20th Century-Fox: Darryl F. Zanuck and the Creation of the Modern Film Studio

Running Pr.: Perseus. (Turner Classic Movies). Sept. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9780762470938. $28. FILM
Film historian Eyman has written biographies of movie stars Cary Grant and John Wayne and MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer. His latest biography is not just of a man—famous and infamous 20th Century-Fox producer-mogul Darryl F. Zanuck—but of the movie studio he ran starting in the 1930s, when his independent company merged with the financially overextended Fox Studios. In chapters named after some of Fox’s films (including “Mark of Zanuck,” a cheeky play on Mark of Zorro), Eyman describes Zanuck’s iron reign over the studio through the 1950s, as the movie business faced competition from television; the hiccup when he decamped to Europe to pursue independent projects, essentially misbegotten vehicles for his mistresses; and Zanuck’s return, installation of his son Richard as second-in-command, and eventual ouster and decline. In between the Zanuck stories are snippets of movie critiques, tales of production foibles, some gossip, and a brief account of the men who followed in Zanuck’s footsteps and Disney’s 2019 acquisition of the company. Also included are many financial details, which might intrigue only CPAs.
VERDICT Eyman’s writing is vivid and succinct when he’s synopsizing movies, yet much of this book feels detached and secondhand. Mainly for die-hard “Golden Age” Hollywood fans and Zanuck completists.
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