Tom Mankiewicz and Marlon Brando on the Superman set in 1977.

A Message from Selutron

I was deeply saddened to hear that Tom Mankiewicz had passed away on 31st July of this year [2010]. Unlike Dharmesh, I never had the chance to personally meet Tom, but I did have a several exchanges with the writer and they left me with an impression of a man of kindness, grace and true class.

Back in the summer of 2007, during a visit to LA, I sent Tom what I thought was a potential (pretty darn powerful and uplifting) solution to a writing puzzle that had, for rather painful reasons for those involved, remained unsolved for almost thirty years. It was, of course, a potential Donner-Mankiewicz ending to their aborted originally conceived two-part Superman epic.

There was no reason why Tom needed to do anything other than toss the DVD I had, perhaps presumptuously, sent him in the bin. But that’s not what he did.
Or had Tom written back politely suggesting – at least between the lines – that the potential solution was…errr…how to put it…mmm…not sure…then that would have been the end of my efforts to have Warners take another look at this troubled, accursed golden goose one final time. Grateful as I would have been for a response, it just would have felt completely inappropriate to continue.

But I was sure that he and Dick had to love it, because I was fairly convinced that this is what they would have done in that alternative universe, you know the one…but still. Then, one day, a few months later, I received an email from Tom that thrilled me to no end. Part of it read:

…Your ending to Superman II is lovely and inventive, and represents one hell of a lot of hard work. As to whether or not it’s the way Dick and I might have chosen to end it – who knows? I’m afraid Warners wouldn’t be immediately interested since they just spent a lot of money repackaging the whole series, including the Donner cut of II and the Bryan Singer film.
Typically they wait a couple of years before they do anything new. In the meantime, I’ll pass it on to Dick. Congratulations.

I was absolutely delighted (as Dharmesh and Jim Bowers of will attest to). Over the moon – really. Wow! But I was also genuinely moved by Tom’s reaction.

After that, I sent Tom some of the other illustrative clips I had done, which he also very kindly took the time to watch and responded to favourably. We exchanged a few more emails after that, the very last time being about a year ago when I sent him a link for some recent pictures a fan had taken of the Alberta farm, which the Superman crew (Tom was there too) had used as the location of the Kent family farm (see hereLINK). Tom wrote back, a tinge of sadness detectable in his words:
When I realize how long ago I was walking on that ground it makes me feel very old…

Tom Mankiewicz (1942-2010)

I had no idea that he was probably already ill at this time. But the truth is Tom wasn’t old at all. He died at 68 and that is kind of tragically young for this day and age. Yet, anyone who had the opportunity to partake in what I think was the golden age of American cinema in the 1970s and the golden age of American big-budget genre films in the 1980s, was, in my (jealous!) mind, very blessed indeed and Tom Mankiewicz’s contributions to Superman, the Bond films and a variety of other projects serve as eternal testaments to his talents. Tom was a witty writer (time for me to re-watch Live and Let Die, I think), and from my few exchanges with him, a true gentleman too. May he rest in peace.


Read Dharmesh’s Richard Lester Article.

Read Dharmesh’s Interview With Michael Thau.

Go to the Superman CINEMA Archives Welcome Page by Dharmesh.

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