Family & Companions
Following a successful career in journalism as both a reporter and a managing editor, David Brown was brought to Hollywood by famed producer Darryl F. Zanuck as an executive at 20th Century Fox. Brown enjoyed a long tenure at Fox, where he worked various positions within the story department. Following a brief stay at Warner Bros., Brown joined forces with his former boss' son Richard Zanuck to form the Zanuck/Brown Co., which produced some of the most acclaimed films of the 1970s and 1980s. Their first film, "The Sting" (1973), was a huge box office hit and winner of seven Oscars, including Best Picture, which led the pair to producing other major movies like "The Sugarland Express" (1974), "Jaws" (1975) and "MacArthur" (1977). In the following decade, the pair continued their success with "The Verdict" (1982) and "Cocoon" (1985), only to disband the company in 1988. After producing his last film with Zanuck, "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989), Brown struck out on his own with varying degrees of success, producing hits like "A Few Good Men" (1992) and "The Player" (1992), but also stumbling with "Canadian Bacon" (1994), "The Saint" (1997), and "Angela's Ashes" (1999). Following his final Best Picture nomination with "Chocolat" (2000), Brown wound down his career by producing the occasional film and Broadway musical, but undoubtedly left behind an extraordinary legacy as one of Hollywood's most prolific producers in the last half of the 20th century.
Born on July 28, 1916 in New York City, Brown was raised by his father, Edward, and his mother, Lillian, and graduated from both Stanford University and the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. Brown went right to work as a journalist, working as an apprentice reporter and copy editor for The San Francisco News and The Wall Street Journal. He also wrote for magazines like Collier's, Harper's and The Saturday Evening Post, while working as a stringer for The New York Times. Brown moved up to editorial director for the Milk Research Council in New York while advancing from associate editor to executive editor and finally editor-in-chief for Liberty magazine. But with the world at war, Brown was called to serve his country and became a 1st lieutenant with U.S. Army military intelligence during World War II. Upon his return to the States, he resumed his journalism career as the editorial director for the national educational campaign for the American Medical Association before joining Cosmopolitan magazine as a managing editor, where he met his soon-to-be famous wife, Helen Gurley, whom he married in 1959.
In 1951, producing legend Darryl F. Zanuck hired Brown as the managing editor of the story department at 20th Century Fox, thus starting his Hollywood career. Over the course of the decade, Brown moved up to head the scenario department at Fox, eventually becoming the vice president of creative operations and later a producer. Brown left 20th Century to become the editorial vice president of New American Library of New Literature, Inc., before making his return to the studio to head up the story operations department. In 1967, Brown was made the vice president of story operations and was promoted to executive vice president before leaving for Warner Bros. where he became a member of the board of directors. During his time at Fox, Brown befriended Richard Zanuck, the son of studio head Darryl F., and eventually left the studio with him in 1971 to form the Zanuck/Brown Co., which in the ensuing two decades produced some of Hollywood's most notable films. The pair's first film was "The Sting" (1973), which starred Paul Newman and Robert Redford as a pair of grifters who con an Irish mob boss (Robert Shaw) as a means of exacting revenge for a murdered friend. The film was a massive success - one of the biggest hits of the decade - and earned seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
From there, Brown and Zanuck went on to producer Steven Spielberg's directorial debut, "The Sugarland Express" (1974), as well as the Clint Eastwood action thriller "The Eiger Sanction" (1974) and Don Siegel's spy thriller "The Black Windmill" (1974), starring Michael Caine and Donald Pleasance. Reteaming with Spielberg, Brown and Zanuck famously produced Hollywood's first $100 million blockbuster, "Jaws" (1975), one of the most financially successful and influential movies of all time. After producing the biographical drama, "MacArthur" (1977), which starred Gregory Peck as the controversial general, the duo went back to the well with the underwhelming "Jaws 2" (1978). They continued to disappoint with the forgettable thriller "The Island" (1980) and the misfire John Belushi/Dan Aykroyd comedy "Neighbors" (1981), before scoring another critical and commercial hit with "The Verdict" (1982), which starred Paul Newman as an alcoholic attorney who seeks redemption by taking on a difficult-to-win medical malpractice case. The film earned five Academy Awards nominations including one for Best Picture. Following Arthur Penn's competent spy thriller, "Target" (1985), with Gene Hackman and Matt Dillon, Brown and Zanuck teamed with Ron Howard on the hugely successful "Cocoon" (1985), a sci-fi themed drama about a group of senior citizens rejuvenated by the arrival of aliens.
After producing the sequel, "Cocoon: The Return" (1988), Brown and Zanuck disbanded their company, though he would serve as the executive producer of the new Zanuck Company's first production, "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989), which won the Oscar for Best Picture. Brown went on to found his own production company, The Manhattan Project Ltd. in 1988, which produced Aaron Sorkin's searing military courtroom drama, "A Few Good Men" (1992). He also served as a producer on Robert Altman's highly praised Hollywood satire, "The Player" (1992), though he stumbled a bit with "The Cemetery Club" (1993), "Watch It" (1993) and "Canadian Bacon" (1994). Turning to summer blockbusters, Brown enjoyed commercial success with "The Saint" (1997) and "Deep Impact" (1998), but ventured back to critically acclaimed films like "Angela's Ashes" (1999) and "Chocolat" (2000), which earned him another Oscar nod for Best Picture. Around this time, Brown began producing Broadway musicals including "Sweet Smell of Success: The Musical" (2002) and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" (2005), while keeping his feet firmly planted in film with "Along Came a Spider" (2001), "Framed" (2003) and "Flyboys" (2006). Spending his last years working sporadically and spending time with his wife and family, Brown eventually succumbed to renal failure on Feb. 1, 2010 at 93 years old, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most prolific producers of the latter 20th century.
By Shawn Dwyer
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Producer (TV Mini-Series)
Worked as apprentice reporter and copy-editor for the <i>San Francisco News</i> and <i>The Wall Street Journal</i>
Worked as editorial director for the national education campaign of the American Medical Association
Joined 20th Century-Fox Film Corp. as managing editor of the story department in L.A.
Appointed member of executive staff of Darryl F. Zanuck
Made vice president story operations for 20th Century-Fox
Co-founded Zanuck/Brown Company with partner Richard Zanuck; dissolved company 1988
First film released by Zanuck/Brown, the Oscar-winning Best Picture, "The Sting"
With Zanuck, produced "The Sugarland Express," which marked the feature directorial debut of Steven Spielberg
Produced the Spielberg directed and Oscar-nominated, "Jaws"
Served as producer for the sequel, "Jaws 2"
Produced (with Zanuck) "The Verdict"; received Best Picture Oscar nomination
Enjoyed a box-office hit as producer of "Cocoon"
Produced the sequel, "Cocoon: The Return"
Was a producer on the Academy Award nominated film, "A Few Good Men"
Produced "Kiss the Girls" and "The Saint"
Re-teamed with Zanuck as producer of "Deep Impact"
Produced the film adaptation of Frank McCourt's memoir, "Angela's Ashes"
Received Best Picture Oscar nomination as producer of "Chocolat"
Produced the stage musical adaptation of "Sweet Smell of Success"; production opened in Chicago before moving to NYC in spring 2002
Served as a producer on "Along Came a Spider," with Morgan Freeman reprising his role as Dr. Alex Cross from "Kiss the Girls"
Produced the off-Broadway Jerry Herman musical revue, "Showtune"
Produced the Broadway musical, "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"