Wolf Mankowitz

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Cyril Wolf Mankowitz (7 November 1924 – 20 May 1998) was an English writer, playwright and screenwriter.

Early life[edit]

Mankowitz was born in Fashion Street in Spitalfields in the East End of London, the heart of London's Jewish community,[1] of Russian Jewish descent. He was educated at Downing College, Cambridge.[2]

Career[edit]

His background provided Mankowitz with the material for his most successful book A Kid for Two Farthings (1953). This was adapted as a film by the director Carol Reed in 1955. Mankowitz himself wrote the screenplay. In 1958 he wrote the book for the West End musical Expresso Bongo[2] which was made into a film starring Cliff Richard and Laurence Harvey the following year.[3] Its director Val Guest suggested to Harvey that it might be a good idea to model his film role of Johnny Jackson on Mankowitz's own character, and so Harvey arranged a couple of lunches with the unsuspecting writer to study him at close hand, resulting in the character on film sounding something like Mankowitz.[4] Mankowitz himself appears in the film's opening credit sequence, wearing a sandwich-board bearing his writer credit.

Mankowitz's script for Anthony Asquith's film The Millionairess (1960), based on the 1936 play by George Bernard Shaw and starring Sophia Loren and Peter Sellers, was nominated for a BAFTA Award for best screenplay.[5] Another screenplay at this time was a further collaboration with Val Guest for the science fiction film The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961).

In 1962, Mankowitz offered to introduce his friend Cubby Broccoli to Harry Saltzman,[6] holder of the film rights to James Bond, when Broccoli mentioned he desired to make the Bond series his next film project. Broccoli and Saltzman then formed a partnership and began co-producing the first Bond film, Dr No, for which Mankowitz was hired as one of the screenwriters. After viewing early rushes, Mankowitz feared that the film would be a disaster and damage his reputation and insisted on having his name removed from the film's credits.[citation needed] He later also collaborated on the screenplay for the 'unofficial' 1967 Bond movie, Casino Royale. He wrote the script for Yorkshire Television's serial Dickens of London (1976) and the book of the same name based on his research when writing the series.

Mankowitz was one of the original investors in the Partisan Coffee House, a meeting place for the New Left just off Soho Square, functioning from 1958-1962. During the late 1960s, he was part-owner of the Pickwick Club, in Gt Newport St, off Charing Cross Road, Soho, London W1, where the Peddlers, a pop group led by Roy Phillips, were resident. Mankowitz's wife Ann was a psychoanalyst; the couple met at Cambridge University.[7] They had four sons; the eldest of whom, Gered, is a photographer. His sister was Barbara Mankowitz (12 April 1927–25 August 2002).

Mankowitz also had a reputation as a playwright. Several of his plays either started as films or television plays. His plays include The Samson Riddle, The Bespoke Overcoat, The Hebrew Lesson (for the stage premiere it was retitled The Irish Hebrew Lesson), It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog and The Mighty Hunter.[8]

Death[edit]

Wolf Mankowitz died of cancer in 1998 in County Cork, Ireland, aged 73. His ashes are at the Golders Green Crematorium.

Other[edit]

Files placed in the public domain during August 2010 revealed that Mankowitz was suspected of being a communist agent by security service MI5 for a decade after the Second World War.[7][9] According to an article in The Guardian, the investigation was dropped after he cancelled a visit to Russia in 1957.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Author notes on dustjacket of Cockatrice (1963) by Wolf Mankowitz
  2. ^ a b John Calder Obituary: Wolf Mankowitz, The Independent, 23 May 1998
  3. ^ LHL12 (18 May 1960). "Expresso Bongo profile at IMDb". IMDb. Retrieved 24 November 2014. 
  4. ^ Val Guest, So You Want to Be in Pictures, p. 135
  5. ^ Hermit C-2 (22 December 1960). "The Millionairess (1960)". IMDb. Retrieved 24 November 2014. 
  6. ^ Shawn Levy "Oh, James...", The Guardian, 13 September 2002
  7. ^ a b Alan Travis "To Russia with love: Wolf Mankowitz suspected of bonding with enemy", The Guardian, 26 August 2010
  8. ^ Mankowitz, Wolf (2006). The Plays. London: Oberon Books. ISBN 978-1840026993. 
  9. ^ "The National Archives - Error message: Page not found". Nationalarchives.gov.uk. Retrieved 24 November 2014. 
  10. ^ Alan Travis. "To Russia with love: Wolf Mankowitz suspected of bonding with enemy". the Guardian. Retrieved 24 November 2014. 

Literature[edit]

  • Anthony J. Dunn: The worlds of Wolf Mankowitz : between elite and popular cultures in post-war Britain, London [u.a.] : Vallentine Mitchell, 2013, ISBN 978-0-85303-906-8

External links[edit]