Archive for June 10, 2022

Wank with Mank

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2022 by dcairns

I read and enjoyed Walter Wanger’s My Life with Cleopatra, having previously enjoyed The Cleopatra Papers. That movie is so much more fun to read about than to watch. I watched it once and have forgotten almost everything.

The Wanger book — sloppily put together (he keeps changing from present to past tense) but fun, if you enjoy dismay as much as I do — led me to finally pick up my long-ago-purchased copy of Pictures Will Talk, Kenneth L. Geist’s Life and Films of Joseph L. Mankiewicz, which I knew was going to be enjoyable from its Acknowledgements page. Geist writes there, “My qualified gratitude to Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who granted me eleven interviews […] My unqualified gratitude to Christopher Mankiewicz, who, unlike his father, has made the many hours in his company constantly pleasurable.”

Geist’s irritation at his subject, no doubt partially justified, is amusing, because we can’t really sympathise — Geist is the one thrusting himself into JLM’s company, not the other way around.

Joe and Mank

As a sample of how much value the book has for the lover of gossip and smut and trash, here’s a story told by JLM about his brother, Herman J., which unaccountably didn’t make it into Fincher’s MANK. It’s more disturbing than funny, possibly.

Herman was a heavy gambler — several entries in his filmography were written purely to pay off his gambling debts to the studio bosses. One home he played at belonged to such a mogul, and came with the disadvantage of the titan of industry’s small son, who would wander into the room where poker was being played, picking up chips, asking questions, generally being a distracting nuisance.

Nobody felt they could tell off the boss’s kid.

Fed up with this, Herman took the kid by the arm and led him away. Came back alone. The other players asked him how he’s managed it — violence, hypnotism, bribery?

“Easy,” said Herman. “I just found a private spot on a back stairway and taught the kid to masturbate. He took to it like a duck to water.”