Study Guide

All About Eve Screenwriter

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Legendary producer, screenwriter, and director—you'd never guess that Joseph L. Mankiewicz's first film job was translating intertitles (those title cards used in silent movies to explain the action) from German into English.

Hey, somebody had to do it.

Mankiewicz was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on Feb. 11, 1909, where his father was a Professor of modern languages at a prep school there. Considering the snide remark about Wilkes-Barre in All About Eve (Bill calls it "backward"), we doubt he liked it very much. But a love of languages must have run in the family. After college, he worked in Berlin translating and writing movie subtitles. In 1929, 20-year-old Joe left Germany and graduated from translating to working with his older brother Herman, already a successful screenwriter who won an Oscar in 1941 for writing the screenplay for Citizen Kane. By 21, Joe already had an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for Skippy. (Source)

Mankiewicz started out writing dialogue at Paramount, then moved on to producing at MGM. In 1943, he moved to 20th Century Fox where he got his first chance to direct. Mankiewicz wrote 48 screenplays during his career, including hits in genres as diverse as the musical Guys and Dolls, The Quiet American, and the historical epic Cleopatra. His screenplays were known for their sophisticated, sparkling dialogue and strong female characters, and he won back-to-back screenwriting Oscars for A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and All About Eve, which is considered his masterpiece. (Source)

Mankiewicz adapted All About Eve from a short story, "The Wisdom of Eve," written by Mary Orr and published in Cosmopolitan magazine in 1946 (Yes, that Cosmo. Alternate title: 12 Hot! Hot! Hot! Tips Broadway Actresses Use to Please Their Men!!) After "Wisdom" was performed on the radio, Mankiewicz purchased the rights, added some fresh new characters (like Addison DeWitt), and a classic was born. (Source)

Fun fact: Right after the success of All About Eve, Mankiewicz tried his hand at writing for Broadway.

…It didn't work out.

Mankiewicz directed All About Eve, too, so check out our "Director" section for more on that. Meanwhile, let's just thank the guy who brought us "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night."

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