(University Press of Kentucky, 370 pages, $39.95 )
By Tom Mankiewicz and Robert Crane
It is more or less inevitable that director-writer-producer Tom Mankiewicz turned out to be, well, a director-writer-producer. Cut from royal Hollywood cloth, his father was director and former DGA President Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and his uncle, Herman Mankiewicz, was the co-screenwriter of Citizen Kane. As Tom puts it, “When your last name is ‘Mankiewicz’ the pressure is on to be somebody.”
Along with writing three Bond films in the ’70s, among many other films and television shows, Mankiewicz was also a skilled TV director, helming several popular comedy series including Hart to Hart. Mankiewicz’s posthumous autobiography (he died in 2010), is a spirited and creatively nonlinear account of his colorful and diverse career, transcending traditional storytelling by showing what it meant to be a Mankiewicz—in and out of the director’s chair.
The book, co-written with Robet Crane, offers a self-effacing portrait of a Hollywood insider loaded with vibrant anecdotes, such as a rollicking yarn about enfant terrible Tuesday Weld brandishing a gun at a Malibu party. But Mankiewicz’s most telling insights are his reflections on the family that loomed so large in his life. There are also tales of his father’s close comrades such as John Huston, who passed on pearls of wisdom to Mankiewicz that would shape his own work ethic. (“If you get what you want on a first take,” Huston once told him, “print it and move the hell on.”)
In this deeply candid memoir, Mankiewicz confesses: “I love being a writer-director—Dad always said it was the best of both worlds.” He is proud of the mutual respect that exists in the directorial community, what he calls “the fraternity of directors.” And he is full of praise for the talented individuals from whom he learned his craft. After spending some time with him, it’s hardly surprising that he says the best piece of advice he ever received was the admonition from producer Cubby Broccoli to “Always be a gent.” My Life as a Mankiewicz is a top-notch read about a true class act.
Review written by Carley Johnson.