Cyril Wolf Mankowitz was born in the impoverished East End of London, to a family of Russian Jewish descent. He read English at Downing College, Cambridge, where he was tutored by F.R. Leavis. During World War II, he volunteered to serve in the British Army and as a coal miner. After the war, he became a noted dealer and authority on antique porcelain, especially Wedgwood, beginning in a street market and working his way up to his own shop. In 1953, he published The Portland Vase and the Wedgwood Copies, a definitive book on the subject that sold well; later he would be the editor of the Concise Encyclopaedia of English Pottery and Porcelain (1957). At the same time, he was writing short novels. Make Me An Offer was published in 1952, and his most successful book, A Kid for Two Farthings, appeared in 1953. The latter was adapted as a film in 1955 directed by Carol Reed. Mankowitz himself wrote the screenplay. He also wrote the screenplays for The Millionairess (1960), based on the 1936 play by George Bernard Shaw, and for the science fiction film The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961). He wrote the script for the series Dickens of London (1976) made by Yorkshire Television and then the nonfiction book of the same name, based on his research. Other works included the novels My Old Man's a Dustman (1956) and A Night With Casanova (1991); a volume of short stories, The Mendelman Fire and Other Stories (1957); a documentary on Yiddish cinema in the 1930s, Almonds and Raisins (1984); and plays such as The Samson Riddle, The Bespoke Overcoat, It Should Happen to a Dog, The Mighty Hunter and The Irish Hebrew Lesson (1978). With his wife Ann Seligmann, a psychoanalyst, he had four sons.