American director. He was born in 1909, the younger brother of Hermann Mankiewicz, who became a screenwriter and producer for Hollywood. Joseph followed his brother to Hollywood, also as a screenwriter and then producer. He finally became a director when replacing Ernst Lubitsch for Dragonwyck in 1946, a gothic movie starring Vincent Price. He directed such movies as the dreamlike The Ghost and Mrs.Muir, which starred his favorite actor Rex Harrison, whom he called his Stradivarius, A Letter To Three Wives and All About Eve, which together won two straights Academy Awards for director, in 1949 and 1950, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, with Marlon Brando as Marc Anthony and James Mason as Brutus, and The Barefoot Contessa. He then was hired to direct Cleopatra, which he remembered as the hardest three movies he ever made. This movie, which almost made the 20th Century Fox go bankrupt, put a pause to his carrier, and he directed again only in 1967 with The Honey Pot, an adaptation of Ben Jonson's Volpone, again with Rex Harrison. His last movie, Sleuth, is an achievement in itself, remaining both entertaining and interesting for two hours with only two actors.
Joseph Mankiewicz's main topics in his movies were women and manipulation. Bette Davis's role as Margo Channing in All About Eve is one of the best woman part there is ; and he gave Ava Gardner her best part in The Barefoot Comtessa. His movies are nearly always about manipulation, the finest examples of which are found in his later movies, The Honey Pot and Sleuth, in which both the characters in the movie and the audience are thoroughly manipulated.