Herman J. Mankiewicz

Active - 1926 - 1952  |   Born - Nov 7, 1897 in New York, New York, United States  |   Died - Mar 5, 1953   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Romance, Crime

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

American screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz is the older brother of Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Before joining the film industry, Mankiewicz was educated at Columbia and at the University of Berlin. While in Germany he began working as a Berlin correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. He later returned to the U.S. where he gained notoriety among New York's cultural elite as the drama editor of The New York Times andThe New Yorker. In 1926 he moved to Hollywood where he wrote and co-wrote many screenplays and adaptations. His most famous work is the Oscar-winning screenplay for Citizen Kane (1941); though technically he wrote it in collaboration with Orson Welles, most of the script was penned by Mankiewicz himself. Occasionally he worked as an executive producer on Marx Brothers' comedies such as Horse Feathers (1932) and Duck Soup (1933).

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  • Served with the U.S. Marines during WWI. Moonlighted as a publicist for Isadora Duncan while serving as a foreign correspondent in Berlin in the early 1920s.
  • Was a drama critic for The New York Times before becoming the first regular drama critic for The New Yorker in 1925; was a member of the Algonquin Round Table.
  • Collaborated on stage plays with George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly.
  • Made Hollywood screenwriting debut with the 1926 Lon Chaney drama The Road to Mandalay; final theatrical script was for the 1952 baseball movie The Pride of St. Louis. Notable films in between (some uncredited) include Dinner at Eight, The Wizard of Oz and Pride of the Yankees.
  • Was a producer for the Marx Brothers comedies Monkey Business, Duck Soup and Horse Feathers.
  • The screenwriting Oscar he shared with Orson Welles for Citizen Kane was his and the film's only Oscar.
  • In 1935, Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels ordered MGM to remove Mankiewicz's name from pictures it wished to release in Germany.
  • Grandchildren include NBC correspondent Josh Mankiewicz and Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz (both sons of former Robert Kennedy press secretary Frank Mankiewicz).