20th Century Mughal – Boulder Weekly

Scott Eyman has been collecting strings for 50 years. The author of over a dozen books on Hollywood history has a vast collection of research and interviews, not to mention connections to the right people. So when it came time for Eyman to write his book on the pandemic, the 20th Century-Fox story took on the most meaning. He had interviewed Richard Zanuck 25-30 years ago, had done extensive research on major Fox actors and films in his other books, and had access to the transcripts of the history lectures. Best of all, Eyman knew that Fox’s story had a defined beginning, middle, and end. And there was an ideal leader: Darryl F. Zanuck.

“The difference between the studio system and how Zanuck practiced it, and what followed, is permanence,” says Eyman. “Zanuck ran 20th Century-Fox for 30 years. Then he moved into independent production for six or seven years, then came back as chairman of the board for another six or seven years. So you’re talking about a race of almost 40 years, with 20th Century-Fox. So no one, other than Rupert Murdoch, has been running anything for 40 years. “

And it was Murdoch who was the last owner of the studio. The Australian-born media mogul bought Fox from Denver Oil Director Marvin Davis in 1985 for $ 575 million, then sold the studio and the majority of its assets to Disney in 2019 for $ 71.3 billion. .

But before all that there was William Fox, of Hungarian origin, who formed the Fox Film Corporation in 1915, and had an ego that even Murdoch would envy: “It is absurd to say that he is conceited,” wrote to then journalist Allene Talmey. . “It’s too puny a word. Megalomania afflicted with elephantiasis is the state of his self-esteem.

Twenty years later, Fox merged with the most successful independent studio of the time, 20th Century Pictures, led by Zanuck, to form 20th Century-Fox, with Zanuck in charge of a less than high-end studio.

“Its stars are Will Rogers and Shirley Temple and Warner Baxter,” Eyman says. “I didn’t have a lot to work with. And Will Rogers was killed six weeks after Zanuck took over the studio. It is therefore out of the equation. So [Zanuck] basically starts from scratch.

But Zanuck was a movie guy who cut his teeth at Warner Bros. “He found a way to make it work,” Eyman says. “And he didn’t plow the same lawn.”

Eyman devotes the majority of 20th Century-Fox: Darryl F. Zanuck and the Creation of the Modern Film Studio to Zanuck’s story, his ruthless conduct and “his intellectual plasticity.”

“It’s something amorphous, being a studio manager because it gives you a lot of leeway to define the work the way you want it to be,” says Eyman.

“On the one hand, these guys went into mass production. They made 30 films a year, 40 films a year, ”says Eyman. “It was a large menu of products that they put together. They didn’t release a single genre of film: they released love stories, they released black people, they released westerns, they released musicals, it was a pretty wide range of material.

And not only was the range of material wide, but so was the images. In 1953, to combat the loss of audiences switching from cinema to television, Zanuck adopted a new format of motion pictures, Cinemascope: a massive widescreen picture format that turned box movies into rectangle.

“So it brought the audience in and turned them away from the TV,” Eyman explains. “Because you had to give them what they couldn’t get for free on television… Which was the main problem because they lost almost 50% of their audience in six or seven years. Between 1946 and 1953.

And that wasn’t the only time Zanuck had to navigate the studio in troubled waters. Eyman’s 20th century fox is the story of a film studio run by moviegoers and filmmakers. It tells the story of Hollywood’s golden age and the not-so-golden behind-the-scenes activities. He explains how we got the movies we treasure and the inner workings of a company that is both fascinating and infuriating. But, more than anything, it shows that there never was, and never will be, a mogul like Darryl F. Zanuck.

ON THE BILL: 20th Century-Fox: Darryl F. Zanuck and the Creation of the Modern Film Studio is now available in a hardback version from Running Press / TCM.

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