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Darryl F. Zanuck Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (2) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (1) | Trivia (20) | Personal Quotes (16) | Salary (3)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 5 September 1902Wahoo, Nebraska, USA
Date of Death 22 December 1979Palm Springs, California, USA  (pneumonia)
Birth NameDarryl Francis Zanuck
Height 5' 6" (1.68 m)

Mini Bio (2)

One of the kingpins of Hollywood's studio system, Zanuck was the offspring of the ill-fated marriage of the alcoholic night clerk in Wahoo, Nebraska's only hotel and the hotel owner's daughter. Both parents had abandoned him by the time he was 13. At 15, he joined the U.S. Army, and he fought in Belgium in World War I. Mustered out, he kept himself alive with a series of desultory jobs -- steelworker, foreman in a garment factory, professional boxer -- while pursuing a career as a writer. He turned his first published story (for "Physical Culture, " a pulp magazine) into a film scenario for William Russell; his next important sale was to Irving Thalberg. Although often described as barely literate, Zanuck turned out to have a knack for movie plots. After a well-paid apprenticeship with Mack Sennett, Syd Chaplin and Carl Laemmle, Zanuck hit his stride by devising (with Malcolm St. Clair) the Rin Tin Tin series of police-dog movies for Warner Brothers. For Warner, under his own name and three pseudonyms, he ground out as many as 19 scripts a year and became head of production at age 23. He helped forge that studio's style with such films as The Jazz Singer (1927), The Public Enemy (1931) and I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932). In 1933, after the Warners made it clear that Zanuck would never be more than an employee, he quit to form Twentieth Century Films (with backing from Louis B. Mayer and Joseph M. Schenck). In 1935, Twentieth absorbed a bankrupt giant, Fox. Zanuck ruled the combined studio for decades. He became known as the most "hands-on" of the major studio bosses, taking particular pride in his talent for remaking movies in the cutting room. His signature productions were such sentimental, content-laden dramas as How Green Was My Valley (1941), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), and Twelve O'Clock High (1949). In the late fifties, Zanuck relinquished day-to-day control of the studio, left his wife, and moved to Europe to concentrate on producing. Many of his later films were designed in part to promote the careers of his successive girlfriends, Bella Darvi, Juliette Gréco, Irina Demick and Geneviève Gilles -- none of whom found much favor with directors or audiences. After the success of The Longest Day (1962), Zanuck returned to run 20th Century-Fox; he promoted his son, Richard D. Zanuck, to head of production, then engineered his firing in a messy boardroom brawl. Within a few months, in May 1971, Zanuck himself was deposed. He was the last studio boss of his era to go down.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: David S. Smith

Darryl F. Zanuck was undoubtedly one of the most remarkable men ever to become a Hollywood mogul. He rose through the ranks of the studio hierarchy on sheer will, overcoming every obstacle that confronted him. He had a near total lack of a formal education, no inherited fortune, shared no religious background with his employers and had no inside family connections to open any special doors. What Zanuck possessed was a single-minded drive to succeed in the film business, he absorbed it all (or in the case of directing, a function he steadfastly avoided, at least understood). After knocking around Hollywood for about 5 years as a writer/scenarist/gag man for the notoriously cheap Mack Sennett and F.B.O., Zanuck's formal training was spent at Warner Bros. (1924-33), where he first cut his teeth on the Rin Tin Tin programmers prodigiously (and always economically) ground out by Jack L. Warner. It was Zanuck who elevated what amounted to Warner's only real star at the time, a German Shepherd, into a goldmine. Zanuck soon became Warner's jack-of-all-trades, hammering out a remarkable number of scripts (writing so many that he wrote them under various pseudonyms), editing and slipping rapidly into the role of producer, expertly guiding the studio through the transition to sound. Though he was jokingly called illiterate by Hollywood gossips, he was remarkably astute. Zanuck possessed an innate and almost uncanny sense of social trends which the studio increasingly drew from (gangster movies, social commentary and correctly combining these various elements to re-popularize the musical with Footlight Parade (1933) and 42nd Street (1933)); his value was recognized by the brothers to the point where he was earning $5000 a week during the depths of the Great Depression. Zanuck was a workaholic, and despite his marriage, was an enthusiastic proponent of casting couch interviews, although never to the detriment of a production in the early years of his career; his notorious womanizing-by-appointment on the lot was seen as an outlet, something almost inconceivable today. By 1933 he split with Warner's; it was inevitable that Zanuck would eventually leave the studio, given his longstanding rifts with Harry M. Warner, who largely controlled the studio's finances, and his burning desire to run his own studio. Temporary unemployment didn't bother Zanuck one whit; a wealthy journeyman producer with an enviable track record, he was immediately wooed by several studios. Although Zanuck carefully weighed the various studio offers he realized he wanted to have absolute control over his output and opted to form his own studio, forming 20th Century Pictures later in 1933. This was done largely with the help of the affable Joseph M. Schenck, who arranged for financing (acting as an intermediary for Louis B. Mayer, who wanted his then-marginally uninspired son-in-law, William Goetz to be out from under him - the financing came with minor strings attached) from Bank of America and Herbert J. Yates' Consolidated Film Laboratories. Zanuck merged his company with the ailing Fox Studio in 1935, shrewdly acquiring their theatrical network in the deal. He carefully built up a small roster of profitable stars: Tyrone Power, Alice Faye, Don Ameche and above them all, Shirley Temple, who would single-handedly keep his fledgling studio afloat during its infancy. Zanuck would achieve his greatest success as head of 20th Century Fox and maintain control there well into the 1950s. After serving in WW2 - or about half of it - he returned to head the studio, ousting the efficient-yet-still-uninspired William Goetz, who left to form International Pictures (which would soon merge with Universal, after a brief history of mediocre productions released via United Artists). In his absence, Fox failed to capitalize on the boom war years enjoyed by the other major studios. Zanuck immediately set out to correct what he saw wrong with the studio's output, falling back on his keen ability to predict the public's tastes, returning the studio to the pre-war glory years that saw stellar films such as The Mark of Zorro (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941), The Grapes of Wrath (1940) (with Zanuck effectively improving on John Steinbeck by re-writing several key scenes). Several of Zanuck's post-war films remain remarkable, including the socially conscious Gentleman's Agreement (1947) and Pinky (1949). Ocassional flops such as The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) (which Zanuck had correctly predicted would fail) and Wilson (1944) stung him deeply. Like most major studios of the late 40's-early 50's, Fox took a defensive position against the advent of television (only Columbia and Paramount embraced it). Instead of merely railing against the new medium like most moguls, Zanuck skillfully promoted Cinemascope as a cost-effective defensive move; giving the public a visual experience. He cunningly leased the process out to competing production companies at $25,000 per film. His sense of public taste seldom failed him throughout his initial reign at the studio. Zanuck departed 20th Century Fox in the mid-1950s during what might be politely described as a mid-life crisis, chasing and bailing "actress" Bella Darvi (who could be described as Fox's answer to Republic's Vera Ralston, a question few had asked) out of European casinos and various legal scrapes. 1955-61 were his lost years; he deservedly garnered much press in the scandal sheets and rumors swirled around the nature of his marriage (the Zanucks never divorced, but remained separated for decades, reconciling as his health failed). He produced a handful of atypically terrible films in Europe, often as an excuse to promote a particular girl he was then interested in. Still working as an independent producer, Zanuck managed to refocus his energy and arranged financing for a project worthy of his talents, producing The Longest Day (1962), which for decades was considered the definitive examination of D-Day. Despite it now being eclipsed by the far more graphic Saving Private Ryan (1998), the film remains a remarkable cinematic achievement with its huge ensemble cast and revolutionary tracking shots. Unfortunately, it would be Zanuck's last great success and ironically lead to his downfall as a studio mogul. 20th Century Fox was embroiled in a managerial crisis in the early 60s and after seeing the triumphant success of the The Longest Day (1962), Zanuck was discreetly begged to return to helm the studio he founded. What should have been a triumphant return of an exiled leader quickly turned into a Greek tragedy. It is doubtful Zanuck fully comprehended the financial mess the studio was in by early 1963. Fox had originally conceived Cleopatra (1963), as a moderately budgeted historical drama and it quickly had spun out of control with no conceivable chance of recouping its cost. This debacle would continue to haunt the studio for over a decade. Instead of concentrating on a number of smaller projects, Zanuck assumed another successful blockbuster would right the studio's sinking finances. Like a desperate gambler trying to get even, this all-or-nothing mentality saw him throw good money after bad and Zanuck was more or less rightly blamed for the failures of Star! (1968), Doctor Dolittle (1967) and ultimately, Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), a particularly costly flop that ended in his ouster at Fox mere months after its release. Zanuck's legacy of green lighting red ink continued to affect studio throughout most of the 1970s. Always a enthusiastic womanizer, Zanuck's later reputation was tarnished by a series of notorious and highly publicized affairs, invariably with far younger women. He suffered a long, and initially undiagnosed, battle with Alzheimer's Disease from the early 1970s and succumbed to pneumonia.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jack Backstreet

Spouse (1)

Virginia Fox (24 January 1924 - 22 December 1979) (his death) (3 children)

Trade Mark (1)

Oversized cigar; oversized libido

Trivia (20)

During World War II he served as supervisor for Signal Corps training films and the photographic record of the North Africa invasion, and was awarded the Legion of Merit. After cremation, his ashes were scattered on the Pacific Ocean.
Grandfather of Harrison Zanuck and Dean Zanuck.
Produced Gentleman's Agreement (1947), one of the first films about anti- Semitism, even though Zanuck himself was not Jewish.
He was the prime promoter of the CinemaScope anamorphic widescreen system. Many exhibitors were afraid to make the significant investment required to install CinemaScope equipment in case it was only a short-lived fad, like 3-D. He pledged that all future 20th Century-Fox releases would be in CinemaScope (or an other compatible process).
He was hired by Warner Bros. in 1924 as a writer on Rin Tin Tin pictures at a little less than $500 per week. By the end of 1925 he had been promoted to executive in charge of production at a salary of $5000 per week.
Reportedly had a fondness for Scrabble.
Is the only person who received three AMPAS Irving Thalberg Memorial Awards; the Academy no longer gives more then one Memorial Award to one person. The other person who received more than one was Hal B. Wallis.
Like Charles Chaplin, he kept a dictionary in his office bathroom. Zanuck would escape to the bathroom to look up words his underlings would use that he didn't understand.
It was an unwritten rule on the 20th Century Fox lot that Zanuck was "in conference" between 4:00 and 4:30 pm daily, "interviewing" one of his starlets or chorus girls.
Is portrayed by John Rubinstein in Norma Jean & Marilyn (1996)
Later regretted his involvement in the pre-Civil Rights-era movie Ham and Eggs at the Front (1927) and considered movies he made as head of 20th Century-Fox like Pinky (1949) and Gentleman's Agreement (1947) as atonement.
On December 2,1960, he acquired the film rights to The Longest Day (1962) for $175,000.
Served as rank of Colonel in the cinema section of the Signal Corps. He had to resign, during August 1942, as head of production at 20th Century Fox to do so.
Once claimed (circa 1970) that 20th Century-Fox intends to sell films on videotape five years after their release in cinemas.
In 1917 he lied about his age and joined the US Army (he was actually 15 at the time) and was eventually posted to the Mexican border, during which time he took part in the punitive expedition against Mexican revolutionary / bandit Pancho Villa. He was later sent to France, where he saw even more combat.
When Zanuck was at Warner Brothers, Jack Warner felt that the public had tired of gangster pictures and challenged him to come up with something new. Zanuck came up with the idea of a cycle of biographical films of which "Disreali" was the first.
Film Daily's Ten Leading News Events of 1933: Number 9 - Darryl F. Zanuck quits Warner-First National and with Joseph M. Schenck forms 20th Century Pictures, turning out eight productions in the first four months.

Personal Quotes (16)

There is nothing duller on the screen than being accurate but not dramatic.
I know audiences feed on crap, but I can't believe we are so lacking that we cannot dish it up to them with some trace of originality.
We are in this business primarily to provide entertainment, but in doing so we do not dodge the issue if we can also provide enlightenment.
An executive cannot expect love - ever!
No one can possibly write the history of motion pictures without devoting the largest individual share of it to Irving Thalberg, who incidentally was my intimate friend until the day he died. In my opinion, he was the most creative producer in the history of films during the period when he was Production Head of MGM, and the guiding light of that operation.
[on Jean Renoir] Renoir has a lot of talent, but he isn't one of us.
[Referring to TV as "Video"] Video won't be able to hold any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.
Television won't be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night. Darryl Zanuck, executive at 20th Century Fox, 1946
[Accused of having a stupid man on his staff] I keep him because I know if a situation is clear to him, it'll be clear to anybody.
[Zanuck was quoted on variations of this line many times] For God's sake, don't say yes until I'm finished talking!
Croquet keeps you from thinking of anything else. That's why I like it.
Christ, I was a victim of Cleopatra (1963). The god-damned asp was biting me!
[In a letter to Lord Mountbatten about "The Longest Day"] I believe I have a tougher job than Ike had on D-Day - at least he had the equipment. I have to find it, rebuild it, and transport it to Normandy.
Unless these two pictures ("Wilson" and "One World") are successful from every standpoint, I'll never make another film without Betty Grable.
If I had gotten a divorce instead of a legal separation, I would have been married three times since. I would have had three more divorces. I would have had a lot less money and a lot more misery.
[Upon entering the Louvre]: We got to be out of this joint in 20 minutes!

Salary (3)

The Storm (1922) $15,000
Find Your Man (1924) $250 /week
The Lighthouse by the Sea (1924) $250 /week

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