Mankowitz, Wolf

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MANKOWITZ, WOLF (1924–1998), English novelist and playwright. Mankowitz was born and raised in London's East End. He studied English at Cambridge, then, like his father, became an antique dealer, revealing his expertise in Wedgwood (1953), The Portland Vase (1952), and A Concise Encyclopedia of English Pottery and Porcelain (1957) with R.G. Haggar. He turned increasingly to literature and wrote a number of books inspired by his childhood recollections of the East End. These include A Kid for Two Farthings (1953), the title of which was suggested by the Passover allegorical ditty *Ḥad Gadya; Make Me An Offer (1952); The Boychick (1954); and The Mendelman Fire (1957). In his early writing, Mankowitz's Jewishness was somewhat muted, revealing itself merely in a preference for Jewish characters. His typical mingling of humor and pathos comes out strongly in the play, The Bespoke Overcoat (1955), a Jewish reworking of a Russian tale by Gogol. Like several of his other stories, this was made into a motion picture. Mankowitz was primarily a humorist with a talent for elaborating anecdotes, but he gradually developed a more astringent tone in his writing, e.g., Expresso Bongo (1960), a satire on the world of "pop" music, and in his satirical novel about film-makers, Cockatrice (1963). He later devoted himself to screen-writing and to publicity work in support of the Ḥasidic sect of Lubavitch. Mankowitz was the author or coauthor of a number of well-known screenplays, including The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), Casino Royale (1967), and The Hireling (1973).


S.J. Goldsmith, Twenty 20th Century Jews (1962), 69–75; jc (March 22, 1968).