Producer Richard Zanuck Dies At 77

By: CBS News, Posted by Chelsey Moran
By: CBS News, Posted by Chelsey Moran

(AP) LOS ANGELES Film producer Richard Zanuck, who won the best picture Oscar for "Driving Miss Daisy" and was involved in such blockbuster films as "Jaws" and "The Sting" after his father, Hollywood mogul Darryl F. Zanuck, fired him from 20th Century Fox, died Friday. He was 77.

Zanuck's publicist says he died of a heart attack at his Beverly Hills home.

Zanuck's run of successes as an independent producer rivaled the achievements of his legendary father who reigned over 20th Century Fox from the 1930s until age and changing audience tastes brought him down.

The production company the younger Zanuck founded with David Brown produced "The Sting" in 1973, as well as Steven Spielberg's first feature film, "The Sugarland Express," in 1974 and Spielberg's first blockbuster, "Jaws," in 1975. "The Sting" also won the best movie Oscar, although Zanuck and Brown were not listed as its producers. "Jaws'' was nominated for best picture, as was the Zanuck-produced "The Verdict."

"In 1974, Dick Zanuck and I sat in a boat off Martha's Vineyard and watched the mechanical shark sink to the bottom of the sea," Spielberg recalled in a statement Friday. "Dick turned to me and smiled. 'Gee, I sure hope that's not a sign.' That moment forged a bond between us that lasted nearly 40 years. He taught me everything I know about producing. He was one of the most honorable and loyal men of our profession and he fought tooth and nail for his directors."'

Zanuck most recently produced the big-screen adaptation of the cult classic TV series "Dark Shadows," directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp, which was released by Warner Bros. in May.

The contrasts between Richard and Darryl Zanuck were many and led to father-son clashes throughout their respective careers.

Richard Zanuck was reserved, soft-spoken and friendly with directors, writers and actors, and he liked to operate from behind his desk.

His authoritarian father, on the other hand, paced his office, issuing orders in a squeaky voice and sometimes wielding a polo mallet (in his early years he had played polo with other Hollywood figures). He would reach decisions quickly, and once he did they became studio law.

But after decades of success, the studio began to flounder under his rein in the 1960s when the big-budget movie musical era died and several films failed to earn their money back.

Under pressure from the board of directors, he fired his son in 1970 in an effort to save his own job, but the maneuver failed and he soon followed him out the door.

The dismissal shattered the younger Zanuck, and it was not until shortly before Darryl Zanuck's death in 1979 that the pair resolved their differences.

Richard Darryl Zanuck was born in 1934, the third child and only son of the mercurial mogul and his wife, former actress Virginia Fox Zanuck. His mother had appeared in several Buster Keaton shorts in the years before her marriage to the elder Zanuck in 1924.

As a student at a military school and later at Stanford University, he had worked summers at the studio in various departments, including editing and story. After graduation, he became a special assistant to his father.

Richard Zanuck's first wife was actress Lili Gentle and the couple had two daughters, Virginia and Janet. His second wife was also an actress, Linda Harrison, and they had two sons, Harrison and Dean. Both marriages ended in divorce.


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