Joseph L. Mankiewicz

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domino harvey
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Re: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

#26 Post by domino harvey » Sat Feb 04, 2017 3:53 pm

Apparently you all forgot Kirk Douglas' rant against radio in A Letter to Three Wives!

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ando
Bringing Out El Duende
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Re: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

#27 Post by ando » Sat Feb 04, 2017 9:03 pm

Letter is one I haven't seen. It's next! Revisiting Julius Caesar tonight. Again, a pretty good script! What I'm trying to discern, of course, is what Mank brings to the table that any other fairly intelligent director could not. And this IS a production where the soundtrack, given the vocal talents, is arguably its strongest point. Just for the hell of it I'm enjoying it without the visuals. Course, the Mankiewicz contribution may disappear altogether (I read somewhere that Gielgud, along with his contribution as Cassius, was an overseeing vocal coach).
Michael Anderegg from [i][b]Cinematic Shakespeare[/b][/i] wrote: Shakespeare wrote Julius Caesar in such a way that only a perfect balance of skillful performers would achieve his intended effect. The play's stage history suggests that this balance has seldom been achieved or even desired. If the company's lead actor chooses to play Antony, the chances are good that it will be Antony's play. To claim that Shakespeare balances the main characters is not to say that he fails to take sides. The balance is a dramatic device that allows Caesar, Brutus, Cassius, and Antony to have powerful theatrical moments where they can count on the audiences sympathies. [John] Houseman's and director Joseph Mankiewicz's casting strategies were clearly defined to construct such a balance, but rather through contrast than equivalence. This is achieved in part through contrasting styles of performance, in part through an emphasis on the extremes each character exhibits.
This is not only a strategy but the strongest director decision as far as I can tell. Framing the performances seems to be of uppermost concern to Mank, far more so than any pointed visual strategy designed to make political, moral or artistic points. Some of the players in the film production, including Houseman, were in the decidedly political Republic Company/Orson Welles Broadway production which made those legendary Third Reich allusions. But none of the ingenious stage effects of that production are repeated here. Bosley Crowther of the NYTimes at the time of the film's initial release put it well:
Crowther wrote:Actually, Shakespeare wrote this drama to be observed within the confines of a fairly modest theatre and to be absorbed in large measure through the ear which, of course, was the physical necessity with all of his eloquent plays. And thus, any faithful translation from the written text to the screen must perforce be confined and conditioned by the exigencies of the play. It is much to Mr. Mankiewicz's credit that he had captured his characters at close range and staged the whole drama, with few elisions, from an intimate point of view.

Blessed with a cast of actors that conspicuously includes John Gielgud. as the lean and hungry Cassius; Marlon Brando, as Mark Antony; James Mason, as the conscientious Brutus, and Louis Calhern, as Caesar, who is slain. Mr. Mankiewicz has got most of his impact out of the words that surge hotly from their throats and from the subtleties of their expressions and the violence of their attitudes.
It's funny; though the team behind the art/set decoration won an Oscar for their work it seems more of a backdrop to the proceedings than integral part of the film. The capitol environs, in particular, look like sets. Luckily, the strong performances draw your eyes away from background - dramatic action is almost always in the foreground. When the players leave the sets at the end of scenes the suddenly desolation looks deliberately plastic. I'm not sure what Mank was after with these impressions.

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ando
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Re: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

#28 Post by ando » Mon Feb 06, 2017 1:23 am

One effective - and ironic - use of scenery is in the juxtaposition of frames composed, first, of a worried Calpurnia, who believes that her dream of Caesar's demise is a sign to warn him against going to the Capitol to be killed, overlooking the senators amidst a calm and beautifully composed terrace shot above the hills of Rome.

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Second, it's followed by a disregarded Calpurnia, retreating to her private room that houses a statue of the Egyptian goddess, Bastet, who was protectress of the pharaoh and the supreme god, Ra.

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Why is Calpurnia worshipping a foreign god? Bast certainly wasn't Roman. Egyptian gods were ridiculed by Romans of the Republican era. Calpurnia's exertions fail, despite embracing the protectress god, and the sequence is curiously - and effectively - ambiguous as to which side of the domestic argument Mank stood. But her ineffectiveness is visually underlined with this curiously amusing shot.

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ando
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Re: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

#29 Post by ando » Thu Feb 09, 2017 1:09 am

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All About Mankiewicz (1983) French doc streamer that was more revealing than I expected.

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ando
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Re: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

#30 Post by ando » Mon May 29, 2017 12:10 am

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Main cast of All About Eve

Ran into a lovely streamer (MOD NOTE: Link to stream of commercially available film deleted) and thought I'd share it. It's still one of the best scripts ever filmed and, unfortunately, one I know by heart. Haven't been to one of those midnight cult showings (not sure if I'd dig the whole Rocky Horroresque treatment) but I do watch it whenever it crosses my path. Celeste Holm (Karen) was the last of the stars from this film to pass away - she did indeed have the last laugh.

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