Wolf Mankowitz (1924-1998)
Wolf Mankowitz was born in Fashion Street in Spitalfields in the East End of London, the heart of London's Jewish community, of Russian Jewish descent. He was educated at Downing College, Cambridge having received a scholarship as a result of his developing skills as a writer.
His Jewish background provided rich 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. Wolf himself wrote the screenplay. In 1958 he wrote the book for the West End musical Expresso Bongo which was made into a film starring Cliff Richard and Laurence Harvey the following year. Its director Val Guest suggested to Harvey that it might be a good idea to model his film role of Johnny Jackson on Wolf'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 copying some of Wolf's mannerisms. The author himself appears in the film's opening credit sequence, wearing a sandwich-board bearing his writer credit.
Wolf'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. 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, Wolf offered to introduce his friend Cubby Broccoli to Harry Saltzman, 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, hiring Wolf as one of the screenwriters. 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.
Wolf was one of the original investors in the Partisan Coffee House, a meeting place for the New Left just off Soho Square, functioning from 1958-1962. During the late 1960s, he was part-owner of the Pickwick Club, in Gt Newport St, off Charing Cross Road, Soho, London W1, where The Peddlers, a pop group led by Roy Phillips, were resident. Wolf's wife Ann was a psychoanalyst; the couple met at Cambridge University. They had four sons; the eldest of whom, Gered, is a photographer well known for his iconic pictures of Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones.
Wolf also had a reputation as a prolific playwright. Several of his plays either started as 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.