Saturday, September 5, 2015

Born Today September 5: Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck:  1902-1979

Yet another giant in the entertainment world (two in a role here), this time from deep inside the industry, pretty much the opposite of Artaud.  Zanuck became one of the faces of the studio era, but unlike others of his generation, he bounced from studio or production company to studio/production company during the duration of his career.  And, unlike many other studio bosses, he got his start from the bottom up and has as many credits for writing as he does for producer (even 3 ghost director credits--one in the silent era--and a novel as well), the list here today will be long, with some very famous silents on it! He was also somewhat unique in the use of at least three aliases for his writing for film.  Not that the moving around in the oil slick was was the golden age of Hollywood, meant that he wielded any less power--in it's hey-day he was considered one of the kingpins of system.   He was one of the first studio directors to build up a "stable" of stars, including Shirley Temple.  This is the beginning of a system that came to benefit the big wigs and harm the actors.  His life after success was certainly not without controversy.  Zanuck was born Wahoo, Nebraska,  There are a couple of different versions of his early life; one stating that by the age of 13 he was abandoned by both parents, and at 15 he lied about his age in 1917 and joined the army.  Another that he moved to LA with his mother when he was six, and actually got his first job film as an extra when he was 8 (no credit or information available on the production--seems a bit questionable), but that he was recalled back to Nebraska by his father and escaped by lying about his age at 16 in 1918 (seems to me this might be cleared up in military records--they are better kept than people think);  He served in both the World Wars.  I will concern myself here with just the silent era of his career.  He spent his first years in Hollywood working with the likes of Syd Chaplin and Carl Laemmle, but most of his early work was done with Mack Sennett, creator of The Keystone Cops, where Zanuck was a sort of jack of all trades for Sennett's Keystone Co.  His earliest great break through, and first "actor" discovery (and he does, in my humble opinion, deserve credit for this, though many disagree) was not even a person:  Rin Tin Tin.  His role in the late silent era was much more in the camp of ushering in the talking era and less about advances in artistic expresses found in many late silents.  His writing credits alone are so numerous that it is head spin, so this clearly is not high art--to the extent it could be called "dime store stuff."  Vitaphone was his and his 1920's bosses thing--they certainly won the day, and added "pulp" to the film industry that quickly frustrated such greats as James Whale.   In 1925 comes his first producer (uncredited) credit, the rest, as they say, is history.  Zanuck died of cancer on 22 December 1979 at the age of 77.  His descendants continued to (and still do) make big marks on Hollywood.  He is the father of Richard D. Zanuck and grandfather of Harrison Zanuck and Dean Zanuck.  For more about his very long and varied career, see his Wikipedia page.  He is buried at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles. 


Find Your Man (1924) (Rin Tin Tin, his only known silent acting credit)

Writing Credits

Round Two (1922) (partially lost)

The Knight in Gale (1923) (Series Short)

Six Second Smith (1923) (Series Short)

Gall of the Wild (1923) (Series Short)

Judy Punch (1923) (Series Short)

A Lighthouse by the Sea (1924) (Rin Tin Tin feature)

Eve's Lover (1925) (lost film)

Tracked By The Police (1927) (Rin Tin Tin film)

The First Auto (1927) (Partial silent, Vitaphone sound)

The Desired Woman (1927) (directed by Michael Curtiz)

Ham And Eggs At The Front (1927) (this was a film that Zanuck had personal guilt about later in life and produced a number of well known films to counter stereotypes)

Tenderloin (1928) (partial silent, small speaking parts sound by Vitaphone, lost film, also has a production credit.)

Pay As You Enter (1928) (Vitaphone sound effects and music)

State Street Sadie (1928) (partial talkie, talking sequences by Vitaphone, lost film)

My Man (1928) (talking sequences by Vitaphone)

Harboiled Rose (1929) (partial silent, Vitaphone sequences)

Madonna Of Avenue A (1929) (early talkie, full sound by Vitaphone)

Say It With Songs (1929) (early talkie musical, Al Jolson film, full sound by Vitaphone)

Production Credits:

Old San Francisco (1927) (writer credit here, two version of film, one silent, one sound, with soundtrack and recorded sound effects.)

The Jazz Singer (1927) (he is uncredited here, several now documented production credits were first uncredited, but because this is such a giant in the silent world, I am making a note of it.)

Tenderloin 1928

The Terror (1928) (partial talkie, and partially lost, unfortunately, because it's a horror film--and features an early depiction of a serial killer--as such a horror fan, I'd love to hear that complete footage had been found!)

Noah's Ark (1928) (he also has an uncredited Director role in this film--his earliest, he also has a writing credit here )

On With The Show (1929) (early talkie, Vitaphone with a Western Electric Apparatus)

The Show Of Shows (1929) (early talkie with the same sound as above, John Barrymore film)

Production Manager:

Lights Of New York (1928) (extremely early talkie, often credited with being the first full sound film with full syncopation)

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