Darryl F. Zanuck

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Darryl F. Zanuck
Darryl F. Zanuck 1964.jpg
Darryl F. Zanuck in 1964
Darryl Francis Zanuck

(1902-09-05)September 5, 1902
DiedDecember 22, 1979(1979-12-22) (aged 77)
Resting place Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
Years active1922–70
Spouse(s) Virginia Fox (1924–79; his death)
Children3, including Richard D. Zanuck
Relatives Dean Zanuck (grandson)

Darryl Francis Zanuck (September 5, 1902 December 22, 1979) was an American film producer and studio executive; he earlier contributed stories for films starting in the silent era. He played a major part in the Hollywood studio system as one of its longest survivors (the length of his career was rivaled only by that of Adolph Zukor). [1] He earned three Academy Awards as producer for Best Picture during his tenure, but was responsible for many more.

A film producer is a person who oversees film production. Either employed by a production company or working independently, producers plan and coordinate various aspects of film production, such as selecting the script; coordinating writing, directing, and editing; and arranging financing.

The studio executive is an employee of a film studio or a corporation doing business in the entertainment industry.

Silent film Film with no synchronized recorded dialogue

A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound. In silent films for entertainment, the plot may be conveyed by the use of title cards, written indications of the plot and key dialogue lines. The idea of combining motion pictures with recorded sound is nearly as old as film itself, but because of the technical challenges involved, the introduction of synchronized dialogue became practical only in the late 1920s with the perfection of the Audion amplifier tube and the advent of the Vitaphone system. During the silent-film era that existed from the mid-1890s to the late 1920s, a pianist, theater organist—or even, in large cities, a small orchestra—would often play music to accompany the films. Pianists and organists would play either from sheet music, or improvisation.


Early life

Zanuck was born in Wahoo, Nebraska, the son of Sarah Louise (née Torpin), who later married Charles Norton, [2] and Frank Zanuck, who owned and operated a hotel in Wahoo. [3] Zanuck was of part Swiss descent [3] and was raised a Protestant. [4] At age six, Zanuck and his mother moved to Los Angeles, where the better climate could improve her poor health. At age eight, he found his first movie job as an extra, but his disapproving father recalled him to Nebraska.[ citation needed ] In 1917, despite being 15, he deceived a recruiter, joined the United States Army, and served in France with the Nebraska National Guard during World War I.

Wahoo, Nebraska City in Nebraska, United States

Wahoo is a city and county seat of Saunders County, Nebraska, United States. The population was 4,508 at the 2010 census.

Los Angeles City in California

Los Angeles, officially the City of Los Angeles and often known by its initials L.A., is the most populous city in California, the second most populous city in the United States, after New York City, and the third most populous city in North America. With an estimated population of four million, Los Angeles is the cultural, financial, and commercial center of Southern California. The city is known for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic diversity, Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and its sprawling metropolis. Los Angeles is the largest city on the West Coast of North America.

A background actor or extra is a performer in a film, television show, stage, musical, opera or ballet production, who appears in a nonspeaking or nonsinging (silent) capacity, usually in the background. War films and epic films often employ background actors in large numbers: some films have featured hundreds or even thousands of paid background actors as cast members. Likewise, grand opera can involve many background actors appearing in spectacular productions.

Upon returning to the US, he worked in many part-time jobs while seeking work as a writer. He found work producing movie plots, and sold his first story in 1922 to William Russell and his second to Irving Thalberg. Screenwriter Frederica Sagor Maas, story editor at Universal Pictures' New York office, stated that one of the stories Zanuck sent out to movie studios around this time was completely plagiarized from another author's work. [5]

William Russell (American actor) American actor, director, producer and screenwriter

William Russell, born William Francis Lerche, was an American actor, director, producer and screenwriter. He appeared in over two hundred silent era motion pictures between 1910 and 1929, directing five of them in 1916 and producing two through his own production company in 1918 and 1925.

Irving Thalberg American film producer

Irving Grant Thalberg was an American film producer during the early years of motion pictures. He was called "The Boy Wonder" for his youth and ability to select scripts, choose actors, gather production staff, and make profitable films, including Grand Hotel, China Seas, Camille, Mutiny on the Bounty and The Good Earth. His films carved out an international market, "projecting a seductive image of American life brimming with vitality and rooted in democracy and personal freedom," states biographer Roland Flamini.

Frederica Alexandrina Sagor Maas was an American dramatist and playwright, screenwriter, memoirist, and author, the youngest daughter of Russian immigrants. As an essayist, Maas was best known for a detailed, tell-all memoir of her time spent in early Hollywood. She was one of the oldest surviving entertainers from the silent film era.

Zanuck then worked for Mack Sennett and FBO (where he wrote the serials The Telephone Girl and The Leather Pushers ) and took that experience to Warner Bros., where he wrote stories for Rin Tin Tin and under a number of pseudonyms wrote over 40 scripts from 1924 to 1929, including Red Hot Tires (1925) and Old San Francisco (1927). He moved into management in 1929, and became head of production in 1931.[ citation needed ]

Mack Sennett Canadian-American actor and filmmaker

Mack Sennett was a Canadian-American film actor, director, and producer, and studio head, known as the King of Comedy.

Film Booking Offices of America American film studio of the silent era

Film Booking Offices of America (FBO), also known as FBO Pictures Corporation, was an American film studio of the silent era, a producer and distributor of mostly low-budget films. It was founded in 1920 as Robertson–Cole (U.S.), the American division of a British import–export company formed by the English-born Harry F. Robertson. Robertson-Cole bought the Hallmark Exchanges from Frank G. Hall in 1920. Exhibitors-Mutual/Hallmark had distributed Robertson-Cole product, and acquiring the exchanges gave them the right to distribute their own films plus Hall's product, with the exception of Charlie Chaplin reissues which he had the rights to.

Serial film short subject originally shown in theaters in conjunction with a feature film

A serial,film serial, movie serial or chapter play, is a motion picture form popular during the first half of the 20th century, consisting of a series of short subjects exhibited in consecutive order at one theater, generally advancing weekly, until the series is completed. Generally, each serial involves a single set of characters, protagonistic and antagonistic, involved in a single story, which has been edited into chapters after the fashion of serial fiction and the episodes cannot be shown out of order or as a single or a random collection of short subjects.

Studio head

Darryl F. Zanuck at the Academy Awards celebration Darryl F Zanuck and Oscar in Gentleman's Agreement trailer.jpg
Darryl F. Zanuck at the Academy Awards celebration

In 1933, Zanuck left Warner Bros. over a salary dispute with studio head Jack L. Warner. A few days later, he partnered with Joseph Schenck to form 20th Century Pictures, Inc. with financial help from Joseph's brother Nicholas Schenck and Louis B. Mayer, president and studio head of Loew's, Inc and its subsidiary Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, along with William Goetz and Raymond Griffith. 20th Century released its material through United Artists. During that short time (1933–1935), 20th Century became the most successful independent movie studio of its time, breaking box-office records with 18 of its 19 films, all in profitability, including Clive of India , Les Miserables , and The House of Rothschild . After a dispute with United Artists over stock ownership, Schenck and Zanuck negotiated and bought out the bankrupt Fox studios in 1935 to form Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation. [6] Zanuck was Vice President of Production of this new studio and took a hands-on approach, closely involving himself in scripts, film editing, and producing.

Jack L. Warner Canadian-born American film executive

Jack Leonard "J. L." Warner, born Jacob Warner, was a Canadian-American film executive who was the president and driving force behind the Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. Warner's career spanned some 45 years, its duration surpassing that of any other of the seminal Hollywood studio moguls.

Twentieth Century Pictures American film studio

Twentieth Century Pictures was an independent Hollywood motion picture production company created in 1933 by Joseph Schenck and Darryl F. Zanuck from Warner Bros. Financial backing came from Schenck's younger brother Nicholas Schenck, president of Loew's, the theater chain that owned Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), and from Louis B. Mayer of MGM, who wanted a position for his son-in-law, William Goetz. The company product was distributed by United Artists (UA), and leased space at Samuel Goldwyn Studios.

Nicholas M. Schenck was an American film studio executive and businessman.

World War II

When the U.S. entered World War II at the end of 1941, he was commissioned as a colonel in the Army Signal Corps, but was frustrated to find himself posted to the Astoria studios in Queens, New York, and even worse, serving alongside the spoiled son of Universal's founder, Carl Laemmle Jr., who was chauffeured by limousine to the facility each morning from a luxury Manhattan hotel.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Colonel is a senior military officer rank below the brigadier and general officer ranks. However, in some small military forces, such as those of Monaco or the Vatican, colonel is the highest rank. It is also used in some police forces and paramilitary organizations.

Kaufman Astoria Studios

The Kaufman Astoria Studios is a historic movie studio located in the Astoria section of the New York City borough of Queens. It is home to New York City's only backlot, which opened in December 2013.

Appalled by such privileged cosseting, Zanuck stormed down to Washington, DC, and into the War Department, demanding a riskier assignment from Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall. Since American forces were not yet fighting anywhere, Marshall had Zanuck posted to London as chief U.S. liaison officer to the British Army film unit, where at least he would be studying army training films while under Nazi bombardment by Hitler's Luftwaffe in the still-ongoing Blitz. [7] Zanuck cheerfully endured the bombs, refusing to leave his room at Claridge's for its air-raid shelter during nightly raids and instead hosting "blitz parties" because he had such a splendid view of antiaircraft fire from his hotel room, not to mention coveted PX food and drink long missing from Britain's highly rationed shelves. He even persuaded Lord Mountbatten to allow him along on a secret coastal raid across the Channel to occupied France. The daring nighttime attack on a German radar site was a success. Zanuck, ever the showman, sent his wife in Santa Monica a package of "Nazi-occupied sand", writing her "I've just been swimming on an enemy beach" – not allowed, of course, to tell her where he'd been, let alone that they'd been under Nazi gunfire and helped the wounded back to the ship. [8]

While Zanuck was on duty, 20th Century-Fox, like the other studios, contributed to the war effort by releasing a large number of their male stars for overseas service and many of their female stars for USO and war bond tours—while creating patriotic films under the often contentious supervision of a fledgling Office of War Information. Jack L. Warner, whose studio lot happened to be next door to a Lockheed factory, was made a colonel in the Army Air Corps without ever actually having to leave the studio, let alone put on a uniform. Not so Zanuck, who pleaded with the War Department, as soon as American troops were posted for action in North Africa, and was rewarded with the assignment of covering the invasion for the Signal Corps. The director John Ford, a longtime adversary of Zanuck's despite Zanuck's having shepherded Ford's The Grapes of Wrath (1940) past the censorious Hays office into production, had been making films as a commander in the U.S. Navy even before the U.S. entered the war, and he was horrified to discover himself drafted into Zanuck's Africa unit. "Can't I ever get away from you?" he growled. "I bet if I die and go to heaven, you'll be waiting for me under a sign reading 'Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck'."

Ford's chagrin turned to real outrage when Zanuck, after three months, took all their footage from battles in Tunisia, most of which Ford had shot, and hastily assembled it into a picture that went into American theaters without Ford's name appearing anywhere. The movie, released as At The Front with Zanuck credited as producer, was poorly received in the States, called amateurish, dull, and even lacking in realism, prompting the affronted Zanuck to counter in The New York Times that he had resisted the temptation to stage events for a more convincing film. Unfortunately, this controversy landed Zanuck into a Senate subcommittee headed by Senator Harry S. Truman, investigating "instant" colonels who were popping up and concentrating on famous Hollywood names. Unlike Col. Warner, most colonels from the studio system—Col. Frank Capra, Col. Anatole Litvak, Col. Hal Roach—were actually doing their cinematic jobs, often, like Zanuck, under enemy fire. Nonetheless, when Col. Zanuck was named in this investigation in 1944, the usually combative mogul uncharacteristically and abruptly resigned his commission and left the Army. Biographer Leonard Mosley suggests this to be because of an inadvertent security leak when Zanuck had mentioned a top-secret, brand new, massively powerful bomb the size of a "golf ball" to a fellow officer from his Hollywood world. Whatever the reason, despite having published his own first-person account of his wartime adventures (The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther actually liked this book better than the film), he resigned. [9]

Studio head 1944–1956

Zanuck returned to 20th Century-Fox in 1944 a changed man. [10] He avoided the studio and instead read books at home, surrounded by his growing family, and caught up on all the films he had missed while overseas in his private screening room. He did not return to take the reins until William Goetz, the man Zanuck had left in charge when he went off to war, left for a job at Universal.

Zanuck's tenure in the 1940s and '50s resonated with his astute choices. He first personally rescued a cumbersome cut of The Song Of Bernadette (1943), recutting the completed film into a surprise hit that made a star of newcomer Jennifer Jones, who won the Oscar. He relented to actor Otto Preminger's fervent wish to direct a modest thriller called Laura (1944), putting Clifton Webb in his Oscar-nominated role as Gene Tierney's controlling mentor, with David Raksin's haunting score.

Leading theater director Elia Kazan was carefully nurtured through his first film, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), based on a popular novel. It did so well, he chose Kazan to direct the first studio film on antisemitism, Gentleman's Agreement (1947), with Gregory Peck playing a Gentile reporter whose life falls apart due to implacable antisemitism emerging from friends and family when he pretends to be Jewish for an exposé. After Kazan triumphed in Tennessee Williams' Broadway hit, A Streetcar Named Desire , he brought Kazan back to direct Pinky (1949), another film about prejudice, this time racial.

The scathing theater world of Bette Davis's aging actress in All About Eve (1950) won Oscars; the disturbing questions of a bomber squadron leader Gregory Peck in Twelve O'Clock High (1949) challenged wartime patriotism. Both showed Zanuck's ability to create box-office hits via brilliant films with unflinching examinations of demanding, hierarchical worlds. Zanuck continued to tackle social issues other studios would not touch, but he stumbled with idealistic projects. Wilson (1944), an expensive picture that was unsuccessful at the box office, and an attempt to make a film of One World , a memoir by politician Wendell Willkie of his tour of war-damaged Europe, a project that was aborted before shooting began.


As television began to erode Hollywood's audiences in the early 1950s, widescreen presentation was thought to be a potential solution. The 1950 television set duplicated the near-square shape of the 35 mm format in which all movies were shot — and this was no accident. Standardization of film size meant all theaters everywhere could play all films. Rather unbelievably, even the projection of film formats—i.e. any attempt to break out of the 35 mm format were under the control of the Hays Office, which limited any wide-screen experiments to the 10 largest cities in America. This severely limited the future of any widescreen format.

Zanuck was an early advocate of widescreen projection. One of the first things Zanuck did when he returned to Fox in 1944 was to restart the research on a 50 mm film, shelved in the early 1930s as a cost-cutting measure (a larger-sized film in the projector meant higher resolution). Impressed by a screening in Cinerama, a three-projector widescreen process, unveiled in 1952 that promised to envelop the viewer in a wrap-around image, Zanuck wrote an essay extolling widescreen's virtues, seeing the new formats as a "participatory" form of recreation, rather than mere passive entertainment, such as television. [11] Cinerama was cumbersome, though, and used three projectors simultaneously, potentially a hugely expensive investment. Fox, like every other studio, had rejected Cinerama when the innovative new process was pitched to them for investment. In retrospect, this looked like a mistake, but nothing could be done. Cinerama was no longer for sale.

Zanuck now urged the studio to keep the same principle, but find a more feasible approach. He approved a massive investment into a system that would be called CinemaScope—$10 million in its first year alone. The urgency was increased when an aggressive appliance tycoon and shareholder, Charles Green, began threatening a proxy takeover, claiming the current Fox administration was wasting stockholders' money. He attempted to conspire with Zanuck to oust the New York-based president of Fox since 1942, Greek-American Spyros Skouras. Zanuck refused; instead, Skouras and he decided to gamble on CinemaScope to save their jobs, and perhaps, their studio.

Skouras made a bold announcement in February; Fox not only had a new and vastly more economical and efficient wide-screen process, but all Fox films would be released in CinemaScope—a format which had yet to be perfected. The Robe (1953), a Biblical epic, would be its first released feature film. Skouras now began to oversee Fox's somewhat startled research scientists, based on the East Coast and accustomed to Hollywood executives who thought R&D was a waste of money. Then Skouras flew to Paris to meet with a French inventor, Henri Chretien, who had created a new lens that just might be suitable.

Though Fox shares immediately went up, Green found this an even more damning indication of Zanuck and Skouras's leadership and began readying his proxy fight for the May shareholder meeting. This meant that a CinemaScope process had to be publicly demonstrated to the industry's studios, theater owners, manufacturers, to stockholders and the press—by mid-March, to give them enough time to impress their shareholders with their new product and thus win the proxy fight.

With Chretien's new lens, the Fox engineers pulled it together—a widescreen, Cinerama-like picture projected using merely one projector, not three. Zanuck carried out presentations of CinemaScope to the press in cities across the country throughout April, as Skouras and he gathered their forces for the proxy fight. "The enthusiastic response of those who attended these screenings and the laudatory reviews of CinemaScope in the trade press," writes John Belton in his book, Widescreen (1992), "undoubtedly played a major role in Green's defeat" at the May 5 meeting. CinemaScope's need for a wider screen was because of an anamorphic lens attached to the camera which squeezed the image while filming, and another lens on the projector which reverted the process, widening the image for screening.

Implementing this was no easy matter. Directors, cameramen, and production designers were baffled by what to do with all that space. Zanuck encouraged them to spread the action across the screen, to take full advantage of the new proportions. Committed to its all-widescreen slate, Fox had to drop several projects that were deemed unsuitable for CinemaScope—one of them being Elia Kazan's On The Waterfront (1954), which Zanuck could not visualize being in color and widescreen. (Kazan took the project to Columbia, which had thus far stayed on the sidelines of the widescreen debate.) The public demonstrations that spring had already included excerpts from The Robe and How to Marry a Millionaire (also 1953), a glossy star package with Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall.

Of the other studios, MGM had immediately abandoned its own attempts and committed to CinemaScope and United Artists and Walt Disney Productions announced they would make films in the same widescreen process, but the other studios hesitated, and some announced their own rival systems: Paramount's VistaVision, which would prove a worthy rival, and Warner Bros.'s WarnerScope which vanished overnight. The November 3, 1953, premiere of The Robe brought Warner Bros. and Columbia around, though Warner's plan was a full slate of 3-D features for 1954, instead. Zanuck began to make compromises, and eventually capitulated. Smaller theaters rented conventional versions of the studio's films; stereo they could live without altogether. Todd-AO came out in 1955, and after its developer, Mike Todd, died in 1958, Zanuck invested in the process for Fox's most exclusive roadshows. Although pictures continued to be shot in CinemaScope until 1967, it ironically became relegated to Fox's conventional releases.

Nonetheless, the Battle of the Screens seemed to leave Zanuck emotionally exhausted. He began an affair with a young Polish woman, who was actually a guest of his wife, changing her name to Bella Darvi. When he cast Darvi in The Egyptian (1954), she was so mediocre and the script so unsatisfactory, that star Marlon Brando walked off the picture after the first read-through. He agreed to give Fox two other pictures rather than return. Her unintelligible accent helped sink not only the ponderous film, but also his long-enduring marriage, and indeed his life at the studio itself.

Going independent

In 1956, Zanuck withdrew from the studio and left his wife, Virginia Fox, to move to Europe and concentrate on independent producing with a generous contract from Fox that gave him directing and casting control on any projects Fox financed. Eventually, in his absence, Fox began to fall to pieces due to the ballooning budget of Cleopatra (1963), whose entire set built at Pinewood Studios had to be scrapped before shooting even started.

Meanwhile, Zanuck picked up a hefty book by Cornelius Ryan called The Longest Day , which promised to fulfill his dream of making the definitive film of D-Day. Flying back to the States, he had to convince a Fox board, staggering under the still-unfinished Cleopatra's $15 million cost, to finance what he was sure would be a box-office hit, as indeed it was, despite skeptics that included his son Richard. He seethed at the $8 million ceiling imposed on him, knowing he would have to dip into his own pocket to finish the film, as he soon did.

To the all-star all-male cast, he added an unknown French beauty, Irina Demick, as a Resistance fighter. She had become his mistress after her casting session for the film's only female speaking part. She would be followed by Geneviève Gilles and the French singer Juliette Gréco. [12] Greco, who in fact had her own recording career, published a kiss-and-tell memoir in the French press which Zanuck managed to quash.

Probably for reasons like this, though he stayed in Europe for some years, Zanuck would not divorce his wife Virginia, nor she him. She stayed patiently in Santa Monica, a neglected but effective "Maginot Line" against the claims of her rivals. This would prove to be a costly mistake.

Return to Fox

Fearing the studio's profligacy would sink his cherished The Longest Day (1962) as it readied for release, Zanuck returned to control Fox. He replaced Spyros Skouras as president, who had failed to control perilous cost overruns on the still-unfinished Cleopatra and had been forced to shelve Marilyn Monroe's last vehicle, Something's Got To Give after principal photography had started, at a loss of $2 million. Zanuck promptly made his son, Richard D. Zanuck, head of production.

Richard quickly displayed his own flair for picking fresh, new hits, helped by his trusted fellow producer, David Brown. He hired the then-unknown Francis Coppola to write Patton (1970) into a project for George C. Scott; he committed to the science-fiction hit Planet of the Apes (1968), unleashed maverick director Robert Altman to create his antiwar comedy MASH (1970). He plucked Rodgers and Hammerstein's least successful Broadway show from obscurity and turned it into the highly successful The Sound Of Music (1965).

However, Zanuck Sr's next all-star World War II film Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) was plagued with production problems from the start. First, director David Lean pulled out of the Pearl Harbor retelling, and had to be hastily replaced by Richard Fleischer; storms destroyed expensive exteriors, closing down production while they were rebuilt; then the Japanese co-director Akira Kurosawa, miffed by criticism of his early rushes, either really had or merely faked a nervous breakdown before his cast and crew and had to be hospitalized, shutting down production again.

When finally finished, the relentlessly authentic film could not disguise its downbeat nature as a chronicle of American defeat, the last thing critics and audiences wanted to revisit at the height of the Vietnam War in Asia.

As the tumultuous decade wore on, Richard also began to falter with lavish costume musicals that expensively tanked: Rex Harrison as the man who could talk to the animals in Doctor Dolittle (1967), Julie Andrews in the period film Star! (1968), and Barbra Streisand in Hello Dolly (1969).


By the decade's end, Zanuck Sr. was spending millions on expensive vehicles in Europe for his new girlfriend, Genevieve Gilles. Barely 20 years old, she had her own contract to produce and star in Zanuck's films. Her first acting effort, Hello-Goodbye (1970), died on release. The studio lost $4 million.

From her Paris apartment Gilles interviewed directors for her next script which she had written herself. Zanuck was never at the studio, seldom even in America. He seemed to have nothing on but more projects for Gilles. Quietly, eyeing a debt level whose interest they could hardly afford to pay, the nervous board members moved Richard to president and promoted his father to chairman, or more accurately, kicked the old man upstairs, which is how Zanuck began to perceive it. When Gilles' contract came up for renewal Richard, for the first time, had the power to cancel it and he did. The stage was set for a showdown of Oedipus proportions.

At the end of 1970, Zanuck hurriedly assembled the board the day before New Year's. Zanuck denounced his son's incompetence in front of the entire board and summarily fired him. Richard, stunned and humiliated, flew back to LA on New Year's Day; a studio guard stood watch at his office; it was left to his secretary to tell him he had until 6:00 pm to be off the lot.

Zanuck remained chairman and appointed underlings to replace his son as president; an outraged Virginia Zanuck rushed to her son's side with her 100,000 shares of stock. Guilty gifts of stock from her faithless husband had made her one of Fox's major shareholders. She signed them over to a group of disgusted shareholders who staged a rebellion at the annual spring meeting that May. Zanuck was ousted from the studio he had founded and commanded for so long. He was the last Hollywood tycoon to fall.

Richard went to work for Warner Bros. and forgave his father. They spoke on the phone. Virginia put her foot down and Gilles was gone. After so much blood on the floor, Darryl Zanuck was now back in the fold of his original family. His health failed; he suffered a stroke, but lived to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary with Virginia. Richard moved to Universal Pictures with his producing partner, David Brown. They gave 26-year-old Steven Spielberg his first feature; their second movie was The Sting . Darryl predicted it would win the Oscar, and it did.


Darryl Zanuck's grave at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery Darryl Zanuck grave at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Brentwood, California.JPG
Darryl Zanuck's grave at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery

A long-time cigar smoker, [13] he died of pneumonia in 1979, aged 77. [14] [15] He is interred at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, near his wife, Virginia Fox in Westwood, Los Angeles, California.


Haunted by his part in creating the racist Ham and Eggs at the Front (1927), Zanuck began tackling serious issues, breaking new ground by producing some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. Long before it was fashionable to do so, Zanuck addressed issues such as racism (Pinky), antisemitism (Gentleman's Agreement), poverty (The Grapes of Wrath, Tobacco Road ), unfair unionization and destruction of the environment ( How Green Was My Valley ), and institutionalized mistreatment of the mentally ill ( The Snake Pit ). After The Snake Pit (1949) was released, 13 states changed their laws. For his contributions to the motion picture industry, Zanuck earned three Irving G. Thalberg Awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (including the first ever awarded); after Zanuck's third win, the rules were changed to limit one Thalberg Award to one person. 20th Century Fox, the studio he co-founded and ran successfully for so many years, screens movies in its Darryl F. Zanuck Theater.

"Hollywood producer Darryl F. Zanuck was legendary in the industry — but not just for the movies he made. Zanuck worked his way through actresses on the sofa in his office faster than the credits rolled on his flicks", according to the tome The Zanucks of Hollywood: The Dark Legacy of an American Dynasty by Marlys Harris. His daily bedding of budding starlets operated like clockwork. At 4:00 pm every day, his Fox Century City studio would shut down while Zanuck shuttled a young woman through a subterranean passage to his green-paneled office, according to Harris and Deadline Hollywood. "Anyone at the studio knew of the afternoon trysts," Harris wrote. "He was not serious about any of the women. To him they were merely pleasurable breaks in the day — like polo, lunch, and practical jokes." In 1937, Zanuck won the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' first prestigious Thalberg award for producing. It was the same decade that Variety first used the now-ubiquitous term for the abuse of power that Zanuck and other Hollywood execs were perpetuating behind the scenes — "the casting couch," according to Slate. Years later, in 1975, Newsweek would do a story titled "The Casting Couch" in which it quoted the words on a plaque above the couch in the office of a Tinseltown producer in the 1950s: "Don’t forget, darling, tomorrow you’re going to be a star." [16]

On February 8, 1960, Zanuck received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for his contribution to the motion picture industry, at 6336 Hollywood Blvd. [17] [18]

Academy Awards

1925Nominated Outstanding Production Prioritison
1929–30Nominated Outstanding Production Disraeli
1932–33Nominated Outstanding Production 42nd Street
1934Nominated Outstanding Production The House of Rothschild
1935Nominated Outstanding Production Les Misérables
1937Nominated Outstanding Production In Old Chicago
1938Nominated Outstanding Production Alexander's Ragtime Band
1940Nominated Outstanding Production The Grapes of Wrath
1941Won Outstanding Motion Picture How Green Was My Valley
1944Nominated Outstanding Motion Picture Wilson
1946Nominated Outstanding Motion Picture The Razor's Edge
1947Won Outstanding Motion Picture Gentleman's Agreement
1949Nominated Outstanding Motion Picture Twelve O'Clock High
1950Won Outstanding Motion Picture All About Eve
1956Nominated Best Picture The King and I ("Darryl F. Zanuck presents" is seen in the opening credits)
1962Nominated Best Picture The Longest Day


Produced by Zanuck

Written by Zanuck

Zanuck in documentaries; television appearances

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VistaVision is a higher resolution, widescreen variant of the 35 mm motion picture film format which was created by engineers at Paramount Pictures in 1954.

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Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation is an American film studio that is a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios, a division of The Walt Disney Company. The studio is located on its namesake studio lot in the Century City area of Los Angeles.

CinemaScope is an anamorphic lens series used, from 1953 to 1967, and less often later, for shooting widescreen movies that, crucially, could be screened in theatres using existing equipment, albeit with a lens adapter. Its creation in 1953 by Spyros P. Skouras, the president of 20th Century Fox, marked the beginning of the modern anamorphic format in both principal photography and movie projection.


Cinerama is a widescreen process that originally projected images simultaneously from three synchronized 35 mm projectors onto a huge, deeply curved screen, subtending 146° of arc. The trademarked process was marketed by the Cinerama corporation. It was the first of a number of novel processes introduced during the 1950s, when the movie industry was reacting to competition from television. Cinerama was presented to the public as a theatrical event, with reserved seating and printed programs, and audience members often dressed in their best attire for the evening.

Richard D. Zanuck American film producer

Richard Darryl Zanuck was an American film producer. His 1989 film Driving Miss Daisy won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Zanuck was also instrumental in launching the careers of directors Tim Burton and Steven Spielberg, who described Zanuck as a "director's producer" and "one of the most honorable and loyal men of our profession."

Virginia Fox actress

Virginia Fox Zanuck was an American actress who starred in many silent films of the 1910s and 1920s.

<i>The Longest Day</i> (film) 1962 war film by Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, and Bernhard Wicki

The Longest Day is a 1962 epic war film based on Cornelius Ryan's 1959 book The Longest Day (1959) about the D-Day landings at Normandy on June 6, 1944, during World War II. The film was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, who paid author Ryan $175,000 for the film rights. The screenplay was by Ryan, with additional material written by Romain Gary, James Jones, David Pursall, and Jack Seddon. It was directed by Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, and Bernhard Wicki.

Annabella (actress) French cinema actress

Annabella was a French cinema actress who appeared in 46 films between 1927 and 1952, including some Hollywood films during the late 1930s and 1940s.

Spyros Panagiotis Skouras was a Greek-American motion picture pioneer and movie executive who was the president of the 20th Century Fox from 1942 to 1962. He resigned June 27, 1962, but served as chairman of the company for several years. He also had numerous ships, owning Prudential Lines.

Charles P. Skouras was an American movie executive and president of Fox West Coast, born in Skourohorion, Greece. He and his two brothers, George Skouras and Spyros Skouras, came from Greece as poor sons of a sheep herder who rose to become top movie executives.

Ultra Panavision 70 and MGM Camera 65 were, from 1957 to 1966, the marketing brands that identified motion pictures photographed with Panavision's anamorphic movie camera lenses. The 70 mm film gauge actually used 65 mm wide film in the camera to capture images in these processes. The projection print, however, was 70 mm film stock. The extra 5 mm on the positive projection print was used to accommodate six-track stereo sound. Ultra Panavision 70 and MGM Camera 65 were shot at 24 frames per second (fps) using anamorphic camera lenses. Ultra Panavision 70 and MGM Camera 65's anamorphic lenses compressed the image 1.25 times, yielding an extremely wide aspect ratio of 2.76:1.

George Arliss English actor, author, playwright and filmmaker

George Arliss was an English actor, author, playwright and filmmaker who found success in the United States. He was the first British actor to win an Academy Award – which he won for his performance as Victorian era British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in Disraeli (1929), as well as the earliest-born actor to win the honour.

Milton Sperling was an American film producer and screenwriter for 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros., where he had his own independent production unit, United States Pictures.

The Skouras Brothers Enterprises Inc. was an American movie theater chain from the early days of film-making based in St. Louis, Missouri. It was owned and operated by three brothers: Charles, Spyros and George. Even though it never became as important and famous as other family based companies, like the Warner Brothers, its members came to play important roles in American film industry.

<i>Esther and the King</i> 1960 film by Mario Bava, Raoul Walsh

Esther and the King is a 1960 American-Italian religious epic film produced and directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Joan Collins as Esther, Richard Egan as Ahasuerus, and Denis O'Dea as Mordecai. Walsh and Michael Elkins wrote the screenplay, which was based on the Book of Esther of the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament. It recounts the origin of the Jewish celebration of Purim.

Barbara McLean American film editor

Barbara "Bobby" McLean was an American film editor with 62 film credits.

<i>Way of a Gaucho</i> 1952 film by Jacques Tourneur

Way of a Gaucho is a 1952 American western film directed by Jacques Tourneur and starring Gene Tierney, Rory Calhoun and Richard Boone. It was written by Philip Dunne and based on a novel by Herbert Childs.

Peter Levathes was an American film and advertising executive, best known for briefly running 20th Century Fox.


  1. New York Times, June 11, 1976, 'Adolph Zukor is Dead at 103,' by Albin Krebs
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