Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Don Mankiewicz R.I.P.

Screenwriter Don Mankiewicz, who was nominated for the Oscar for  Writing Adapted Screenplay for I Want to Live! (1958) and wrote episodes of such shows as Star Trek and Ironside, died on April 25 2015 at the age of 93.

Don Mankiewicz was born on January 20 1922 in Berlin, where his father was working as a foreign correspondent for The Chicago Tribune at the time. His father was legendary screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz. His younger brother was journalist Frank Mankiewicz. After graduating from high school in Beverly Hills, Don Mankiewicz attended Columbia University, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1942. He left law school to join the United States Army during World War II. He served in the European theatre in military intelligence.

Mr. Mankiewicz sold his first short story to The New Yorker and later worked as a staff writer for the magazine. In 1951 his first teleplay aired, an episode of the anthology series Schlitz Playhouse. During the Fifties he wrote episodes of such shows as Studio One, Lux Video Theatre, The Ford Television Theatre, Kraft Theatre, Armchair Theatre, and One Step Beyond. His first novel, Trial, was published in 1954. He wrote the screenplays for Fast Company (1953), The Big Moment (1954), Trial (1955--based on his novel of the same name), House of Numbers (1957), Le imprese di una spada leggendaria (1958), and I Want to Live! (1958). He was nominated for the Academy Award for I Want to Live!.

In the Sixties Don Makiewicz wrote the pilots for both Ironside and Marcus Welby M.D., as well as the Star Trek episode "Court Martial". He also wrote episodes of Bus Stop, General Electric Theatre, Armstrong Circle Theatre, Profiles in Courage, The Trials of O'Brien, Ironside, Mannix, and Marcus Welby M.D. He was nominated for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama for episodes of both Ironside and Marcus Welby M.D. His novel It Only Hurts a Minute was published in 1966. He wrote the film The Chapman Report (1962).

In the Seventies Mr. Mankiewicz wrote the story for the film The Black Bird (1975). He wrote episodes of Sarge, McMillan & Wife, Lanigan's Rabbi, and Rosetti and Ryan, as well as the TV movies The Bait and Sanctuary of Fear. In the Eighties he wrote episodes of Simon & Simon, MacGyver, and The Marshal.

Don Mankiewicz was a very talented writer. In both his film work and his television work he displayed a knack for exploring interpersonal relationships. His plots were always character driven. In fact, he had a knack for getting into his character's heads in a way few writers can. As might be expected, because of this he had a gift for writing dialogue as well. When one watched a movie or teleplay written by Don Mankiewicz, he could expect realistic characters with often complex motivations. It was  rare gift during his career and it might be rarer now.

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