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Joe Makiewicz is REALLY overrated.


JonnyGeetar
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Hello. I am kind of new to the forums, and please excuse me for spewing vitriol all over the place, but i have just walked away from "the barefoot countessa" for the third time.

 

man, is that thing clunky!

 

pretentious, filled with esoteric references- and what was with the CONSTANT VOICE-OVERS??! Did he not trust Ava Gardner to be able to handle the courtroom scene at ALL?? Plus, on the rare occasion when there was dialogue, it was RIDICULOUS! Loved how it kept saying "but this was real life, not a script" when it was filled with some of the the most penny-dreadful dialogue I've come across outside of a Horatio Alger novel.

 

PEOPLE DO NOT TALK THAT WAY PERIOD!

 

sorry, but i have come to the conclusion that Makiewicz (and my apologies if I'm sic-ing the last name) was just not that great a director or writer. There I said it and I'd say it again.

 

and no: I've never sold a screenplay in my life, so what do i know?

 

but:

 

"All About Eve" is okay, but the third act has some serious flaws. "A Letter to Three Wives" thinks it's just the wittiest thing that was ever made and it's not. His 30's films for Joan Crawford are beyond awful (haven't seen "Mannequin" though)."Dragonwyck" is a potboiler (not his fault) and dull as hell (his fault.) "Suddenly Last Summer"- which is really well acted- could and should have been a lot better, and i think it is ironic as hell that (according to many sources) Mankiewicz was a BRUTE to poor Monty Clift, and it shows in his performance- ironic since the film is about attacking and ripping up and murdering someone for being a homosexual."Guys and Dolls" is waaaaaaaaay too long and I don't find it funny. "Cleopatra" stinks- but I guess we can't blame him for that.

 

"Five Fingers" and "Mrs. Muir" are fine though.

 

Sorry if I have offended anyone with this, but surely some of you agree with me, yes?

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> Sorry if I have offended anyone with this, but surely some of you agree with me, yes?

 

I seriously doubt any die-hard, film buff, student of the cinema, plain and simple intelligent fan, or any old-timer like me from that era would ever believe or think for one single, solitary moment the great Joseph L. Mankiewicz of ever being over-rated! Good God . . . Have you been drinking? Are you on any medications?

 

Looking from a perspective of the times Mankiewicz worked in Hollywood, one should try and understand what restrictions there was to filmmaking and this is why Mankiewicz tried to be so articulate with his scripts. He was geared towards working with performers to a high degree of understanding the spoken word and not so much anything so visual. Of course, you must be young? Not from that era? But then, you didn?t compare Mankiewicz to whom who might feel is superior? That?s what I?d like to hear and then we?ll take it from there.

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don't let the ee cummings-style grammar of my post confuse you, i'd say as i was a pretty intelligent guy. i'd also say i'm a film buff, and i've seen plenty of movies to compare Mank's with. (also, i'm not a drinker and let's leave my medications out of this.)

 

in my opinion:

 

Billy Wilder is better. Ernst Lubitsch (sic, i'm sure) is better. Hitchcock is better. Howard Hawks is waaaaay better. Raoul Walsh is better. Nic Ray is better. John Ford is a thousand times better. Hang on...Lemme think. Oh, Leo McCarey is better, Michael Curtiz is better (although I guess you could say their best work was behind them by the time Mank came along, oh and I guess Lubitsch was dead, but you know what? He was still better director.) Cukor was better, William Wyler was better, Minelli was better, Stanley Donen was better, Kazan was better, George Stevens was better, Richard Brooks was better...David Lean? WAAAAY better. I;m even gonna go out on a limb and say Douglas Sirk was better. Dmytryk was better. Clarence Brown (also not sure if he qualifies as being a contemporary of Mank's) is better.

 

Hell, at least Ed Wood's movies aren't pretentious.

 

Oh, and writers?

 

Trumbo, Lehman, Michael Wilson, Carl Foreman, Bracket and Wilder: all be-heh-heh-heh-etter.

 

Way better.

 

Off to pop some Thorazine, before I go, I'll toss you a bone: "The Late George Apply" also doesn't suck.

 

There, that suit you, Fancy-Pants?

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> {quote:title=JonnyGeetar wrote:}{quote}

> Hello. I am kind of new to the forums, and please excuse me for spewing vitriol all over the place, but i have just walked away from "the barefoot countessa" for the third time.

>

> man, is that thing clunky!

 

 

I agree. Very boring and unrealistic.

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I find all those negative comments about Mankiewicz ridiculous. Although Mankiewica may not have been as cinematic as say Hitchcock, what makes the Mankiewicz's films holdup today, is the sharp dialogue. Nobody writes for film today the way that Mankiewicz did. Also, its evident that Mankiewicz loves the ladies and most of them give glowing performances in the directors films, e.g. Davis, Baxter & Holm in ALL ABOUT EVE, Tierney in GHOST AND MRS. MUIR, Darnell, Sothern & Crain in LETTER TO THREE WIVES, Gardner in BAREFOOT CONTESSA, and on and on.

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To note: I think Anne Baxter is too, too, too over the top in the last third of "Eve." She's like, a fourteen where I would've asked to bring it down to a six, or shot her with a mild tranquilizer dart at least.

 

And did you hear what Kate Hepburn thought about him? (It ain't pretty, suffice it to say, I hope he always carried a handkerchief.)

 

Oh, and Otto Preminger and John Huston were better. Forgot them.

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Alas! Now we have something to work with! Of the directors you make mention of under ?in my opinion,? only four would be considered great scriptwriters, Wilder, Brooks, Stevens and Lubitsch. All others are visual directors, not relying so much on the written word! I?m fascinated by your inclusion of Clarence Brown . . . I have a very, very big reason to ask! I?d like to know what films of Brown you find superior to that of Mankiewicz. The whole idea behind a J. L. Mankiewicz movie was always the script first and then the usual camera setups. He was a man who concentrated vividly over the spoken word. His only problems dealt with the restrictions and censorship of the times when he so creatively worked in films. He learned his craft from his older brother, who hands down, I will admit was an even better writer than J. L., even after Joe Mankiewicz reached the height of his career at 20th Century-Fox. Herman?s only problem was staying away from the booze that he often said gave him inspiration.

 

My only response to the writer?s category is that they are all great and of course I would venture to place Joe on that list. Interesting that you mention who has to be Charles Brackett. After all, the script of ?Sunset Boulevard? that he co-wrote with Billy Wilder, that won an Academy Award was the very same year Joe?s script for ?All About Eve? won in its category! I think that ought to spell out a clear and logical conclusion as to just how high on the mantel of scriptwriting Joe was considered in Hollywood. Unfortunately, Michael Wilson getting blacklisted didn?t give him much of a chance to have a big career. He was absolutely a great writer . . . BUT TELL ME SOMETHING . . . Who directed one of his greatest of all scripts? You know, ?The Five Fingers?? Hmm? Who was that director/writer, who after Mike got blacklisted, stood behind him and allowed him a chance to work? WHO IS IT? Comon now, tell me?

 

If there is one script Joe Mankiewicz wrote that for me is his greatest, it would be ?A Letter To Three Wives.? I only rate this script higher over his greatest success ?All About Eve? simply because Joe did a brilliant job in symbolically covering so many emotional aspects to the human spirit that even today has a strong meaning. In other words, although the dialog is peppered with innuendos and the usual metaphors necessary for the period, the whole concept of what the three woman characters of the story go through is made clear by Joe?s beautiful words and expressive direction. I don?t think there has ever been a film on screen with such modern literary beauty that spoke to its time and place. The key to Mankiewicz is what he called ?the human condition? and he certainly wasn?t afraid to tackle subjects that spoke about or centered on a central theme to what was wrong with the world or what was funny about it. For all that?s said and done, his body of work isn?t prolific, but what there is of it speaks volumes upon volumes of what our American culture, its people and spirit is all about. Yeah, I will admit that there came a time he got a bit commercial. This only happened because times changed and Hollywood changed. What he should have done was try and branch out on his own like Billy Wilder did. Joe?s biggest flaw was that he wasn?t so lucky overall as a producer. He got a bit spoiled by the studio system that would cater to give him what asked for, making him feel comfortable. He was on all counts a product or child of the studio system, together with his older brother Herman.

 

You are entitled to your opinion, but there are some ideas, theories or expressive thought that require a little clarification to a point of debating, if not, defending. And, I just loved the 1950 movie ?Fancy Pants? with Bob Hope and Lucille Ball . . . I?m in good company!

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alas? why alas?

 

wow. That's a lot to digest at once, all i have time to say right now is that "The Human Comedy" is better than anything of Mankiewicz's that I've seen...And I know I keep misspelling his name, so sorry Joe. Also prefer "National Velvet" and the Garbo films he did- but like I said, Brown's best work was before the 50's, so feel free to strike him from the list.

 

By the way:

 

Have you seen the TCM Bio on DeMille? They kinda' made Mank. out to be, well, less than truthful about some of the goings on in the director's guild during the 50's. Purty interesting.

 

By the way, DeMille is NOT better than Mank, but his films are a hell of a lot funnier!

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Mankiewicz movies I would recommend: (not in any special order)

 

1. A Letter To Three Wives

 

2. Woman of The Year

 

3. The Keys of the Kingdom

 

4. No Way Out

 

5. People Will Talk (Incredible script! One of his finest)

 

6. Five Fingers

 

7. All About Eve

 

8. His documentary ?Montgomery to Memphis?

 

9. The Late George Apley

 

In answer to your last questions: I knew Clarence Brown . . . He was an idol of mine and I worshiped the ground he walked on. There?s a lot I could say about him, but its best I stay with the main subjects at hand and not use this forum as a personalized area to tell stories that can?t be proven, let alone approved. And, about the bio on De Millie . . . Well, it was no secret that C.B. got ticked-off at Joe because he wouldn?t name-names or expel members of the director?s guild that De Millie felt were radical, if not, too red and far to the left! This resulted in a terrible power play in the guild that subsequently ended with De Millie getting tossed out! That was a crazy time. Everybody was living and working under a cloud of fear. Joe?s contention to this matter was to try and protect as many of his friends and colleagues as possible. It wasn't as if those who had radical leanings could overthrow the government! The big turning point came when John Ford and a few other directors supported Joe?s position. This was especially the case when De Millie tried to get Joe voted out of his presidency at the director?s guild. What a mess that was and how so many decent people suffered over nothing that really needed to be worried about.

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Not meaning to quibble, but that's a tad like saying "Marty" is one of Burt Lancaster's best films....

I was commenting on Mank's work as a director and the whole "package" of his films as they add up in the end (or don't), and i'm starting to regret saying "REALLY" overrated and not just plain overrated in the title of my post...but, if we're gonna consider "woman of the year" a Mank film then I have to tell you: i have serious issues with the end of "woman of the year," i mean, this lady can speak 11 languages but she can't fry an egg or make coffee??!

 

even if making coffee was apparently complicated as hell to make in the 40's, i just don't buy it.

 

Glad to hear you're down with Clarence Brown. Is "Human Comedy" EVER coming out on DVD???

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The only way you can get "The Human Comedy" is on VHS . . . Copies are available all over the internet. You can't even get it on import DVD from overseas. Since Turner own the rights, this is the place to ask and as far as I know there are no plans yet for a DVD release. Everyone's best bet is to use a DVR, if and when TCM aires it again. You can then get a pretty good decent copy.

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Joe Mankiewcz was a writer at RKO and Paramount (from 1929-33) before moving to MGM.

 

 

> {quote:title=MovieProfessor wrote:}{quote}

> He produced Woman of the Year. It seems his early period as a producer was while at MGM was fruitful, but he wasn't really happy sitting behind a desk at the front office.

 

In one of Hollywood's best-known stories, Mankeiwcz introduced Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, and first cast them -- with George Stevens -- opposite each other in WOMAN OF THE YEAR.

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i am also 'on the fence' when it comes to joe, and for me it is the question of what has more priority in telling the story in film... the words/ dialogue, or the images/ camera?

 

IMHO, i think film is first and foremost a visual medium, and the story is told by the director THRU his camera. that goes back to silent film. could be just me, but it is the visuals in a film that hits home and resonates, with dialogue a secondary support in telling the story & moving the film along.

 

i think joe (in certain films) relied too much on his talk-heavy scripts for exposition. his camera is too static. i think most of his film scripts would work perfectly- and better in some cases- as plays in live theater.

 

while some of his films are quite brilliant, others fall flat. two that come to mind are 'the barefoot contessa' and 'cleopatra'.

 

'contessa' should have been ava gardner's 'gilda'. billed as 'the world's most beautiful animal', ava clearly could have lived up to that billing.

 

but somehow joe was unable to showcase her great beauty or appeal "visually". the whole film is bogged down with too much exposition & talk.

that was great for an actor like edmond o'brien (who won an oscar for his meaty character part) but ava should have dominated this film, with a steady support by bogart. it was up to the director to make this happen.

 

the same is true of his 'cleopatra', who should have been another charmer. once again, with another great beauty in the lead, elizabeth taylor.

 

once again makiewicz dropped the ball, making a four hour opus full of uneccessary exposition, and a very static camera. liz's cleo is a shrew throughout, always in an argument with caesar and antony. waay too "high maintainence" for the average roman leader.

 

'cleopatra' should had been a crowning moment / defining role in elizabeth taylor's film career.

 

so i don't think i could rate mankiewicz with the top DIRECTORS of his generation (kazan, wilder, ray, etc.). he was a good director, first and foremost, he was an excellent WRITER.

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thank you, Mr. Marco...One of my biggest beefs with "Barefoot Countessa" was the scene where Ava Gardner's character testifies for her father in the Spanish Court, and all we see is her lips moving as Bogart talks in voice-over about what a "brilliant performance it was, the best scene any actress ever played." (and i'm paraphrasing that, but that's more or less what he says.)

 

Okay, um, if it was such a brilliant performance, could we have heard some of it??! Gardner was a solid actress (basing that on "Night of the Iguana" and not much else) and if I were her, I would have been FURIOUS that I didn't get a line of dialogue in what should've been the highlight of the film, I mean, she had been nominated for an Oscar the year before for "Mogambo" (even if it was more for her popularity than her art.)

 

Voice-over is a technique that nine times out of ten, shouldn't be used, and this is a PRIME example of why.

 

As far as "Sleuth" goes, I've never seen all of it, but I caught some of it on TCM a coupla' months back and it was so hokey, I had to turn it off, I TOTALLY did not fall for Michael Caine when he's in make-up as the police inspector "arresting" Olivier.

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