Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz Passes On

Tom Mankiewicz, who wrote the screenplays of James Bond films and two Superman films, passed on July 31 at the age of 68. He had recently gone through a bout with pancreatic cancer.
Tom Mankiewicz was born on July 1, 1942, in Los Angeles, California. He grew up in New York City. His mother was Rosa Stradner, an actress. His father was director Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz was a paternal uncle. He attended Philips Exter Academy and Yale University, where he majored in drama. He graduated from Yale in 1963. In 1960 he first worked on a feature film, as a production assistant on The Comancheros. In 1964 he worked as a production assistant on The Best Man. In 1966 he did his first writing in television, on an episode of Bob Hope Presents Chrysler Theatre. For television in the late Sixties he also wrote the speciasl Movin' With Nancy (1967), starring Nancy Sinatra, and The Beat of the Brass (1968), starring Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. His first screenplay for a feature film was for The Sweet Ride, released in 1968. He also wrote the book for the failed Broadway musical Georgy (1970), based on the film Georgy Girl.

In the Seventies Mr Mankiewicz wrote his first screenplay for a James Bond film, Diamonds Are Forever (1971). He would also write the screenplays for Live and Let Die (1973) and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974). He also wrote the screenplays for The Cassandra Crossing (1976) and The Eagle Has Landed (1976). He was brought in as a script doctor for Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980). Although he did not receive a writing credit on the films (despite having worked on them for more than a year), he was given a creative consultant. In television he wrote the telefilm Mother, Juggs, and Speed and episodes of Hart to Hart.

In the Eighties Tom Mankiewicz wrote the screenplays to Ladyhawke (1985) and Dragnet (1987). He also directed episodes of Hart to Hart and Tales From the Crypt, as well as the films Dragnet and Delirious (1991).

Tom Mankiewicz would write several good movies. Although Diamonds Are Forver is perhaps the least of the Sean Connery Bond films, he wrote what are possibly the two best Roger Moore Bond films: Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun. And while it is difficult to gauge his contributions to Superman and Superman II, from reports it would seem that he totally reworked both scripts, neither of which was filmable. He also wrote Ladyhawke, one of the best fantasy films of the Eighties. As a screenwriter Mr. Mankiewicz both wrote good screenplays and made important contributions to others.

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