With Dick Zanuck’s sudden passing today at the age of 77 one of the last direct links of a still-active bigtime Hollywood player to the beginnings of the major studios is also gone. When he was hired in 1962 by his father, the legendary Darryl F. Zanuck (who, coincidentally also died at the age of 77 in 1979), to head production at Fox after the bloated production of Cleopatra nearly shut the place down, Dick Zanuck was only 28 years old, the youngest to have such a job since the earliest days of the studios . 8 years later financial troubles at the studio forced his father to fire him, but the makings of one of the producing greats was quite apparent.
My all-time favorite book about Hollywood, John Gregory Dunne’s The Studio published in 1968, had extraordinary access in chronicling the year 1967 in the life of 20th Century Fox and really gives you a warts-and-all understanding of who Dick Zanuck was personally and professionally, in success and failure, even then at such a young age. You can see how he was shaped as it was happening, and it’s a fascinating read or a must re-read for those thinking about Zanuck and his legacy today.
Near the end of the book Darryl Zanuck explains why he hired his son and the trust he put in him. As Dunne describes the conversation he writes you could hear the paternal pride. “I was put under terrific criticism when I sent Dick out to head … Read More »
The Cannes Classics lineup of films unspooling at the festival next month will include such names as Agnès Varda, John Boorman, Roman Polanski, Jerry Lewis, Alfred Hitchcock, Roberto Rossellini and Georges Lautner. The sidebar was created in 2004 to showcase restored prints of classic films and masterpieces of film history. Among the highlights are a restored and reconstructed print of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In America with 25 minutes of additional scenes. The screening will be attended by Robert De Niro, Elizabeth McGovern, Jennifer Connelly, producer Arnon Milchan and the Leone family. The restoration was funded by The Film Foundation and Gucci. Pathé is presenting a restored version of Roman Polanski’s Tess while Universal will present a restored print of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1927 silent film The Ring will also screen. David Lean’s Lawrence Of Arabia is also celebrating its 50th anniversary with a new restoration from Sony. Varda’s Cleo From 5 To 7 has a special screening and Georges Lautner will be honored with the screening of a restored version of 1964′s The Great Spy Chase. Documentaries on filmmaking Read More »
Universal this month is launching a yearlong 2012 centennial celebration with an ambitious and almost unprecedented film-restoration effort, a new logo, a swarm of special-edition Blu-ray movie packages, theme park celebrations emphasizing their film history, special events, premieres, and a major social media campaign. Like Paramount, which is also embarking on a centennial celebration, the emphasis here is making the old seem new again. Key among Universal’s plans is the complete restoration of 13 films that showcase a large part of the history of the studio — from 1930′s All Quiet On The Western Front to 1993′s Schindler’s List.
When I spoke with Universal president and COO Ron Meyer on Monday morning, his excitement about this opportunity to mark the studio’s storied past and take it into the future was evident. “One hundred years is such a great milestone,” he said. “I am a movie lover. It’s such an important part of the American culture, a part of the heritage of this country. I think we have a responsibility to our employees, to the public to celebrate not just a milestone but celebrate the movie business, and this gives us a reason to do it.” He emphasized the centerpiece of this yearlong effort: the restoration of many Universal classics each uniquely repping their own decades.
Films chosen to get the full restoration treatment — in addition to the aforementioned All’s Quiet and Schindler’s List — are both 1931 versions of Dracula, Frankenstein (1931), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Abbott and Costello’s Buck Privates (1941), Pillow Talk (1959), To Kill A Mockingbird (1962), The Birds (1963), The Sting (1973), Jaws (1975), and Out of Africa (1985). That’s actually 12 titles altogether, but there are 13 films since the studio is restoring both 1931 versions of Dracula — including Bela Lugosi’s famous English-language picture and the Spanish version that was filmed on the same sets at night. Pillow Talk repping the ’50s was one of Universal’s biggest hits ever to that time, earning an Original Screenplay Oscar and Doris Day’s only Oscar nomination. It seems an interesting and inspired choice to me, and to Meyer. “What a great movie,” he said. “I have four children who don’t know these movies. They don’t know a Doris Day movie or Rock Hudson movies. And they are going to enjoy them when they see them. Once they see it they can appreciate it. There’s no way for even 30-year olds to know some of those movies unless they are film buffs.” Read More »