The Way of the Word

3. August 2010

RIP Tom Mankiewicz

Screenwriter and director Thomas Francis Mankiewicz (born June 1, 1942) died on July 31, 2010.

As the son of writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, it’s not surprising that he sort of drifted into the film business.  His first credit was “production associate” on the movie Best Man, in 1963.  He started to write shortly after that, with his first produced screenplay being an episode of the Bob Hope Chrysler Theater. He felt that his byline of Thomas F. Mankiewicz  looked too pretentious, so he shortened it to Tom Mankiewicz for the rest of his career.

And what a career that was. Mankiewicz worked on the screenplays to the James Bond movies Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Often, serving as what’s known as a script doctor (someone who rewrites problematic screenplays, usually for little or no credit), his work remained uncredited. His revisions on the movies Superman the Movie and Superman II earned him the title of “creative consultant.” He also wrote the screenplays to the Rutger Hauer/Michelle Pfeiffer fanasy movie Ladyhawke and the comedy Dragnet (which he also directed).

If you need more: Mankiewicz script doctored and/or participated on The Cassandra Crossing, The Deep and The Eagle Has Landed, Goonies, Batman, Gremlins, WarGames. Peter Falk saw to it that he was brought on as script consultant for Columbo. Nice work if you can get it: Mankiewicz’s job was to read the scripts and comment on them, no actual writing involved.

When Sidney Sheldon offered the script for a potential TV pilot, called Double Twist, to Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg, they couldn’t sell it. So they brought it to Tom Mankiewicz, who rewrote it into the pilot to the TV show Hart to Hart. The rest, as they say, is history.

Okay, so much about the bullet points. Tom Mankiewicz was a terrific writer. The list of movies above? I’ve seen almost all of them, I have most of them on my DVD shelf. I very much loved his work. Even the uncredited stuff; in hindsight, it’s easy to tell that those movies had the extra something that set them apart from the rest.

He had mostly retired from writing, instead spending his time on the board of directors of the William Holden Wildlife Association.

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1 Comment »

  1. RIP Tom Mankiewicz « The Way of the Word…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

    Trackback by World Wide News Flash — 3. August 2010 @ 18:27


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