Wolf Mankowitz

Cyril Wolf Mankowitz (7 November 1924 – 20 May 1998) was an English writer, playwright and screenwriter. He is particularly known for three novels—A Kid for Two Farthings (1953), Make Me an Offer (1952), and My Old Man's a Dustman—and other plays, historical studies, and the screenplays for many successful films which have received awards including the Oscar, Bafta and the Cannes Grand Prix.[1]

Wolf Mankowitz
BornCyril Wolf Mankowitz
7 November 1924
Spitalfields, London, England, United Kingdom
Died20 May 1998(1998-05-20) (aged 73)
County Cork, Ireland
Resting placeGolders Green Crematorium
OccupationWriter, playwright, screenwriter
Alma materDowning College, Cambridge
GenreScreenwriting, theatre

Early lifeEdit

Mankowitz was born in Fashion Street in Spitalfields in the East End of London, the heart of London's Jewish community until the 1940s,[2] of Russian-Jewish descent. He was educated at Downing College, Cambridge.[3]


His background provided Mankowitz with the material for his most successful book A Kid for Two Farthings (1953). This was adapted as a film by the director Carol Reed in 1955; Mankowitz himself wrote the screenplay. In 1958 he wrote the book for the West End musical Expresso Bongo[3] which was adapted into a film starring Cliff Richard and Laurence Harvey the following year.[4] Its director Val Guest suggested to Harvey that it might be a good idea to model his film role of Johnny Jackson on Mankowitz's own character, and so Harvey arranged a couple of lunches with the unsuspecting writer to study him at close hand, resulting in the character on film sounding something like Mankowitz.[5] Mankowitz himself appears in the film's opening credit sequence, wearing a sandwich board that bears his writer credit.

Mankowitz's script for Anthony Asquith's film The Millionairess (1960), based on the 1936 play by George Bernard Shaw and starring Sophia Loren and Peter Sellers, was nominated for a BAFTA Award for best screenplay.[6] Another screenplay at this time was a further collaboration with Val Guest for the science fiction film The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961).

In 1962, Mankowitz offered to introduce his friend Cubby Broccoli to Harry Saltzman,[7] holder of the film rights to James Bond, when Broccoli mentioned he desired to make the Bond series his next film project. Broccoli and Saltzman then formed Eon Productions and began co-producing the first Bond film, Dr No, for which Mankowitz was hired as one of the screenwriters. After viewing early rushes, Mankowitz feared that the film would be a disaster and damage his reputation, and insisted on having his name removed from the film's credits.[citation needed] He later also collaborated on the screenplay for the non-Eon 1967 Bond movie Casino Royale. He wrote the script for Yorkshire Television's serial Dickens of London (1976) and the book of the same name based on his research when writing the series.

Mankowitz was an original investor in the Partisan Coffee House, a meeting place for the New Left just off Soho Square, which functioned from 1958 to 1962. During the late 1960s he was part-owner of the Pickwick Club in Great Newport Street, off Charing Cross Road in central London, where the Peddlers, a pop group led by Roy Phillips, were resident.

Mankowitz also had a reputation as a playwright. Several of his plays started as either films or television plays. His plays include The Samson Riddle, The Bespoke Overcoat, The Hebrew Lesson (for the stage premiere it was retitled The Irish Hebrew Lesson), It Should Happen to a Dog and The Mighty Hunter.[8]

Private lifeEdit

Mankowitz's wife Ann was a psychoanalyst; the couple met at Cambridge University.[9] They had four sons; the eldest of whom, Gered, is a photographer. His sister, Barbara Mankowitz, was eminent in the china trade in London.[10] Wolf Mankowitz died of cancer in 1998 in County Cork, Ireland, aged 73; his ashes are at the Golders Green Crematorium.

Files placed in the public domain during August 2010 revealed that Mankowitz was, for a decade after the Second World War, suspected by security service MI5 of being a communist agent. The investigation was dropped after he cancelled a visit to Russia in 1957[11] [12]


  1. ^ "Make Me an Offer". Bloomsbury. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  2. ^ Author notes on the dustjacket of Cockatrice (1963) by Wolf Mankowitz
  3. ^ a b John Calder Obituary: Wolf Mankowitz, The Independent, 23 May 1998
  4. ^ LHL12 (18 May 1960). "Expresso Bongo profile at IMDb". IMDb. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  5. ^ Val Guest, So You Want to Be in Pictures, p. 135
  6. ^ Hermit C-2 (22 December 1960). "The Millionairess (1960)". IMDb. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  7. ^ Shawn Levy "Oh, James...", The Guardian, 13 September 2002
  8. ^ Mankowitz, Wolf (2006). The Plays. London: Oberon Books. ISBN 978-1840026993.
  9. ^ Alan Travis "To Russia with love: Wolf Mankowitz suspected of bonding with enemy", The Guardian, 26 August 2010
  10. ^ Barbara Mankowitz, The Telegraph, 20 September 2002. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  11. ^ "The National Archives - Error message: Page not found". Nationalarchives.gov.uk. Retrieved 24 November 2014. Cite uses generic title (help)
  12. ^ Travis, Alan. "To Russia with love: Wolf Mankowitz suspected of bonding with enemy". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 November 2014.

Further readingEdit

  • Anthony J. Dunn: The worlds of Wolf Mankowitz: between elite and popular cultures in post-war Britain, London [u.a.] : Vallentine Mitchell, 2013, ISBN 978-0-85303-906-8

External linksEdit