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Overview for Darryl F. Zanuck
Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck


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Also Known As: Darryl Francis Zanuck,Melville Crossman,Darryl Zanuck,Gregory Rogers,Darryl Francis Zanuck,Mark Canfield Died: December 22, 1979
Born: September 5, 1902 Cause of Death: pneumonia
Birth Place: Wahoo, Nebraska, USA Profession: Producer ... executive producer screenwriter actor magazine writer clerk amateur boxer waterfront laborer


1, respectively, as well as an Oscar nomination for "The Longest Day" (1963), a Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of America, the Cecil B. DeMille Award from the Golden Globes in 1954, and the Best Foreign Film David for "The Longest Day."ographic record of the Allied Command¿s assault against German forces in Africa. His experiences there would later inform a spate of exceptional wartime dramas, including "A Walk in the Sun" (1945) and "Halls of Montezuma" (1950).

Not all of Zanuck¿s decrees were met with the same level of success. He dropped the Charlie Chan and Sherlock Holmes series at the height of their popularity, and both went on to be box office draws for other studios. He also alienated talent, including actor-director Otto Preminger, who would score a major hit for Fox with 1944¿s "Laura." Zanuck was also one of Hollywood¿s leading proponents of the casting couch, which left a blemish on his otherwise flawless reputation. Despite these setbacks, Zanuck remained a rarity in the film business: a mogul whose active participation in his studio¿s output was met with not only financial success, but the respect and admiration of his peers and employees.

Zanuck took extraordinary chances with the studio in the late 1940s and 1950s, often with wildly varying results. He tackled taboo subjects like anti-Semitism, mental illness and racism in `The Snake Pit" (1945), Best Picture Oscar winner "Gentleman¿s Agreement" (1947) and "Pinky" (1951), and continued to make musicals when the art form was in decline. However, Fox¿s efforts in that genre were moneymakers, including "Carousel" (1956) and "The King and I" (1958), which won nine Academy Awards. Less successful was his attempt to fend off the growing popularity of television with the CinemaScope process, which gave the impression of depth of field without the use of special glasses. It was a hit upon its debut with 1951¿s "The Robe," but soon proved to be a fad, and was eventually eclipsed by Panavision in the late 1960s. However, Zanuck¿s gambles yielded more hits than misses: among his success stories of the period were early starring roles for such future icons as Marlon Brando with "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951), Marilyn Monroe with "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (1953), Harry Belafonte in "Carmen Jones" (1954), Sam Fuller with "House of Bamboo" (1953), Jayne Mansfield in "The Girl Can¿t Help It" (1956) and Paul Newman in "The Long, Hot Summer" (1958). Zanuck also found hits in unlikely genres like science fiction with "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1955) and "The Fly" (1958), and continued to mine challenging subjects for stories, including teenage pregnancy with "Blue Denim" (1959) and shocking real-life murder cases like in "Compulsion" (1959). In fact it was Fox that Marilyn Monroe ¿ who had replaced Grable as America¿s resident blonde bombshell ¿ would call home throughout most of her brief career.

Such an expansive output eventually took its toll on Zanuck, and in 1956, he left Fox to become an independent producer in Europe. Many industry wags suggested that he had actually abandoned his post ¿ and his wife, former actress Virginia Fox ¿ over allegations of infidelity involving doomed actress Bella Darvi and scores of starlets. Whatever the case, he spent the next six years producing several unremarkable adventure films, including "The Roots of Heaven" (1958) and "Crack in the Mirror" (1960), most of which starred his then-current paramour, actress Juliette Greco.

In 1962, Zanuck embarked on his most ambitious project as producer, a massive, all-star World War II epic called "The Longest Day." A drama about the D-Day Invasion, "Day" starred a staggering cast of major actors from the United States, England, France and Germany, and featured no less than six directors, including uncredited turns behind the camera by Zanuck and co-star John Wayne. The completed film was slated for release by Fox, which was under the command of producer and theater chain owner Spyros P. Skouras, who was struggling with a pair of seemingly insurmountable production problems. The studio¿s historical epic "Cleopatra" (1963) had bled their coffers dry with its spiraling budget, and the romance between its stars, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, had generated reams of negative publicity. In an attempt to stem the tide of cash flowing out of the company, Fox had rushed in to produce a remake of "My Favorite Wife" (1940) with one of its most bankable stars, Marilyn Monroe. However, the project, "Something¿s Got to Give" (1962), had also run aground due to its star¿s psychological and substance issues. Skouras also wanted to push "Longest Day" into an abbreviated production schedule, but Zanuck, who remained the company¿s largest stockholder, cried foul, noting that a project like "Day" required considerable time and preparation in order to depict the events of D-Day with any accuracy. Sadly, it took the death of Monroe to convince Skouras to grant Zanuck the time and finances he needed to complete his movie. Released at over three hours in length, "Day" went on to become one of the most acclaimed World War II films ever made, and earned four Academy Awards.

Zanuck returned to Fox shortly after the film¿s release and delivered an eight-hour speech to the company¿s board of directors that convinced them to oust Skouras and return him as the head of Fox. He was soon installed as its chairman, and named his son Richard as president. One of his first actions was to seize control of "Cleopatra," which he rushed to completion. Zanuck then shut down the studio, instituted across-the-board layoffs, and devoted Fox¿s energies to crowd-pleasing, modestly budgeted films like "Surf Party" (1964), "Rio Conchos" (1964) and "Hush¿ Hush, Sweet Charlotte" (1964), all of which helped to rebuild its financial standing. By 1965, "The Sound of Music" truly ushered in Zanuck¿s second coming, with five Academy Awards and a box office take that was widely credited with saving the company.

Unfortunately, Fox under Zanuck in the 1960s seesawed between major hits and staggering failures. The company would release a spate of popular films, including "Batman: The Movie" (1966), "Fantastic Voyage" (1966) and "The Sand Pebbles" (1966), but lose their accumulated grosses through expensive flops like "Doctor Dolittle" (1967), which nearly brought Fox to its knees for a second time. There would be a handful of rebounds by the end of the decade, including "Planet of the Apes" (1968) and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969), but nearly all of its 1968 and 1969 releases were met with critical derision and a chilly box office, including "Star!" (1968), "The Magus" (1968), "The Chairman" (1969), "Che!" (1969) and "Staircase" (1969), with Rex Harrison and Richard Burton as homosexual lovers. The coup de grace was "Hello, Dolly!" (1969), which failed to recoup even half of its massive $25 million budget.

Having posted losses from 1969 to 1971, Zanuck found himself locked in a struggle with Fox¿s board of directors, which included his own son, Richard. Shortly after the doomed release of his Pacific Theatre epic "Tora! Tora! Tora" (1970), Zanuck was ousted as Fox¿s chairman in May of 1971. After reuniting with his wife, Virginia, whom he had never divorced, his health went into sharp decline, due largely in part from undiagnosed Alzheimer¿s disease. Zanuck succumbed to cancer of the jaw on Dec. 22, 1979, leaving behind an extraordinary chapter in the history of American film. Son Richard would soon follow in his footsteps as one-half of The Zanuck/Brown Company, which would oversee "Jaws" (1975), "Cocoon" (1985) and "Driving Miss Daisy" (1991), and later in conjunction with his wife, Lili Fini Zanuck, as producer of Tim Burton¿s remake of "Planet of the Apes" (2001) and "Alice in Wonderland" (2010). Among Zanuck¿s long list of accolades were no less than three Irving Thalberg Awards in 1938, 1945 and 195

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