Fred Zinnemann


Director
Fred Zinnemann

About

Birth Place
Austria
Born
April 29, 1907
Died
March 14, 1997

Biography

Arguably the most successful German expatriate filmmaker in Hollywood after Billy Wilder, director Fred Zinnemann won two Academy Awards for "From Here to Eternity" (1953) and "A Man for All Seasons" (1966), while helming such classic films as "The Search" (1948), "High Noon" (1952), "The Nun's Story" (1959) and "The Day of the Jackal" (1973) among others. His films were celebrated for t...

Photos & Videos

The Search - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Julia - Movie Poster
The Men - Lobby Card

Family & Companions

Renee Bartlett
Wife
Married in 1936; born in England, raised in Chile; worked in Paramount's wardrobe department; met when he was an assistant director and she was in the costume department for the film "Peter Ibbetson" (1935); moved to London with husband c. 1966; survived him; died on December 18, 1997 in London at age 88.

Bibliography

"Fred Zinnemann: A Life in the Movies"
Fred Zinnemann, Scribner (1992)
"The Films of Fred Zinnemann: Criticals Perspectives"
Arthur Nolletti Jr (editor), State University of New York Press

Notes

A posthumous exhibition of his photographs of NYC was mounted at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1998.

Biography

Arguably the most successful German expatriate filmmaker in Hollywood after Billy Wilder, director Fred Zinnemann won two Academy Awards for "From Here to Eternity" (1953) and "A Man for All Seasons" (1966), while helming such classic films as "The Search" (1948), "High Noon" (1952), "The Nun's Story" (1959) and "The Day of the Jackal" (1973) among others. His films were celebrated for their exacting sense of realism, a technique he had adopted from working with documentarian Robert Flaherty, as well as their adventurous casting and numerous acting discoveries. Such legendary stars as Montgomery Clift and Shirley Jones received their start under Zimmermann, while Frank Sinatra and Donna Reed claimed Oscars for playing solidly against type in "From Here to Eternity." After claiming his second Oscar for "A Man for All Seasons," Zinnemann experienced a lengthy dry spell following an expensive and failed attempt to bring the novel Man's Fate to the screen. He rebounded in 1973 with "Day of the Jackal" before scoring a final hit with "Julia" in 1977. In all, Zinnemann's films earned 65 Oscar nominations and 24 actual trophies over the course of his five-decade career, which underscored his reputation as a versatile, reliable filmmaker who knew how to produce the best work from his cast and crew.

Born Alfred Zinnemann on April 29, 1907 in Vienna, Austria, the young man dreamed initially of becoming a concert violinist, but instead studied law at the University of Vienna. While there, he became fascinated by the films of directors Sergei Eisenstein and Eric von Stroheim, so he soon abandoned his law studies to work in the burgeoning motion picture industry. Zinnemann relocated to Paris in 1927 to study cinematography before making his debut in that regard with the groundbreaking "People on Sunday" (1930), a verite-style drama detailing life in pre-war Berlin using amateur actors. The film was notable for its array of talent behind the scenes, including director Curt and Robert Siodmak, screenwriter Billy Wilder and producer Edgar G. Ulmer, all of whom would enjoy their own successful careers in Hollywood.

Zinnemann lit out for California in 1929 with the hopes of finding steadier work in the Hollywood film industry. Once there, he toiled as an extra in Lewis Milestone's "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1930) before serving as an editor and later assistant to the documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty. From Flaherty, whom he would credit as having the most significant impact on his professional life, Zinnemann learned to impart the sense of realism within a narrative film that earmarked all of his later work. His first effort to translate Flaherty's approach to a work of fiction was "Redes (Nets)" (1935), which depicted life in a rural fishing village with its own residents as its cast. In the late 1930s, Zinnemann was hired by MGM to direct for their short subjects department. There, he won his first Academy Award for "That Mothers Might Live" (1938), a biographical short about pioneering Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis. In 1941, he began directing feature-length films, beginning with the B-thriller "Kid Glove Killer" (1942), before scoring his first hit with "The Seventh Cross" (1944). The action-drama, starring Spencer Tracy as an escaped POW pursued by his Nazi captors, was among the first to acknowledge the existence of concentration camps. Adding a heightened sense of realism to the proceedings was the presence of several German actors that had fled the rise of the Nazis, including Helene Weigel, the second wife of composer Bertolt Brecht.

Zinnemann worked steadily for MGM after "The Seventh Cross," but soon grew disenchanted with the quality of his assignments, which included such forgettable efforts as "My Brother Talks to Horses." His fortunes appeared to change with1948's "The Search," a moving drama about an American Army engineer (Montgomery Clift in his first film) who aided a young Czech boy displaced by World War II in finding his mother. Zinnemann received an Academy Award nomination for his work on the film, which took home two Oscars for Best Screenplay and Best Story. However, the success did not immediately boost him into the upper echelon of Hollywood directors. His subsequent efforts, including the noir thriller "Act of Violence" (1948) and "The Men" (1950), the latter of which featured Marlon Brando in his first screen role as a paraplegic veteran, were well-regarded if not particularly notable pictures. His 1951 feature, "Teresa," about a GI who struggled with issues of cowardice, earned him a Golden Lion nomination from the Venice Film Festival, but was otherwise marked by studio interference in the editing process.

However, Zinnemann's next film, "High Noon" (1952) firmly established him as one of Hollywood's top directors. A potent Western drama about a marshal (Gary Cooper) forced to face down a trio of killers out for revenge, the film's novel chronology, which unfolded in real time, and genre-breaking script, which drew comparisons to the HUAC proceedings that were currently taking place in Washington, helped it win four Academy Awards, including Cooper for Best Actor, while Zinnemann earned his second Oscar nomination for direction. He soon commenced on a string of high-profile films in the 1950s that would cement his position as one of the industry's great filmmakers.

Zinnemann's post-"High Noon" work was earmarked by both his versatility in different genres, as well as his talent for unusual casting choices that paid off in spades for both actor and director. He cast 26-year-old Julie Harris as the 12-year-old lead in his film adaptation of Carson McCullers' Southern drama "The Member of the Wedding" (1952), while Deborah Kerr, previously known for her well-heeled ladies of means, was tapped to play an adulterous Army wife in the sprawling World War II epic "From Here to Eternity" (1953). Donna Reed also broke from her established girl-next-door screen persona to play a prostitute in the film, which earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, but the picture's most transformative casting was undoubtedly Frank Sinatra, who was at a career ebb when he replaced Eli Wallach as the doomed Maggio. The role also won Sinatra an Oscar, as well as a new shot at stardom. "From Here to Eternity" would net eight Oscars in all, including Best Picture and Zinnemann's first Oscar for Best Director.

Zinnemann followed the success of "From Here to Eternity" with "Oklahoma!" (1955), a big-screen adaptation of the Broadway musical that featured the debuts of its star, Shirley Jones, as well as the wide-screen format Todd-AO. He then shifted gears again for "A Hatful of Rain" (1957), a stark melodrama about a veteran (Don Murray) addicted to morphine, which earned an Oscar nod for co-star Anthony Franciosa. After abandoning a film version of Ernest Hemingway's novella The Old Man and the Sea (1958), Zinnemann's knack for casting against type once again yielded outstanding results with "The Nun's Story" (1959), which starred Audrey Hepburn, best known at the time for her light comedic roles, as a young Belgian nun who struggled to remain neutral during the Nazi rise to power. Hepburn also earned an Oscar nomination for the film, which would unofficially mark the end of Zinnemann's long string of studio hits.

His next picture, "The Sundowners" (1960), with Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr as Australian outback farmers, reaped numerous Oscar nominations, including Best Actress for Kerr and Best Director for Zinnemann, but was both a difficult shoot due to the unpredictable Australian weather, as well as a costly flop in the United States. Zinnemann would blame the film's poor reception on Warner Bros.' marketing campaign, which attempted to present the film as another "From Here to Eternity." Its follow-up, "Behold a Pale Horse" (1964), with Gregory Peck as a Spanish Civil War veteran pursued by police captain Anthony Quinn, was another failure that cost Columbia Pictures millions after the Spanish government refused to distribute their films in protest over the film's anti-Franco government stance. However, he rebounded in spectacular fashion, albeit briefly, with "A Man for All Seasons" (1966), a film version of Robert Bolt's play about Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield), whose steadfast belief in his faith cost him his life after refusing to grant King Henry VII a divorce in order to marry Anne Boleyn (Vanessa Redgrave). The film captured six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Scofield, whom the producers had initially refused to cast until Zinnemann came to his defense.

"A Man for All Seasons" would be Zinnemann's last studio success for nearly a decade. His next project, an adaptation of Andre Malraux's novel Man's Fate (1927), about the failed Communist takeover in Shanghai, China, was cancelled one week prior to the launch of filming. MGM then requested Zinnemann to reimburse them for $1 million of the $3.5 million spent on pre-production. The filmmaker initiated a lawsuit that resulted in a period of seven years in which he made no new films. The freeze-out ended in 1973 with "The Day of the Jackal," a taut thriller based on the novel by Frederick Forsyth about a British hitman hired to assassinate French president Charles De Gaulle. Zinnemann's eye for realistic detail lent considerable credence to a project that attempted to generate suspense in spite of the fact that audiences knew exactly how it would end. "Jackal" was a major hit for Universal, and earned Zinnemman BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations.

Four years later, he returned with "Julia" (1977), based on the novel by Lillian Hellman that purported to tell the story of her friend, an American heiress dedicated to opposing the Nazi movement in Germany. Though Zinnemann clashed with Hellman over the facts behind the story, which he later claimed were false, the film was his last great triumph, netting Oscars for Jason Robards, who played Hellman's lover, writer Dashiell Hammett, and Vanessa Redgrave as Julia. Zinnemann himself would receive his final Oscar nomination for direction, after which he struggled to find a follow-up. The Hollywood system had changed dramatically during his exile following the Man's Fate debacle, and Zinnemann often found himself at odds with the prevailing studio powers that be. A famous story about this period concerned an alleged meeting between Zinnemann and a young executive, who was unaware of the director's storied career. Asked to provide a list of his accomplishments, Zinnemann reportedly replied, "Sure. You first." Zinnemann's final screen effort was 1982's "Five Days One Summer," a thriller with Sean Connery and Betsey Bramlet as a couple with a dark secret. The film was largely ignored upon its release, and led to Zinnemann's retirement from filmmaking. He remained a lively and informative interview subject on Hollywood filmmaking for the better part of the next decade, surfacing briefly to oppose the 1997 remake of "Day of the Jackal," which bore little resemblance to his film or the source novel. It was later retitled "The Jackal" before disappearing from screens. Zinnemann passed away on March 14 of that year from a heart attack in London, England at the age of 89.

By Paul Gaita

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Five Days One Summer (1982)
Director
Julia (1977)
Director
The Day of the Jackal (1973)
Director
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Director
Behold a Pale Horse (1964)
Director
The Sundowners (1960)
Director
The Nun's Story (1959)
Director
The Old Man and the Sea (1958)
Director
A Hatful of Rain (1957)
Director
Oklahoma! (1955)
Director
The Member of the Wedding (1953)
Director
From Here to Eternity (1953)
Director
High Noon (1952)
Director
Teresa (1951)
Director
Benjy (1951)
Director
The Men (1950)
Director
Act of Violence (1949)
Director
The Search (1948)
Director
My Brother Talks to Horses (1947)
Director
Little Mister Jim (1947)
Director
The Clock (1945)
Director
The Seventh Cross (1944)
Director
Kid Glove Killer (1942)
Director
Eyes in the Night (1942)
Director
Redes (1936)
Director
The Dark Angel (1935)
Assistant to Sidney Franklin
The Wiser Sex (1932)
Assistant Director

Cast (Feature Film)

As I See It (1997)
Himself
Strand: Under the Dark Cloth (1989)
Himself
The Big Show (1957)
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Writer (Feature Film)

Peter Ibbetson (1935)
Contr Special seq

Producer (Feature Film)

Five Days One Summer (1982)
Producer
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Producer
Behold a Pale Horse (1964)
Producer
The Nun's Story (1959)
Producer

Art Director (Feature Film)

Ressisim (1989)
Art Direction

Film Production - Main (Feature Film)

People on Sunday (1930)
Production Assistant

Production Companies (Feature Film)

A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Company
Behold a Pale Horse (1964)
Company
Teresa (1951)
Company

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Strand: Under the Dark Cloth (1989)
Other
Love Letters (1983)
Other

Cast (Special)

Montgomery Clift: His Place in the Sun (1989)
George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey (1984)
Himself

Misc. Crew (Special)

George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey (1984)
Other

Director (Short)

Forbidden Passage (1941)
Director
Your Last Act (1941)
Director
A Way in the Wilderness (1940)
Director
The Old South (1940)
Director
One Against the World (1939)
Director
Weather Wizards (1939)
Director
The Ash Can Fleet (1939)
Director
Forgotten Victory (1939)
Director
That Mothers Might Live (1938)
Director
The Story of Doctor Carver (1938)
Director
Friend Indeed (1937)
Director

Life Events

1927

First professional film work (as photographer) on Eugene Deslaw's experimental documentary "La marche des machines/The March of Machines"

1929

Arrived in USA in NYC on October 29, the day of the stock market crash

1929

Moved to Hollywood with letter of introduction to Universal chief Carl Laemmle; given job as extra in "All Quiet on the Western Front"; fired for talking back to assistant director

1930

Hired by Fox as assistant to fellow Viennese director Berthold Viertel

1931

Through Viertel met Robert Flaherty; became Flaherty's assistant

1932

Returned to Hollywood and assistantship with Viertel at Paramount; then assisted Busby Berkeley on dance sequences of "The Kid from Spain" at Goldwyn

1935

Film directing debut, the medium length pseudo-documentary "Redes/The Wave"

1942

Feature film directing debut, "Kid Glove Killer"

1960

First film as producer (also director), "The Sundowners"

1983

Directed final film, "Five Days One Summer"

Photo Collections

The Search - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of The Search (1948), starring Montgomery Clift and Ivan Jandl, and directed by Fred Zinnemann.
Julia - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Julia (1977), starring Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
The Men - Lobby Card
Here is a lobby card from The Men (1950), starring Marlon Brando. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

Member Of The Wedding, The (1952) - That Green And Crazy Summer Julie Harris (as "Frankie") with Ethel Waters (as "Berenice") and the rest of the cast, introduced in the opening scene of Fred Zinnemann's The Member of the Wedding, 1952, from Carson McCullers' novel and play.
Member Of The Wedding, The (1952) - It Don't Do! Frankie (Julie Harris) and Berenice (Ethel Waters) disagree about her new dress, John Henry (Brandon de Wilde) observing, in The Member of the Wedding, 1952, from Carson McCullers' novel and play.
Member Of The Wedding, The (1952) - His Eye Is On The Sparrow The evening before the wedding, Frankie (Julie Harris) having a crisis, the three central characters (Ethel Waters as Berenice, Brandon De Wilde as John Henry) and the gospel standard credited to Charles H. Gabriel and Civilla D. Martin, in Daniel Mann’s movie from the Carson McCullers novel, The Member Of The Wedding, 1952.
Sundowners, The (1960) - Just Another Town Opening scene, introducing leads Robert Mitchum (as "Paddy"), Deborah Kerr (as "Ida"), with their down-under accents and their son (Michael Anderson Jr.), from Fred Zinnemanns's The Sundowners, 1960, screenplay by Isobel Lennart from the novel by John Cleary.
Sundowners, The (1960) - Lower Your Blunderbuss With his mum Ida (Deborah Kerr), just arrived in a new piece of 1920'a Australia, young Sean (Michael Anderson Jr.) goes off in search of his dad, instead meeting the philosophical Rupert Venneker (Peter Ustinov, his first scene), in Fred Zinnemann's The Sundowners, 1960.
High Noon (1952) - Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darlin' Outlaws Colby (Lee Van Cleef), Ben Miller (Sheb Wooley) and Pierce (Robert Wilke) gather as Tex Ritter sings "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darlin'" in the opening of Fred Zinnemann's High Noon, 1952.
High Noon (1952) - They're Making Me Run Ex-Marshal Kane (Gary Cooper) is riding out of Hadleyville, ahead of the return of outlaw Frank Miller, and just married to young Quaker Amy (Grace Kelly), when he has a change of heart, early in Fred Zinneman's High Noon, 1952.
Man For All Seasons, A (1966) - Pray By All Means! Summoned to see Cardinal Wolsey (Orson Welles), Thomas More (Paul Scofield) makes no apology for not helping the king seek another divorce, in Fred Zinnemann's Best Picture Academy Award winner, A Man For All Seasons, 1966.
Act Of Violence (1949) - I Remembered Something The viewer doesn't yet know why Parkson (Robert Ryan) is stalking fellow WWII vet Enley (Van Heflin), fishing on a California lake with pal Fred (Harry Antrim), in Fred Zinnemann's Act Of Violence, 1949.
Act Of Violence (1949) - No Place To Go Frightened spouse Edith (Janet Leigh) calls Frank (Van Heflin) at the convention in L-A to warn him that Parkson (Robert Ryan) is on his trail, causing him to flee, and meet hooker Pat (Mary Astor) in a bar, in Fred Zinnemann's Act Of Violence, 1949.
Act Of Violence (1949) - Opening, These Solemn Rites Brisk opening, Robert Ryan as WWII vet Joe Parkson, his purpose not made clear, first in New York then on the bus to Santa Lisa, California on Memorial Day, from Fred Zinnemann's Act Of Violence, 1949.
Kid Glove Killer, The (1942) - Lots Of People Are Called Your Honor First-time feature director Fred Zinnemann’s first scene, after several years making shorts for MGM, efficient framing as we meet the newly elected mayor (Samuel S. Hinds) and his adviser, lawyer Ladimer (Lee Bowman), then crime kingpin Matty (John Litel), in the programmer Kid Glove Killer, 1942.

Trailer

Clock, The - (Original Trailer) A G.I. en route to Europe falls in love during a whirlwind two-day leave in New York City in The Clock (1945).
All Quiet On The Western Front - (Re-release trailer) The third Academy Award for Best Picture went to this searing saga of a young German soldier in World War I.
Sundowners, The - (Original Trailer) An Australian sheep-herder and his wife clash over their nomadic existence and their son's future in The Sundowners (1960) starring Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr.
Old Man and the Sea, The - (Original Trailer) A Cuban fisherman (Spencer Tracy) believes his long dry spell will end when he catches a legendary fish in Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea (1958).
Eyes In The Night - (Original Trailer) Blind detective Duncan Maclain (Edward Arnold) gets mixed up with Nazi agents when he tries to help an old friend in Eyes In The Night (1942).
Little Mister Jim - (Original Trailer) After his mother's death, a young boy tries to help his father stop drinking in Fred Zinnemann's Little Mister Jim (1947).
My Brother Talks To Horses - (Original Trailer) A small boy's secret gifts help him pick racetrack winners in the family comedy My Brother Talks To Horses (1946).
Nun's Story, The - (Original Trailer) A headstrong girl (Audrey Hepburn) fights the strictures of the Catholic Church in Europe and the Belgian Congo in The Nun's Story (1959), directed by Fred Zinnemann and nominated for 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture.
Teresa - (Original Trailer) In Teresa (1951) director Fred Zinneman imports the neo-realism style from Italy to America with a story of an Italian bride who marries an American GI.
Kid Glove Killer - (Original Trailer) Director Fred Zinneman made his feature film debut with this CSI-style story with Van Heflin combing for clues to solve the murder of a reform mayor.
Act Of Violence - (Original Trailer) Former prisoner of war Robert Ryan is intent on killing fellow prisoner Van Heflin in the classic film noir Act Of Violence (1949).
Seventh Cross, The - (Original Trailer) The original trailer featuring a speedy retrospective of star Spencer Tracy's career, for The Seventh Cross, 1944, also starring Signe Hasso and Hume Cronyn.

Promo

Family

Oskar Zinnemann
Father
Physician.
Anna Zinnemann
Mother
David Bartlett Zinnemann
Son
Producer, director. Born on May 26, 1940; first film experience as extra in father's "Oklahoma!" (1955); survived him.

Companions

Renee Bartlett
Wife
Married in 1936; born in England, raised in Chile; worked in Paramount's wardrobe department; met when he was an assistant director and she was in the costume department for the film "Peter Ibbetson" (1935); moved to London with husband c. 1966; survived him; died on December 18, 1997 in London at age 88.

Bibliography

"Fred Zinnemann: A Life in the Movies"
Fred Zinnemann, Scribner (1992)
"The Films of Fred Zinnemann: Criticals Perspectives"
Arthur Nolletti Jr (editor), State University of New York Press

Notes

A posthumous exhibition of his photographs of NYC was mounted at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1998.