Darryl F. Zanuck

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Darryl F. Zanuck
Darryl F. Zanuck-1950.jpg
Zanuck in the 1940s
Born Darryl Francis Zanuck
(1902-09-05)September 5, 1902
Wahoo, Nebraska
Died December 22, 1979(1979-12-22) (aged 77)
Palm Springs, California
Cause of death
Jaw cancer
Resting place
Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
Other names Gregory Rogers[1]
Melville Crossman[1]
Mark Canfield[1]
Years active 1922–70
Spouse(s) Virginia Fox (1924–56; separated)
Children Richard D. Zanuck
Darrylin Zanuck
Susan Zanuck

Darryl Francis Zanuck (September 5, 1902 – December 22, 1979) was an American film studio executive and producer; he also contributed to the scripts of the films on which he worked. He played a major part in the Hollywood studio system as one of its longest survivors (the length of his career was rivaled only by that of Adolph Zukor).[citation needed] He earned three Academy Awards during his tenure.

Early life[edit]

Zanuck was born in Wahoo, Nebraska, to Louise (née Torpin) and Frank Zanuck, who owned and operated a hotel in Wahoo.[2] Zanuck was of part Swiss descent[2] and was raised a Protestant.[3] At age six, Zanuck and his mother moved to Los Angeles, where the better climate could improve her poor health. At age eight, he found his first movie job as an extra, but his disapproving father recalled him to Nebraska.[citation needed]

Darryl F. Zanuck at the Oscars.

In 1918, despite being sixteen, he deceived a recruiter, joined the United States Army, and served in France with the Nebraska National Guard.

Upon returning to the US, he worked in many part-time jobs while seeking work as a writer. He found work producing movie plots, and sold his first story in 1922 to William Russell and his second to Irving Thalberg. Screenwriter Frederica Sagor Maas, story editor at Universal Pictures' New York office, stated that one of the stories Zanuck sent out to movie studios around this time was completely plagiarized from another author's work.[4]

Zanuck then worked for Mack Sennett and FBO (where he wrote the serials The Telephone Girl and The Leatherpushers) and took that experience to Warner Brothers, where he wrote stories for Rin Tin Tin and under a number of pseudonyms wrote over forty scripts from 1924 to 1929, including Red Hot Tires (1925) and Old San Francisco (1927). He moved into management in 1929, and became head of production in 1931.[citation needed]

Zanuck was also a mason.[citation needed]

Studio head[edit]

In 1933, Zanuck left Warners over a salary dispute with studio head Jack Warner. A few days later, he partnered with Joseph Schenck to found 20th Century Pictures, Inc. with financial help from Joseph's brother Nicholas Schenck and Louis B. Mayer, President and Studio head of Loew's, Inc and its subsidiary Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, along with William Goetz and Raymond Griffith. 20th Century released its material through United Artists. During that short time (1933-1935), 20th Century became the most successful independent movie studio of its time, breaking box-office records with 18 of its 19 films, all in profitability, including Clive of India, Les Miserables and The House of Rothschild. In 1935, after a dispute with United Artists' board, Schenck and Zanuck negotiated and bought out the bankrupt Fox studios to become Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation.[5] Zanuck was president of this new studio and took an interventionist approach, closely involving himself in film editing and producing. Like the other heads of Hollywood studios, during the war he was commissioned as a Colonel in the Army Signal Corps. He returned to Twentieth Century-Fox in 1944.[citation needed]

In 1956, he withdrew from the studio and left his wife, Virginia Fox, to move to Europe and concentrate on independent producing. Many of his later films were designed, in part, to promote the careers of his successive girlfriends, Bella Darvi, Irina Demick, and Geneviève Gilles, and several movies he produced featured his girlfriend of thee [thou] moment, including the French singer Juliette Gréco.[6]

He returned to control Fox in 1962, replacing Spyros Skouras, in a confrontation over the release of Zanuck's production of The Longest Day as the studio struggled to finish the difficult production of Cleopatra (1963). He made his son, Richard D. Zanuck, head of production. He later became involved in a power struggle with the board and his son, circa 1969. In May 1971, Zanuck was forced from "his" studio.[citation needed]


Darryl Zanuck's grave at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery

A long-time cigar smoker,[7] he died of jaw cancer at the age of 77, and was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.


For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Darryl F. Zanuck has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6336 Hollywood Blvd and won 3 Thalberg Awards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. On the present-day Fox lot, movies are shown in the Zanuck Theater.

Zanuck is a minor character in the fictional musical Bombshell, a musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe during the first season of the TV series Smash and performs in the number "Don't Say Yes Until I Finish Talking."

Academy Awards[edit]

Year Result Category Film
1929–30 Nominated Outstanding Production Disraeli
1932–33 Nominated Outstanding Production 42nd Street
1934 Nominated Outstanding Production The House of Rothschild
1935 Nominated Outstanding Production Les Misérables
1937 Nominated Outstanding Production In Old Chicago
1938 Nominated Outstanding Production Alexander's Ragtime Band
1940 Nominated Outstanding Production The Grapes of Wrath
1941 Won Outstanding Motion Picture How Green Was My Valley
1944 Nominated Outstanding Motion Picture Wilson
1946 Nominated Outstanding Motion Picture The Razor's Edge
1947 Won Outstanding Motion Picture Gentleman's Agreement
1949 Nominated Outstanding Motion Picture Twelve O'Clock High
1950 Won Outstanding Motion Picture All About Eve
1956 Nominated Best Picture The King and I ("Darryl F. Zanuck presents" is seen in the opening credits)
1962 Nominated Best Picture The Longest Day


  • In 1946, Zanuck said: "(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."[8]


  1. ^ a b c Per IMDb.
  2. ^ a b http://www.wahooschools.org/vnews/display.v/SEC/Wahoo's%20Famous%20Sons%3E%3EDarryl%20Zanuck
  3. ^ Gussow, Mel (September 1, 2002). "FILM; Darryl F. Zanuck, Action Hero of the Studio Era". The New York Times. Retrieved May 1, 2010. 
  4. ^ Maas, Frederica Sagor (1999). The Shocking Miss Pilgrim: A Writer in Early Hollywood. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky. pp. 44–45. ISBN 0-8131-2122-1. 
  5. ^ Ilias Chrissochoidis (ed.), Spyros P. Skouras, Memoirs (1893–1953) (Stanford, 2013), 104.
  6. ^ John Murray (2008). Charlotte Mosley, ed. In Tearing Haste: Letters Between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh-Fermor. 
  7. ^ Hift, Fred (September 1, 1994). "The Longest Day". Cigar Aficionado. Retrieved December 6, 2011. 
  8. ^ Biography for Darryl F. Zanuck at the Internet Movie Database

Further reading[edit]

  • Behlmer, Rudy (editor) (1993). Memo from Darryl F. Zanuck: The Golden Years at Twentieth Century-Fox. Grove. ISBN 0-8021-1540-3. 
  • Mosley, Leonard (1984). Zanuck: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood's Last Tycoon. Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-58538-6. 
  • Thackrey Jr., Thomas. (December 23, 1979). "Darryl F. Zanuck, Last of Movie Moguls, Dies at 77". Los Angeles Times, p. 1.
  • Chrissochoidis, Ilias (editor) (2013). The Cleopatra Files: Selected Documents from the Spyros P. Skouras Archive. Brave World. ISBN 978-0-61582-919-7.
  • Chrissochoidis, Ilias (ed.). CinemaScope: Selected Documents from the Spyros P. Skouras Archive. Brave World, 2013. ISBN 978-0-61589-880-3.

External links[edit]