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Herman Jacob Mankiewicz

MANKIEWICZ, HERMAN JACOB (1897–1953), U.S. journalist, playwright, and screenwriter. Mankiewicz was born in New York City. In 1905, the family moved to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where his father was an editor for a German-language newspaper and his mother worked as a dressmaker. In 1917, Mankiewicz graduated from Columbia with honors, having written a humor column for the Spectator. He worked as managing editor for the American Jewish Chronicle until 1918, when he enlisted as an Army flying cadet, but joined the Marines and served as a private first class. After the war he spent several years in Europe, collecting stories about the Red Cross for the organization's press office and as a correspondent for a variety of publications. Upon Mankiewicz's return to New York, he worked for the New York World, and in 1923 he joined the drama department of the New York Times. Along with Dorothy *Parker and Ben *Hecht he became a member of the Algonquin Round Table. In 1925, he was hired as the first drama critic for the New Yorker, a position he held for one year. Soon after, Paramount Publix Studios extended an invitation to him to join the first wave of screenwriters heading west. By 1933, he was working for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, having written or collaborated on a variety of films, including Dinner at Eight (1933) and the Marx Brothers' Monkey Business (1931) and Horse Feathers (1932). By 1939, his penchant for gambling led to his dismissal from the studio. Orson Welles hired Mankiewicz to adapt Mercury Theater dramatizations. It was during this time that Mankiewicz developed and wrote Citizen Kane (1941). Although the film earned him an Oscar for best original screenplay and restored his reputation in Hollywood, it was seen as a betrayal by his friends William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies. By the end of the 1940s his health was declining and he became a recluse by the 1950s. Mankiewicz died of uremic poisoning in Los Angeles.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.