Darryl F. Zanuck

Is your surname Zanuck?

Research the Zanuck family

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Darryl Francis Zanuck

Birthplace: Wahoo, NE, United States
Death: December 22, 1979 (77)
Palm Springs, CA, United States (Pneumonia)
Place of Burial: Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Francis Henry "Frank" Zanuck and Sarah Louisa Torpin
Ex-husband of Virginia Fox
Father of Private; Susan Marie Hakim and Richard Darryl Zanuck

Managed by: Cecil Stuart Dana
Last Updated:
view all

Immediate Family

About Darryl F. 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). He earned three Academy Awards during his tenure.

Early life

Zanuck was born in Wahoo, Nebraska to Louise (née Torpin) and Frank Zanuck, who owned and operated a hotel in Wahoo. Zanuck was of part Swiss descent and was raised a Protestant. 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.

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.

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.

Zanuck was also a mason.

Studio head

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.[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 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, Bella Darvi, Irina Demick, and Geneviève Gilles, and several movies he produced featured his girlfriend of moment, including the French singer Juliette Gréco.

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.


A long-time cigar smoker, 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 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.

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



He said of actress Gene Tierney (whom he discovered after her Broadway appearance in The Male Animal) after her first film: she is "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."

view all

Darryl F. Zanuck's Timeline

September 5, 1902
Wahoo, NE, United States
August 30, 1933
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, United States
December 13, 1934
Los Angeles, CA, United States
December 22, 1979
Age 77
Palm Springs, CA, United States
December 22, 1979
Age 77
Westwood Memorial Park Plot: Section D, #173, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, United States