Cre­ator of ‘Ironside’ dies

DON MANKIEWICZ, 1922 - 2015

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Steve Chawkins steve.chawkins@la­

Screen­writer Don M. Mankiewicz grew up in a fa­bled Hol­ly­wood fam­ily.

Don M. Mankiewicz, a nov­el­ist and Os­carnom­i­nated screen­writer who grew up in a fa­bled Hol­ly­wood fam­ily and went on to cre­ate TV’s “Ironside” and “Mar­cus Welby, M.D.” has died at his home in Mon­rovia. He was 93.

Mankiewicz’s death Satur­day was caused by con­ges­tive heart fail­ure, his son, John Mankiewicz, said.

Don’s fa­ther was Her­man J. Mankiewicz, the screen­writer be­hind “Cit­i­zen Kane.” His un­cle was Joseph L. Mankiewicz, direc­tor of “All About Eve” and other clas­sic films.

Don Mankiewicz grew up in Bev­erly Hills. At Hal­loween, he later joked, he and his brother, Frank — who be­came an aide to Robert F. Kennedy and head of Na­tional Public Ra­dio — sat in the back­seat of the fam­ily limo while their chauf­feur knocked on doors and asked for candy. His par­ents’ din­ner guests in­cluded the Marx Broth­ers and Greta Garbo.

Early in his TV ca­reer, Mankiewicz wrote scripts for the drama se­ries “Play­house 90.” He was as­signed to adapt F. Scott Fitzger­ald’s “The Last Ty­coon” at least in part be­cause he grew up steeped in its lu­mi­nous, old-Hol­ly­wood set­ting.

“I was prob­a­bly the only writer around who had ac­tu­ally seen Fitzger­ald in per­son,” he told TV his­to­rian Stephen Bowie in a 2007 oral his­tory. “He hung around with my fa­ther a lit­tle bit.... All I re­mem­bered is that he wore a white sweater that had the 1932 Olympic em­blem on it.”

While a num­ber of en­ter­tain­ment fig­ures emerged from the Mankiewicz dy­nasty, Don was drawn to pol­i­tics and union ac­tivism. Ac­tive in the Writ­ers Guild of Amer­ica, he helped gain union rep­re­sen­ta­tion for quiz-show writ­ers.

“For that, the writ­ers on ‘Jeop­ardy!’ made him the an­swer to a ques­tion,” said his son, John, an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of the po­lit­i­cal drama “House of Cards.”

When guild writ­ers went on strike in 2007 and 2008, Don Mankiewicz, then in his mid-80s, joined them on the picket line.

Don Martin Mankiewicz was born Jan. 20, 1922, in Ber­lin, where his fa­ther was a for­eign cor­re­spon­dent. He at­tended schools in Bev­erly Hills and grad­u­ated from Columbia Uni­ver­sity in 1942. He left law school there to join the Army, serv­ing in mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence in France, Bel­gium and Ger­many.

“Torts and briefs and writs — I’d had enough of them,” he told The Times in 1955. “I re­mem­bered my fa­ther pound­ing a type­writer and all those checks pour­ing in. I wrote a piece of short fic­tion and the New Yorker bought it. This was a time you could sell about any­thing if you could stick Sgt. or Pfc. in front of your name.”

Af­ter the war, Mankiewicz was a staff writer for the New Yorker, con­trib­uted to other mag­a­zines and started work­ing in TV. In 1954, he pub­lished the novel “Trial” that was made into a film star­ring Glenn Ford and Dorothy McGuire.

At the same time, he im­mersed him­self in Demo­cratic Party pol­i­tics. In 1952, he lost a race for the New York state As­sem­bly but stayed ac­tive in lo­cal and state pol­i­tics for years. In 1964, he opted against a run for Congress be­cause his mar­riage was rocky and his then-wife, Ilene Kor­son, threat­ened to re­veal that he’d had an af­fair, he told his­to­rian Bowie. The cou­ple later di­vorced.

In 1967, he wrote the pi­lot for the long-run­ning TV se­ries “Ironside,” star­ring Ray­mond Burr as a para­plegic pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor. Two years later, he did the same for “Mar­cus Welby, M.D.” He con­trib­uted later episodes to both.

While de­vel­op­ing “Welby,” a pro­ducer sug­gested mak­ing the main char­ac­ter a young rad­i­cal doc­tor who was men­tored by a more con­ser­va­tive, older med­i­cal man.

“No, you don’t want that,” Mankiewicz told him. “You want a young con­ser­va­tive and an old rad­i­cal. Young fogy and old rad­i­cal — that’ll work.”

The show be­came a TV sta­ple for seven years.

Mankiewicz re­ceived an Academy Award nom­i­na­tion for his screen­play adap­ta­tion of “I Want to Live!,” a 1958 film about a pros­ti­tute falsely ac­cused of mur­der. It was loosely based on the true story of Bar­bara Gra­ham, who was put to death in Cal­i­for­nia’s gas cham­ber in 1955 and was known in head­lines as “Bloody Babs.”

Mankiewicz’s sur­vivors in­clude Carol Mankiewicz, his wife since 1972; daugh­ters Jan Diaz and Sandy Perez from his first mar­riage; son John and daugh­ter Jane from his sec­ond mar­riage; and four grand­chil­dren.

Mankiewicz re­cently com­pleted a novel about stu­dent strife in the ’60s. He also was avid about horse races and poker.

“He played un­til he couldn’t see the cards any­more,” his son said.

OS­CAR NOM­I­NATED Don Mankiewicz re­ceived an Academy Award nod for his

1958 screen­play adap­ta­tion of “I Want to Live!”

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