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July 22 - August 29

The Complete Joseph L. Mankiewicz

The brilliant films and career of Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1909-1993) have long occupied a paradoxical and stubbornly unclassifiable place in the history of the American cinema. In many ways Mankiewicz's immeasurable talents as both screenwriter and director seem to be neatly summarized in All About Eve, the dazzling and trenchant satire of stardom and celebrity Darwinism that remains his disproportionately best known work. Certainly, Eve's sophisticated and jaundiced screenplay epitomizes Mankiewicz's seasoned distrust of Hollywood and his fervently countercurrent belief in the popular cinema's untapped ability to intellectually engage and cultivate an intelligent audience. All About Eve also crystallizes one of Mankiewicz's perennial themes – the theater as a mirror game of real life in which human identity is revealed to be mercurially instable, an illusion founded in role-playing and disguise. The indelible trio of Eve Harrington, Margo Channing and Addison de Wit further exemplify Mankiewicz's attraction to larger-than-life personalities – and, above all, to strong heroines – whose richly nuanced psychological motivations defined complexly three-dimensional characters where others would have crafted mere caricatures.

Yet, the full range of Mankiewicz's innovative artistic vision went far beyond his iconic Broadway cautionary tale to span a long and impressively diverse career successfully mastering a wide variety of different genres – from the dark, gothic melodrama of Suddenly, Last Summer and Dragonwyck, to the historical costume epic of Cleopatra, the nostalgic period comedy of The Late George Apley, the stylish musical of Guys and Dolls and the espionage thriller of 5 Fingers. Uniting the remarkable diversity of his oeuvre was Mankiewicz's enduring fascination with the past – be it the historical past of Cleopatra's ancient Egypt and Julius Caesar's Rome, or George Apley's turn-of-the-century Boston, or the subjective past explored repeatedly through the modernist and often highly self-conscious flashback narration that became one of Mankiewicz's signature stylistic devices. Starting as a director when he was an established thirty-seven-year-old Hollywood insider, Mankiewicz's films are also tinged with a nostalgia for the past of sound cinema's early years, a period that saw the brief efflorescence of the dialogue-driven and intellectually sophisticated mode of cinema that his own films would fiercely champion.

Born in Pennsylvania to a family of German émigré academics, the Manhattan-raised and Columbia-educated Mankiewicz received his first practical training in cinema at Germany's UFA studios, writing titles for silent films, before he was beckoned to Hollywood by his older brother, the then wildly successful screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz. Young Joseph Leo's apprenticeship in the Hollywood studio system saw him quickly recognized as a wunderkind screenwriter, launched to fame by the first of his many Oscar nominations at the tender age of twenty-one. Soon after, Mankiewicz was recruited by Louis B. Mayer to work as producer under the legendary Irving Thalberg, a promotion that led to a decade shaping and overseeing such iconic works as Fritz Lang's Fury, The Philadelphia Story and the first Tracy-Hepburn pairing, Woman of the Year. Mankiewicz's biggest career move was launched rather unexpectedly in 1946 by an abrupt invitation from his hero and mentor Ernest Lubitsch suggesting Mankiewicz take over direction of Dragonwyck. For the next eight years Mankiewicz flourished at Fox and under head of production Darryl F. Zanuck, efficiently directing an impressive eleven films – many of whose screenplays he also wrote. Mankiewicz's ascent as an A-list auteur culminated with his back-to-back director and screenwriter Oscars for both A Letter to Three Wives and, the very next year, All About Eve, an astonishing feat that will most likely never be repeated.

Mankiewicz's departure from Hollywood as an independent director and founder of his own production company, Figaro, was partially inspired by his disgust at the conservative turn of the studios and the Red baiting tactics that he famously defied – at great risk – as President of the Screen Writer's Guild. Moving back to his home town of New York City, Mankiewicz patiently struggled to realize the series of fascinating, opulent films that defined his late career, proto-art films such as The Barefoot Contessa and The Honey Pot and his two pictures with Elizabeth Taylor, Suddenly, Last Summer and the ill-fated Cleopatra which together revealed Mankiewicz's love of lush theatricality increasingly leaning towards the decadent and overripe. Reclusive and famously private in his late years, Mankiewicz delivered a remarkable surprise last act with the critically acclaimed Sleuth, a summary meditation on theatricality and performance that counts among his very finest works.

The Harvard Film Archive is pleased to offer this complete retrospective of Joseph L. Mankiewicz's twenty feature films as a rare opportunity to reconsider a simultaneously foundational and iconoclastic artist of the American cinema. – Haden Guest

Special thanks: Schawn Belston, Caitlin Roberton—Fox; May Haduong—Academy Film Archive; Anne Morra, Mary Keene, Charles Silver—Museum of Modern Art, New York.


Friday July 22 at 7pm

The Barefoot Contessa

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien
USA/Italy 1954, 35mm, color, 128 min

A fascinating companion piece to All About Eve, The Barefoot Contessa substitutes Hollywood for Broadway to again offer an alternately affectionate and savage satire of show business and a variation of Mankiewicz's grand theme of the theater as life. Refracted through a dizzying flashback structure, The Barefoot Contessa's cautionary fairy tale about fantasies made unexpectedly real derives a feverish, dream-like quality from the luminous presence of Ava Gardner as an aloof seductress and from Jack Cardiff's inventive Technicolor cinematography. Acknowledged by Fellini as a major influence on La Dolce Vita, Mankiewicz's late masterpiece is similarly drawn to the moonlit, mirrored villas of the European jet set. In the last great role of his storied career Humphrey Bogart exudes a poignant vulnerability as a stand-in for Mankiewicz himself, an aging screenwriter-director kindling a jaded yet still ardent love of movie magic. 35mm preservation print courtesy of the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Preservation funded by The Film Foundation.

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SCREENING RESCHEDULED
Saturday August 13 at 9:15pm

Somewhere in the Night

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With John Hodiak, Nancy Guild,
Lloyd Nolan
USA 1946, 35mm, b/w, 110 min

A taut film noir gem, Somewhere In the Night follows an amnesiac veteran Marine through nighttime Los Angeles in search of his forgotten past and the origins of a briefcase full of Nazi plunder. John Hodiak is rarely as expressive as the disoriented soldier trying to find his way through the criminal underworld. Mankiewicz's original screenplay weaves a wonderfully disorienting spell with its labyrinthine plot and its announcement of memory as one of Mankiewicz's recurrent themes. Print courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

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Saturday July 23 at 7pm

All About Eve

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders
USA 1950, 35mm, b/w, 138 min

All About Eve crystallizes the signatures of Mankiewicz's mature style – witty, sophisticated and irresistibly quotable dialogue; flashback voiceovers splintered into multiple and frequently contradictory points of view; a fascination with abusive social behavior transformed into a perverse game of shifting masks and uncertain role-playing. A stunning ensemble piece that gave career-defining roles to George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Anne Baxter and Marilyn Monroe, All About Eve also offered the quintessential star vehicle to Bette Davis who heaps playful scorn and heavy lidded charm into Margo Channing's every cutting bon mot. Celebrated as a fabulously over-illuminated chandelier of camp excess, Mankiewicz's best-known and best-loved film is seldom recognized as a contemplative and melancholy mid-career work, an expertly balanced concoction of intriguingly satiric backstage drama, soulful ruminations on the unsteady place of women in postwar America, and a profound meditation on the ruthless competition between the equally blind drives of ambition, love and loyalty.

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Saturday July 23 at 9:30pm

The Late George Apley

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Ronald Colman, Vanessa Brown, Richard Haydn
USA 1947, 35mm, b/w, 93 min

A gently satiric comedy of manners set in pre-WWI Boston, The Late George Apley stars Ronald Coleman as the eponymous Beacon Hill Brahmin whose hopeless provincialism leaves him impervious to the changes rapidly transforming his world. An important apprentice work, The Late George Apley reveals the type of scintillating dialogue and double entendre characteristic of Mankiewicz's best films, showcased here in the first of three screenplays written for Mankiewicz by the native Bostonian Philip Dunne. The film's sudden visual flourishes and radical camera movements point as well towards the baroque visual style of Mankiewicz's late work. Print courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

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Sunday July 24 at 4:30pm

The Barefoot Contessa

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien
USA/Italy 1954, 35mm, color, 128 min

A fascinating companion piece to All About Eve, The Barefoot Contessa substitutes Hollywood for Broadway to again offer an alternately affectionate and savage satire of show business and a variation of Mankiewicz's grand theme of the theater as life. Refracted through a dizzying flashback structure, The Barefoot Contessa's cautionary fairy tale about fantasies made unexpectedly real derives a feverish, dream-like quality from the luminous presence of Ava Gardner as an aloof seductress and from Jack Cardiff's inventive Technicolor cinematography. Acknowledged by Fellini as a major influence on La Dolce Vita, Mankiewicz's late masterpiece is similarly drawn to the moonlit, mirrored villas of the European jet set. In the last great role of his storied career Humphrey Bogart exudes a poignant vulnerability as a stand-in for Mankiewicz himself, an aging screenwriter-director kindling a jaded yet still ardent love of movie magic. 35mm preservation print courtesy of the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Preservation funded by The Film Foundation.

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Sunday July 24 at 7pm

Guys and Dolls

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra
USA 1955, 35mm, color, 152 min

When producer Samuel Goldwyn hired Mankiewicz for the screen adaptation of Frank Loesser's Broadway hit he recommended that key elements from the successful stage production be carried into the film, including members of the supporting cast, Michael Kidd's muscular choreography and most of the original score. Mankiewicz's only musical was based on a Damon Runyon short story following the courtship of two mismatched couples – a cocksure high roller, a Salvation Army evangelizer, and two hilariously comic supporting characters. Guys and Dolls is noted for its brave turns by non-professional singers led by Jean Simmons whose voice turned out to be as charming as her performance and Marlon Brando delivering creditable and innovative performances of the classic songs "Luck Be a Lady" and "I'll Know." Controversy continues to swirl around the unexpected casting of Frank Sinatra in the knockabout comic role of a compulsive gambler, colored by persisted rumors that he jealously coveted Brando's male romantic lead. Print courtesy of MGM.

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Monday July 25 at 7pm

People Will Talk

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Cary Grant, Jeanne Crain,
Finlay Currie
USA 1951, 35mm, b/w, 110 min

Mankiewicz's unusual and racy comedy stars an unflappable Cary Grant as a radical medical doctor under fire by a jealous university colleague determined to uncover dark secrets that will ruin Grant's career. Often read as an allegory for the notorious Hollywood witch hunts that unsuccessfully targeted Mankiewicz himself, People Will Talk also offers a potent depiction of the backstabbing and character assassination that remain a vital staple of American academia. Underappreciated today, Mankiewicz's rapid-fire and razor-sharp screenplay is notable for its uneasy shifts from black comedy to tense drama as well as for its startlingly frank discussion of such still taboo topics as suicide and unwed motherhood. Print courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

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Friday July 29 at 7pm

Suddenly, Last Summer

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Elizabeth Taylor,
Katharine Hepburn, Montgomery Clift
USA 1959, 35mm, b/w, 114 min

Mankiewicz's dynamic adaptation of Tennessee William's shocking one-act study of blind love and perverse desire takes Southern Gothic to a luridly dark extreme. Elizabeth Taylor is spellbinding as a young woman traumatized by her beloved cousin's mysterious death and imprisoned in a madhouse by the eccentric millionaire aunt desperate to keep her son's past a secret. A strange erotic triangle emerges when Montgomery Clift's sensitive young neurologist comes between the beautiful patient and Katherine Hepburn's imperious matriarch. The flashback so important to Mankiewicz's cinema gives way to the delirious climax of Suddenly, Last Summer and one of the most cinematographically inventive moments in his entire oeuvre. Restored print courtesy of Sony.

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Free Screening
Friday July 29 at 9:15pm

The Honey Pot

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Rex Harrison, Susan Hayward, Cliff Robertson
USA 1967, digital video, color, 131 min

Mankiewicz's glittering homage to baroque excess stars a debonair Rex Harrison as a roguish millionaire who uses his Venetian palace to stage a cruel and dangerously elaborate joke on his three ex-wives. An inspired adaptation of Volpone, Ben Jonson's celebrated Jacobean fable of cupidity and male narcissism, The Honey Pot delights in strange moments of surreal comedy like the extended scenes of a silk pajama-ed Harrison nimbly dancing ballet in his secret boudoir. Anchoring Harrison's giddy performance is Cliff Robertson as his sardonic, and possibly deceptive, Man Friday and master of ceremonies.

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Saturday July 30 at 7pm

Sleuth

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Alec Cawthorne
USA/UK 1972, 35mm, color, 138 min

Breaking from the reclusive habits of his late years, Mankiewicz offered Sleuth as a tour-de-force summary of his career-long fascination with the idea of cinema as a dangerous game of theatrical artifice and illusionism. Anthony Shaffer adapted his own hit play about a dizzying competition between two men over the same woman – a veteran mystery writer played with supercilious charm by Laurence Olivier and a suave hair dresser played by Michael Caine – within the strange carnival setting of the older man's mansion. As the two men lock horns, inventing games and roles for each other to play, the film's narrative unravels in a claustrophobic spiral of deceit and disguise. Fueled by precisely the kind of witty, cruel dialogue perfected by Mankiewicz's earlier successes, Sleuth offers a dazzling satire of class inequity and masculine hubris that counts among his finest and most sophisticated works.

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Saturday July 30 at 9:30pm

Escape

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Rex Harrison, Peggy Cummins, William Hartnell
UK/USA 1948, 35mm, b/w, 78 min

Rex Harrison stars in this dramatic chase film as a former RAF squadron leader on the run after accidently killing a police detective while defending a woman's honor. Based on a popular John Galsworthy novel, Escape punctuates its chase with introspective and philosophical musings between the fugitive and the strangers he encounters. A favorite of Rex Harrison's, Escape was the first post-WWII American production shot in Britain under a special tax-incentive law designed to revitalize the faltering British film industry. Print courtesy of the British Film Institute.

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Sunday July 31 at 4:30pm

Suddenly, Last Summer

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Elizabeth Taylor,
Katharine Hepburn, Montgomery Clift
USA 1959, 35mm, b/w, 114 min

Mankiewicz's dynamic adaptation of Tennessee William's shocking one-act study of blind love and perverse desire takes Southern Gothic to a luridly dark extreme. Elizabeth Taylor is spellbinding as a young woman traumatized by her beloved cousin's mysterious death and imprisoned in a madhouse by the eccentric millionaire aunt desperate to keep her son's past a secret. A strange erotic triangle emerges when Montgomery Clift's sensitive young neurologist comes between the beautiful patient and Katherine Hepburn's imperious matriarch. The flashback so important to Mankiewicz's cinema gives way to the delirious climax of Suddenly, Last Summer and one of the most cinematographically inventive moments in his entire oeuvre. Restored print courtesy of Sony.

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Introduction by screenwriter Lesser Samuels' grandson, Tom Beck
Sunday July 31 at 7pm

No Way Out

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Richard Widmark, Linda Darnell, Stephen McNally
USA 1950, 35mm, color, 106 min

Mankiewicz's usually understated political convictions are made clear by his direction of one of post-WWII Hollywood's most daring liberal productions – a fierce and uncompromising attack on racism. Reportedly upset by Fox's Pinky – whose exploration of interracial romance was thwarted by the controversial casting of a white actress, Jeanne Crain, in the role of an African American – Mankiewicz convinced Darryl Zanuck to respond with a searing indictment of racist tendencies in middle America. Working from a story by co-screenwriter Lesser Samuels, Mankiewicz crafted a powerfully allegorical and suspenseful narrative that steadily builds in tension to reach its explosive climax. Most important to the project was the choice of Sidney Poitier who made his extraordinary screen debut as a young African American doctor, and Richard Widmark bringing a troubled three-dimensionality to his sneering racist thug. Banned in Chicago for fear that it would incite race riots, No Way Out was not released in the South and was prohibited from being screened on Sundays in Massachusetts. Print courtesy of the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

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Monday August 1 at 7pm

There Was a Crooked Man

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, Hume Cronyn
USA 1970, 35mm, color, 126 min

Mankiewicz teamed with New Hollywood enfants terribles David Newman and Robert Benton to create a satirical and overripe variation on the Western just as the Seventies anti-genre trend was gaining traction. Starring Kirk Douglas as a cocksure desperado pitted against Henry Fonda's cryptic lawman, There Was a Crooked Man goes to Rabelesian extremes with its carnivalesque and over-the-top skewering of mainstream America, parodying everything from the Sixties counterculture to racist stereotypes, while letting loose a post-MPAA rating system stream of sexually bawdy and scatological humor. Loosely structured around a meandering prison break narrative, Mankiewicz's Western features hilarious turns from its rambling ensemble cast that includes the likes of Hume Cronyn, Burgess Meredith and Warren Oates. Print courtesy of Warner Brothers.

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Friday August 19 at 7pm

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, George Sanders
USA 1947, 35mm, b/w, 104 min

Mankiewicz's enchanting first masterpiece tells the tale of a young widow who boldly defies social conventions by abandoning turn-of-the-century London to live in a remote coastal cottage haunted by a dashing and embittered ghost. A rich evocation of mourning and melancholia, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir echoes Virginia Woolf with its embrace of death as a tender life-giving force, its fascination with the ocean and its focus on a woman struggling to find her voice. Overlooked as a milestone feminist film, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir combines its poetic exploration of female authorship and imagination with a gently comic satire of rigid patriarchy. The film's romantic strains resonate in Bernard Herrmann's lovely score and Rex Harrison's poignant and understated performance as the phantom sea captain. Print courtesy of 20th Century Fox.


Friday August 19 at 9:15pm

Dragonwyck

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Gene Tierney, Walter Huston, Vincent Price
USA 1946, 35mm, b/w, 103 min

Rarely screened today, Mankiewicz's directorial debut is a dark romantic fantasy about a spirited young 19th-century farm girl whose life is changed by an invitation to live with her mysterious cousin, one of the last of the baronial landholders bitterly resented by the exploited local farmers. An important entry in the Forties cycle of feminist Gothic films inaugurated by Rebecca, Mankiewicz's moody cult classic offered seminal, early roles for both Gene Tierney as a winsome ingénue and Vincent Price as an ambivalently villainous charmer. Dragonwyck reveals Mankiewicz's enduring fascination with the past as a dangerous fantasy realm that ultimately destroys those who linger within it. Print courtesy of Sikelia Productions.

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Saturday August 20 at 7pm

Cleopatra

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison
USA/UK/Switzerland 1963, 35mm, color, 243 min

Once derided and now celebrated as a fabulously decadent example of cinematic excess, Cleopatra counts as one of the most notorious epic productions in Hollywood history. Brought late to the troubled production after the original director Rouben Mamoulian was fired, Mankiewicz courageously seized the reins of Cleopatra to place an underappreciated personal stamp on the film that would almost destroy his career. Mankiewicz's fascination with the decline of overripe and crumbling empires – be they the Fifties Hollywood of Barefoot Contessa or the corrupt family dynasty of House of Strangers – transforms the sweeping saga of Cleopatra's tempestuous affairs with Caesar and Mark Antony into a dazzling realm of theatrical artifice and intrigue. Elizabeth Taylor is ideally cast as the seductive princess who brought Rome to its knees and whose bewitching powers cast a real-life spell over her co-star Richard Burton, launching the love affair that would anoint Liz and Dick as symbols of hedonistic amour fou. Print courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art.


Sunday August 21 at 5pm

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, George Sanders
USA 1947, 35mm, b/w, 104 min

Mankiewicz's enchanting first masterpiece tells the tale of a young widow who boldly defies social conventions by abandoning turn-of-the-century London to live in a remote coastal cottage haunted by a dashing and embittered ghost. A rich evocation of mourning and melancholia, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir echoes Virginia Woolf with its embrace of death as a tender life-giving force, its fascination with the ocean and its focus on a woman struggling to find her voice. Overlooked as a milestone feminist film, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir combines its poetic exploration of female authorship and imagination with a gently comic satire of rigid patriarchy. The film's romantic strains resonate in Bernard Herrmann's lovely score and Rex Harrison's poignant and understated performance as the phantom sea captain. Print courtesy of 20th Century Fox.


Sunday August 21 at 7pm

5 Fingers

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With James Mason, Danielle Darrieux, Michael Rennie
USA 1952, 35mm, b/w, 108 min

Featuring one of James Mason's standout roles as a dashing and immoral spy, 5 Fingers is a deliciously arch espionage thriller whose sharp satiric edge slices through the wonderful screenplay co-written by blacklisted writer Michael Wilson and Mankiewicz, who surrendered his screenwriting credit in order to direct the film. Mankiewicz is once again enamored by the lush yet fragile opulence of the upper class, peopling his films with fallen aristocrats such as Danielle Darrieux's vanquished countess with questionable allegiances. Mankiewicz himself directed the stunning Ankara and Istanbul location shoots that strengthen the exotic mood expressed by Bernard Herrmann's marvelous Orientalist-tinged score. Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.


Monday August 22 at 7pm

House of Strangers

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Edward G. Robinson,
Susan Hayward, Richard Conte
USA 1949, 35mm, b/w, 101 min

Among Mankiewicz's darkest films, House of Strangers is an intense family drama that traces the tragic consequences of a stubborn patriarch's dramatic fall from grace. Mankiewicz's obsession with the past is poignantly captured in the lyrical Wellesian flashback that structures the film and in the figure of Edward G. Robinson's immigrant Italian banker whose blind faith in hopelessly antiquated Old World traditions and assumptions of filial piety sows seeds of bitter resentment amongst his children. Burning with a dark fervor as the vengeful son, Richard Conte delivers one of his great early leading performances, buoyed by Phillip Yordan's clipped and baroque dialogue and Susan Hayward's radiant presence as a street-smart socialite. Print courtesy of 20th Century Fox.


Friday August 26 at 7pm

A Letter to Three Wives

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell,
Ann Sothern
USA 1949, 35mm, b/w, 103 min

After successfully directing three Philip Dunne screenplays and honing his skills as a filmmaker, Mankiewicz made a triumphant return to writing and directing, with A Letter to Three Wives, a confirmation of his status as a commercially successful and critically respected auteur. The film's famous central conceit of a suburban home-wrecker shooting a poisoned and playfully threatening letter simultaneously at her three "best" friends offers a dazzlingly philosophical prism that refracts flashback meditations of the women's self-doubt and painful scrutinizing of their married lives. The careful weaving of three distinct episodes and singular voices presents an impressive showcase of Mankiewicz's ability to musically vary tone, seamlessly turning from farce to melodrama to ribald comedy. Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.


Friday August 26 at 9pm

The Quiet American

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Audie Murphy,
Michael Redgrave, Claude Dauphin
USA 1958, 35mm, b/w, 120 min

Mankiewicz opens his moody adaptation of Graham Greene's foresighted Cold War allegory with a cinematographically dazzling and almost dialogue free sequence that undermines his reputation as an anti-stylist. Michael Redgrave and Audie Murphy are ideally cast as the world-weary, wounded cynic and the bright eyed zealous innocent embodying the conflict between Old and New Worlds that fanned the fires of the Vietnam War. Selected by Jean-Luc Godard as the best film of 1958, The Quiet American is a fascinating meditation on Cold War politics and intransient convictions that crystallizes the intellectual tendencies of Mankiewicz's cinema. Print courtesy of MGM.


Sunday August 28 at 5pm
SCREENING CANCELLED DUE TO STORM

A Letter to Three Wives

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell,
Ann Sothern
USA 1949, 35mm, b/w, 103 min

After successfully directing three Philip Dunne screenplays and honing his skills as a filmmaker, Mankiewicz made a triumphant return to writing and directing, with A Letter to Three Wives, a confirmation of his status as a commercially successful and critically respected auteur. The film's famous central conceit of a suburban home-wrecker shooting a poisoned and playfully threatening letter simultaneously at her three "best" friends offers a dazzlingly philosophical prism that refracts flashback meditations of the women's self-doubt and painful scrutinizing of their married lives. The careful weaving of three distinct episodes and singular voices presents an impressive showcase of Mankiewicz's ability to musically vary tone, seamlessly turning from farce to melodrama to ribald comedy. Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.


Monday August 29 at 7pm

Julius Caesar

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. With Marlon Brando, James Mason, John Gielgud
USA 1953, 35mm, b/w, 120 min

Featuring an impressive all-star cast, Julius Caesar is often cited as the most authentic and faithful Shakespeare adaptations, among the very few to retain virtually all of the Bard's original dialogue. Shakespeare's Caesarian Rome offers Mankiewicz another intricately theatrical realm to explore his perennial fascination with deceitful role playing and betrayal, with Caesar's assassination and martyrdom resonating as a powerful political allegory of Red Scare Hollywood. A showcase of Mankiewicz's great talent with actors, Julius Caesar is enlivened by its intermingling of the Method school brooding of Marlon Brando's Mark Antony with the more classically polished bravura performances of James Mason's Brutus and John Gielgud's Casius.

Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700