Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl Zanuck, Producer & Executive. Wahoo,  NE.

Darryl Zanuck, Producer & Executive. Wahoo, NE.

Darryl Francis Zanuck (September 1902 – December 1979) was born in Wahoo, NE where he was raised until age six when his mother moved with him to Los Angeles, CA due to her poor health. 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. Zanuck 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 to 1929, moved into management in 1929, and became head of production in 1931.

In 1933, Zanuck left Warners to found 20th Century Films with Joseph Schenck and William Goetz, releasing their material through United Artists. In 1935, Schenck and Zanuck bought out Fox studios to become 20th Century Fox. Zanuck was president of this new studio and took an interventionist approach, closely involving himself in 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 Fox in 1944.

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.

After the success of The Longest Day (1962), Zanuck returned to run 20th Century-Fox; he promoted his son, Richard D. Zanuck, to head of production, then engineered his firing in a messy boardroom brawl. Within a few months, in May 1971, Zanuck himself was deposed. He was the last studio boss of his era to go down.