While Mank on Netflix tells the story of real-life screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (played by Gary Oldman), the film is more of a homage to Hollywood’s Golden Age and its fast-paced and witty scripts than a straightforward biopic. As such, there is plenty of fiction among the facts of the Oscar-winning screenwriter’s life.
But one of the film’s greatest narratives is based at least in part on real events in Mank’s life. Towards the middle of the film, Mank’s housekeeper, Fräulein Frieda (Monika Gossman), is asked why she is still working for the screenwriter, even though he has drunk a lot, is bedridden, and has generally behaved antisocially for a long time.
In response, Frieda answers that she stayed with him because he succeeded in keeping her and 100 of her Jewish fellow residents in Germany out of the country and away from the persecution by the Nazis.
Although these particular refugees were not helped by Mank to the United States – it is uncertain whether Frieda was a real person, for example. Mankiewicz, however, was central to efforts to bring Jewish refugees fleeing fascism to the United States.
Since he himself was a child of Jewish immigrants who left Germany at the end of the 19th century, Mank had a certain affinity for the Jews in Germany and was one of the first to attack National Socialism in his screenplays, while much of Hollywood secured its bets in order not to lose the large German market.
For example, when Hitler first seized power in Germany in 1933, Mankiewicz wrote a screenplay entitled The Mad Dog of Europe, which depicted the dictator’s rise to power and even predicted a future genocide by a man named Adolf Mitler.
Then, when his prediction began to come true, he helped those who wanted to escape fascism in Europe. In the biography Mank: The Wit, the World and the Life of Herman Mankiewicz, for example, author Richard Meryman wrote about how “Herman became the official sponsor of hundreds of German refugees and took responsibility for complete strangers who fled to America.
Sponsoring these refugees meant that he had to financially bail them out by providing vast amounts of papers, including tax records, proving that he had the personal assets to compensate for this bailout.
He was not the only Hollywood character to do so. Producer and former owner of Universal Carl Laemmle helped up to 300 people, while Roman Holiday director William Wyler helped rescue 25 people.
Thus the screenwriter did not save a village, but he helped many people spread all over Germany to escape fascism by sponsoring them and donating to aid organizations.
Mank can now be seen on Netflix.