel cook was fried eel. I grew fond of it and never would have guessed it was so tasty. Always there were several kinds of potatoes. The small Jutland potatoes are most delicious boiled and without skins, then sautéed with a light coating of sugar. The local bakery tempted us...
Chapter 8. Something about Jesus
The density of rain was not what plagued Dreyer most. The rainfall often was easy, though it never seemed to cease because it hovered over, threatening, even if the pattering stopped—ready to begin anew....
Chapter 9. In the end is my beginning
Dreyer’s discourse invigorated both of us, and it was well past bedtime. He was sharing; I was absorbing. His main intention in The Life of Jesus would be to show with respect the Jesus that may have been, historically—not a figure devoid of breath, not an incantation hidden under gold and incense....
Chapter 10. The word that crushes cliffs
The two or three days little Gerda Nielsen had envisioned
stretched out for weeks. We drank lots of Fru Kristensen’s
One morning during a downpour, “Vicar” Ove Rud and I took refuge in a shed at Borgensgaard. He mentioned the...
Chapter 11. Leaves from a journal
Herr Dreyer sent a car from Palladium Studios to pick me up, after our return to Copenhagen. The interior sets were being finished at Hellerup, so he begged me to “taste them.” He was immensely pleased with the work of Erik Aaes, the designer....
Chapter 12. Did they catch the ferry?
Ebba Dreyer cooked a terrific meal the next Sunday before I left Denmark. Goose, actually. I hope not from Vedersø. Herr Dreyer made it clear that for all studio scenes he must work in isolation, and I recognized it was prudent for me to accept the scholarship at the University of Michigan. I was...
I received a fascinating postcard from Herr Dreyer once, yet to my regret, I managed to lose it. It stated that while searching out locations for The Life of Jesus, he had planted a tree in Israel in my name. I was deeply moved by this gesture....
Appendix A: "Now the life will begin": Dreyer's introduction for actors in film
It is important in the film based on the play The Word that the minds of the audience right from the beginning are made receptive to the great miracle: the awakening of Inger out of the sleep. The abrupt switch-over from the natural to...
Appendix B: Plot Summary of Ordet
This is a modified version of the official plot summary from
the publicity developed by Palladium Studios.
Although The Word deals with a miracle, it is through and through a realistic film—about those who are weak in faith....
Appendix C: Letters from Denmark
Appendix D: Dreyer on color film
Color films have now been on the screens of the world for twenty years. How many of them do we remember for the esthetic pleasure they gave us? Two—three—four—five?...
Appendix E: Dreyer's lecture at Edinburgh: "New Impulses"
We can all probably agree that the film of today is not perfect. But we can only be grateful for this as there is a chance of development in the imperfect. The imperfect is alive. The perfect is dead, pushed aside, we do not see it. But a thousand possibilities are open for the imperfect....
Appendix F: Dreyer on film style
A work of art, like a human being, has a personality, a soul. It is revealed in the way the artist expresses his conception of whatever subject he treats. If the artist’s inspiration is to be embodied in an artistic form, style is necessary. Through...