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Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck in his office circa 1940.
Born Darryl Francis Zanuck
September 5, 1902(1902-09-05)
Wahoo, Nebraska
Died December 22, 1979 (aged 77)
Palm Springs, California
Years active 1922 - 1970
Spouse(s) Virginia Fox (1924-1956)

Darryl Francis Zanuck (September 5, 1902 – December 22, 1979) was an American producer, writer, actor, director, and studio executive who played a major part in the Hollywood studio system as one of its longest survivors (the length of his career being rivalled only by that of Adolph Zukor).


Early life

Zanuck was born in Wahoo, Nebraska, the son of Louise (née Torpin) and Frank Zanuck, who owned and operated the Grand Hotel in Wahoo.[1] Zanuck was of part Swiss descent[1] and was raised a Protestant.[2] At six, Zanuck and his mother moved to Los Angeles, where the better climate could improve her poor health. At eight, he found his first movie job as an extra, but his disapproving father recalled him back to Nebraska. In 1923, despite being sixteen, he deceived a recruiter and joined the United States Army and served in France with the Nebraska National Guard. Returning to the U.S., he worked in many part-time jobs while he tried to find work as a writer. He managed to find work producing movie plots, selling his first story in 1922 to William Russell and his second to Irving Thalberg. He then worked for Mack Sennett and took that experience to Warner Bros. where he wrote stories for Rin Tin Tin and under a number of pseudonyms wrote over forty scripts from 1924-1929. He moved into management in 1929 and became head of production in 1931.

Studio head

In 1933 he left Warners to found 20th Century Films with Joseph Schenck and William Goetz, releasing their material through United Artists. In 1935 they bought out Fox studios to become 20th Century Fox. Zanuck was vice-president of this new studio and took an interventionist approach, closely involved in editing and producing. During the war he worked for the Army.

As with so many other moguls, extramarital encounters were a daily ritual with Zanuck. In his 1984 biography of Zanuck, Leonard Mosley claimed headquarters would shut down every afternoon between 4:00 and 4:30pm for Zanuck's 'amorous' activities. According to dozens of Zanuck's contemporaries, employees, and the women themselves, every single day at four some beautiful young girl on the lot was led into his office like a Christian to the lions. If they denied him their careers were doomed.

In the 1950s, he withdrew from the studio to concentrate on independent producing in Europe. He left his wife, Virginia Fox Zanuck, in 1956 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, Irina Demick and Geneviève Gilles, and several movies he produced featured his girlfriend of moment, including the French singer Juliette Gréco.[3]

He returned to control of 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. He made his son Richard D. Zanuck head of production. He became involved in a power struggle with the board and his son from around 1969. In May 1971 Zanuck was finally forced from "his" studio.


He died of jaw cancer in Palm Springs, California at the age of 77, and was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in the Westwood Village section of Los Angeles, California.

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 has 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.

Academy Awards

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
1936 Nominated Outstanding Production Romeo and Juliet
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 Alexander's Ragtime Band
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
1962 Nominated Best Picture The Longest Day


  • On discovering actress Gene Tierney after appearing on Broadway in The Male Animal after her first film "undeniably the most beautiful actress in movie history."
  • 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."[4]

Further reading

  • Behlmer, Rudy (editor) (1993). Memo from Darryl F. Zanuck: The Golden Years at Twentieth Century-Fox. Grove. ISBN 0802115403. 
  • 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.


External links



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