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Dragonwyck (1946): The Films Of Joseph Mankiewicz

Joseph Mankiewicz’s debut film under 20th Century Fox. For those of you seeking a true horror feature - let me just say that the word “horror” has been associated too much with blood and guts, and this film is the evidence that there is such a thing as a smart horror picture without the cheap hogwash that have saturated the modern horror pictures of today, but then again we are talking abour Mr. Joseph Mankiewicz, two time Academy Award winner for Best Director, and two other Academy Awards for Best screenwriter. Anyways, in this film you will see Vincent Price as Nick Van Ryn in a wonderful performance with Gene Tierney and Walter Huston. The DVD is out of stock , you will have to look for it on a triple feature Vincent Price box set on amazon. But the great news is you can watch it on youtube. So hook up your computer to your TVs and enjoy this great feature so we can talk about it.

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Hey let’s start a Mankiewicz discussion! Mind you I’ve only seen two of his films: Dragonwyck & All About Eve. I already ordered “A Letter To Three Wives”. Funny thing is that critics called him a “Woman’s director in comparison to George Cukor.” And Mankiewicz replied: “George flatters his women. I fuck them.”

Ha! Classic!

I just watched a great interview - (the only televised Katharine Hepburn interview with Dick Cavett), and it was just amazing. She talks about her life in pictures and in the theatres and reveals some of her life secrets. Like the time she broke into her neighbors house at the age of 14, and the time she was expelled from college for smoking. She was a remarkable woman to say the least. Anywho looking at that interview made want to pick up one of her films, so I scanned through her filmography and saw that she worked with the great Joseph Mankiewicz and Liz Taylor in “Suddenly, Last Summer”! :o

I feel rotten for not seeing any single one of her pictures. She died in 2003 - the very same year I barely got into movies after watching Kill Bill, so I’m still surprised she lived that long. Well there’s no better way to start watching a Katharine Hepburn film than this. By the way here’s the interview, you’ll love her, she’s so great.

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I’ve been reading a great book called “Jospeh L. Mankiewicz” interviews, and there is an in depth look to the films he was making, to his departure from MGM - which actually hit a pitch when they were fighting over Judy Garland. Joseph said, “This company isn’t big for the both of us, so someone has to go!”. And his directing days started with 20th Century Fox. But there was something he said that struck me so. And it really rang so true, this man was exceptional, prophetic in many ways.

Here’s the quote, after asked "You are not in sympathy with recent trends?"

Joseph L. Mankiewicz:“No Kazan used that word to me just two weeks ago-sympathy. He said, “I’m not in sympathy with the movies, with the people making them, nor with what they’re doing.” I agree: If I go back to work, it will be to make movies about human beings. With rate exceptions, today’s Hollywood movies are cartoons, rich , yes, and beautifully illustrated, but with no particular depth. There are a few human beings scattered around the robots, but their dialogue could be written in balloons, like comic strips. I enjoyed E.T. It was charming, enjoyable like watching one of the old Lassie films. I don’t mean to put it down: you felt for the kid and that was nice. Spielberg has an incredible talent for that sort of thing. But…I’d like to be working. I’d like to do more Shakepseare. Corilanus. Love to do that.”


Looking at Quentin, now more than ever. I think his films are really about people. Critics and dissenters in general focus too much on the violent aspect of his filmmaking, but as Quentin said “Violence is just one of many colors in his art”. The violence comes usually to us as the end result. Looking at Kill Bill, the film is about change, Beatrix is fighting for a new life, for redemption from the past. Jackie Brown is all about rising above her oppressors; her entire life has been nothing but shit and in her mid age she just has that insatiable need to rise above her poverty. She has to fight, Ordell was just using her and was going to kill her; if she didn’t get smarter she would have been dead after the night was over. Quentin is not about violence, he writes about people in violent situations, situations that are vital in order for change. I dunno why, but that sort of crept into my head after reading the quote from Mr. Mankiewicz.

Great movie. Depressing after watching Linda Darnell’s biography on the DVD. :’(

Anyways, I can’t believe no one in here has seen or like any of the Joe Mankiewicz films. I swear to god if you like Paul Thomas Anderson you’ll love Joseph Mankiewicz. My watch list has now been extended to three. My all time favorite being All About Eve with Bette Davis, Celest Holm, Frank Sanders, Anne Baxter and so forth. In a Letter To Three Wives I had the enormous pleasure of watching, gorgeous actress - Linda Darnell. The structure of this film is nothing less than extroirdinary. It starts off in a rich suburban neighborhood with a voice over provided by the woman who everyone talks about, and know very little of, her name is Addison. We never get to see her face, just a glimpse of her hand as she holds a smoldering cigarette - and of course she’s always an invicible presence in the film, as she is the talk of jealousy and the cause for many arguements. Addison is very well known by most men, and they are too - very intrigued by her.

(Texas born, Linda Darnell.)

The film focuses on three housewives with different lifes, husbands, insecurities, and worries. And one letter that makes them all look back in their lifes and relationships, shown in flash form. Mankiewicz himself described a “flashback” not as a cinematic device, but as a natural form of the human mind, we always tend to ponder of the past or even the future as we sit in our work desks, etc. The film moves by segment, going into each of the three wive;s lifes until the end result - which I won’t spoil. There’sno doubt Joe Mankiewicz is besotted by women, I’ve never seen anything quite like his pictures. I’ll be watching this again tonight. Oh and this is not a review, I just felt like ranting since my friends hate me when I rant about movies. :-</E>