|Date of Birth||5 September 1902, Wahoo, Nebraska, USA|
|Date of Death||22 December 1979, Palm Springs, California, USA (pneumonia)|
|Birth Name||Darryl 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 promiscuous 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 prodigious 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. He 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. For a man who was joked to be illiterate at Hollywood cocktail parties, he proved to be 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--- he had long simmering rifts with Harry M. Warner, who largely controlled the studio's finances and a burning desire to run his own studio. Temporary unemployment didn't bother Zanuck one whit; he was a wealthy journeyman producer with an enviable track record and 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
|Virginia Fox||(24 January 1924 - 22 December 1979) (his death) (3 children)|
Trade Mark (1)
Personal Quotes (16)
|The Storm (1922)||$15,000|
|Find Your Man (1924)||$250 /week|
|The Lighthouse by the Sea (1924)||$250 /week|