*Written to coincide with “Directed by JLM” on The Criterion Collection.
Director of “All About Eve”
Director of “Cleopatra”
Producer of “The Philadelphia Story”
Producer of “Woman of the Year” and the man who introduced Katherine Hepburn to Spencer Tracy
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s boss at MGM
The younger brother of Herman “Hank” J. Mankiewicz”, an alcoholic, legendary raconteur, and the co-writer of “Citizen Kane”
ALL ABOUT EVE (1950) A+
One masterpiece from one of the greatest screenplays ever written (by Mankiewicz from Mary Orr’s short story “The Wisdom of Eve”). Highlighting the greatest, the most cherished, the most quoted, and the most imitated performance by Hollywood’s greatest actress Bette Davis as Margo Channing.
One efficient Fox Noir that marked the debut of Sidney Poitier (and both Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis in smaller roles).
THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN (1970) B+
One very clever Western featuring Hollywood’s first well-adjusted gay couple (well-adjusted to jail in the Arizona territory circa 1883). They are beautifully played by Hume Cronyn and John Randolph, taking over from Bette Davis and Thelma Ritter.
Fox movie that is regarded by some (especially Gene Tierney fans) with affection, and there is a memorable score by Bernard Herrmann.
THE FIVE FINGERS (1952) B
One moderately effective Fox espionage thriller starring James Mason.
JULIUS CAESAR (1953) B-
A solid but hardly triumphant adaptation of “Julius Caesar” with Marlon Brando and James Mason.
THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA (1954) B–
One beautifully photographed movie (Jack Cardiff) lacking in style, With Ava Gardner at her most radiant. and Oscar-winner Edmund O’Brien.
GUYS AND DOLLS (1955) B-
A solid but hardly triumphant adaptation of Frank Loesser’s “Guys and Dolls”. With Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra.
A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (1949) C+
His double writer/director Oscar winner “A Letter to Three Wives” still looks great. However, what seemed innovative at the time – the letter being read by Celeste Holm informing Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, and Ann Sothern that she has just run away with one of their husbands – today feels like a rejection from a daytime soap. C+
HOUSE OF STRANGERS (1949) C+
An effective Fox film noir starring Edward G. Robinson, Susan Hayward, and Richard Conte. Remade as “Broken Arrow” in 1954 with Spencer Tracy.
SLEUTH (1972) C+
Not the sophisticated concoction it was in ‘72, it still has its moments.
THE QUIET AMERICAN (1958) C-
A solid but hardly imaginative and not triumphant adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel.
CLEOPATRA (1963) C-
Then, of course, there is “Cleopatra”. Taking over from Rouben Mamoulian, the result was a disaster of enormous proportions. The terrible acting and dialogue (a lot of it written on the fly by Mankiewicz), The enormous sets, the silly costumes, and, of course, Roddy McDowell as Octavian. It can be enjoyed, in small portions, as camp.
THE HONEY POT (1967) C-
“The Honey Pot” boasts a nice performance by Maggie Smith but not much else.
SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER (1959) C-
The unfortunate and out-of-control Tennessee Williams adaptation “Suddenly Last Summer” with a visibly ill Montgomery Clift and a poorly directed Elizabeth Taylor gives one of the most hysterical (and hysterically funny) monologues in Hollywood history.
|1946||Dragonwyck||20th Century Fox||D+|
|1946||Somewhere in the Night||20th Century Fox||D+|
|1947||The Late George Apley||20th Century Fox||F|
|1947||The Ghost and Mrs. Muir||20th Century Fox||B|
|1948||Escape||20th Century Fox||D+|
|1949||A Letter to Three Wives||20th Century Fox||C+|
|1949||House of Strangers||20th Century Fox||C+|
|1950||No Way Out||20th Century Fox||B+|
|1950||All About Eve||20th Century Fox||A+|
|1951||People Will Talk||20th Century Fox||D|
|1952||5 Fingers||20th Century Fox||B|
|1954||The Barefoot Contessa||Figaro/United Artists||B-|
|1955||Guys and Dolls||Samuel Goldwyn/ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer||B-|
|1958||The Quiet American||Figaro/United Artists||C-|
|1959||Suddenly, Last Summer||Columbia||C-|
|1963||Cleopatra||20th Century Fox||C-|
|1967||The Honey Pot||Famous Artists Productions||C-|
|1970||There Was a Crooked Man||Warner Bros.||B+|