See R. Behmer, ed., Memo from Darryl F. Zanuck: The Golden Years at Twentieth Century-Fox (1993); biographies by M. Gussow (1971, repr. 1983), L. Mosley (1985), S. M. Silverman (1988), M. J. Harris (1989), and G. F. Custin (1997).
(born Sept. 5, 1902, Wahoo, Neb., U.S.—died Dec. 22, 1979, Palm Springs, Calif.) U.S. film producer and executive. He worked as a steelworker, garment factory foreman, and a professional boxer while pursuing his career as a writer, and in 1924 he was hired as a screenwriter for Warner Brothers. After writing scripts for more than 35 movies, he was made a producer. He promoted the conversion to sound by producing The Jazz Singer (1927). In 1933 he cofounded Twentieth Century Pictures, which soon merged with the Fox Film Corp. As the controlling executive of Twentieth Century-Fox, he produced films such as The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), and Viva Zapata! (1952). He resigned in 1956, but he returned as president in 1962 to effect the company's financial recovery with hits such as The Longest Day (1962), The Sound of Music (1965), and Patton (1970). He retired as chairman in 1971.
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Zanuck was born in Wahoo, Nebraska, the son of Louise Torpin and Frank Zanuck, a hotelier; his last name is of Dutch origin, and his father had Dutch and German ancestry. At six, he 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 1917, despite being fourteen, he deceived a recruiter and joined the United States Army and served with the Nebraska National Guard in France. 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 Brothers 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.
In 1933 he left Warners to found Twentieth Century Pictures with Joseph Schenck and William Goetz, releasing their material through United Artists. In 1935 they bought out Fox studios to become Twentieth 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.
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."
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 several movies he produced featured his girlfriend of moment, including the French singer Juliette Gréco.
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 filming of Cleopatra (1963) . 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.
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.