Review: '20th Century-Fox: Darryl F. Zanuck and the Creation of the Modern Film Studio' a Must For All Film Historians

by Bill Biss

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday September 30, 2021

To take over a hundred years of motion picture history and present this scope succinctly in just 266 pages is not an easy task. Yet, with "20th Century-Fox: Darryl F. Zanuck and the Creation of the Modern Film Studio," author Scott Eyman offers a sharp and focused look at one major studio and Darryl F. Zanuck, the man who truly masterminded its success. The scope of the book gives a vivid look at Zanuck: His origins, his drive, his ego and personality, and, most importantly, his vision and passion for good stories. He was a driving force behind crafting such stories into films of consistent quality.

The book is a veritable "Who's Who" of the creative forces behind his vision. From the writers, directors, producers, and stars of each era to the various changes in the industry, Eyman manages to zero in on the crucial elements. In doing so, he presents a portrait of Darryl F. Zanuck among the countless others who orbited within the business at the time. The changes in how motion pictures were made as silent films gave way to talking pictures, the effects of The Depression or World War II on movies, and the constant shift in public appeal with the advent of television are all part of the big picture that Eyman explores.

There are also revelations about Zanuck's stable of stars and the quality of box office they represented. For example, there were Shirley Temple, Alice Faye, Betty Grable, Tyrone Power, and Marilyn Monroe during the golden heydays of the 1930s through the 1950s. Each star is given their moment in the book, along with what worked to create the public's desire to see their films.

One of the most fascinating aspects of "20th Century-Fox: Darryl F. Zanuck and the Creation of the Modern Film Studio" is the fact that Darryl hired his own son, Richard, to be the head of production at the studio in the early 1960s. Richard Zanuck held this position for almost a decade. The relationship between father and son is at times brutal to uncover, and unlike many of the classic films at Fox it doesn't end on a positive note but with more of a "push." Yet, Richard Zanuck had film in his bloodline and a resolve to continue — quite successfully — in the medium during his lifetime.

There is not, in my estimation, a better way to describe the essence of Darryl F. Zanuck than Eyman accomplishes here, as he widens the lens on Zanuck's drives, vision, and personal philosophy of life, all of which lives on in the dreams of the cinema created under his dedicated and fantastical mind.


"20th Century-Fox: Darryl F. Zanuck and the Creation of the Modern Film Studio," by Scott Eyman, is available in hardcover from Running Press for $28.00.