As his story is poised to earn some top prizes at the 93rd annual Academy Awards, Herman Mankiewicz’s grandson is revealing why the writer skipped attending the show for his own win in 1942.
Mankiewicz’s life story was the inspiration for the film "Mank," which is nominated for 10 awards, more than any other film at the 2021 Oscars. Among other topics, the film chronicles the writer’s collaboration with Orson Welles to write the seminole classic "Citizen Kane," which earned him an Academy Award for the screenplay.
In a column for The Hollywood Reporter, Mankiewicz grandson, Nick Davis, explained why the man himself was at home in his slippers when his name was announced as the winner.
Davis notes that Welles was in Brazil at the time working on a documentary about the Rio Carnival as part of the war effort, so he could not attend. Mankiewicz, meanwhile, could have gone but opted not to, using a broken leg as his excuse.
As seen in "Mank," Herman was in a car accident in New Mexico in 1939. Two years later, he had healed. In fact, Davis notes that few months prior to the Academy Awards in which his grandfather’s film was nominated, he got his cast off.
Unfortunately, in a stroke of horrible luck, Herman slipped at a party and rebroke his leg.
As a result, he was at home when his name was announced as the winner of the best screenplay after "Citizen Kane" was surprisingly shut out of winning other prizes on the night.
"So he listened that night on the radio in his bathrobe and slippers, making a show of pretending to nod off in his chair as the ceremony dragged on," Davis wrote.
He added: "When they announced the winner of best screenplay as "Herman J. Mankiewicz..." Herman jumped out of his chair, grabbed [his wife], and danced a limping jig."
However, the late writer’s grandson noted that a broken leg may just have been an excuse. In his column, he speculates that Mankiewicz’s strict upbringing under a perfectionist father may have made him wary of an awards setting.
"The pressure to succeed at the highest level, to compete and win no matter the cost, drove Herman and Joe their entire lives, and I think it was at the root of why Herman didn’t go to the Oscars that night. On the one hand, he was convinced that he was going to lose. ‘He did not want to be humiliated,’ his wife, my grandmother (Goma) Sara, said years later. ‘He thought he’d get mad and do something drastic when he didn’t win.’"