Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Twentieth Century-Fox

Twentieth Century-Fox: The Zanuck-Skouras Years, 19351965

Peter Lev
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Twentieth Century-Fox
    Book Description:

    When the Fox Film Corporation merged with Twentieth Century Pictures in 1935, the company posed little threat to industry juggernauts such as Paramount and MGM. In the years that followed however, guided by executives Darryl F. Zanuck and Spyros Skouras, it soon emerged as one of the most important studios. Though working from separate offices in New York and Los Angeles and often of two different minds, the two men navigated Twentieth Century-Fox through the trials of the World War II boom, the birth of television, the Hollywood Blacklist, and more to an era of exceptional success, which included what was then the highest grossing movie of all time,The Sound of Music.

    Twentieth Century-Foxis a comprehensive examination of the studio's transformation during the Zanuck-Skouras era. Instead of limiting his scope to the Hollywood production studio, Lev also delves into the corporate strategies, distribution models, government relations, and technological innovations that were the responsibilities of the New York headquarters. Moving chronologically, he examines the corporate history before analyzing individual films produced by Twentieth Century-Fox during that period. Drawn largely from original archival research,Twentieth Century-Foxoffers not only enlightening analyses and new insights into the films and the history of the company, but also affords the reader a unique perspective from which to view the evolution of the entire film industry.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-74448-6
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    My preparation for this project began about the year 2002, when I was writing a book on Hollywood in the 1950s. I noticed that among the studios Twentieth Century-Fox had the best story to tell—huge triumphs and failures, excellent films, extraordinary characters. With a little research I found that Twentieth Century-Fox’s first thirty years covered a great sweep of film history, from the Shirley Temple years to the World War II boom, the challenge of television, the Hollywood Blacklist, and the expensive and scandalous production ofCleopatra. Dozens of interesting characters were involved—the actors Tyrone Power, Betty Grable,...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Merger, 1935–1939
    (pp. 7-42)

    In the late 1920s William Fox, founder and president of the Fox Film Corporation, executed a daring plan to take over the American film industry. First, in 1927 Fox Film bought the Wesco Theaters chain, the leading chain in California and the states west of the Rocky Mountains. Wesco’s assets also included 20 percent of First National Pictures, a large Hollywood production studio that was owned by a consortium of exhibitors. Then in March 1929 Fox acquired a controlling interest in a major competitor, Loew’s Inc., which owned an East Coast theater chain as well as the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio. Loew’s was...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Wartime Prosperity, 1940–1945
    (pp. 43-101)

    By the first half of the 1940s, Twentieth Century-Fox had established itself as one of the three most powerful studios in Hollywood, along with MGM and Paramount; this was the same triumvirate that had dominated the late 1920s, except that William Fox was long gone and Fox Film had merged with Twentieth Century. At the Fox production studio Darryl Zanuck had assembled an impressive group of stars, with Gene Tierney, Betty Grable, Clifton Webb, Carmen Miranda, Linda Darnell, and others joining the already successful Tyrone Power, Alice Faye, Sonja Henie, Henry Fonda, and Don Ameche. Henry Hathaway, Elia Kazan, Otto...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Peak Achievements, 1946–1950
    (pp. 102-160)

    Fox’s profits were impressive in the immediate post–World War II period, continuing and even accelerating the wartime trend. In 1946 the studio earned a profit of $22.6 million, by far the largest figure in the young company’s history, and in 1947 profits were a still-robust $14 million.¹ Both returning servicemen and home-front workers had money to spend, and they were pouring money into first-run movie theaters. Also, foreign markets had opened up, which meant that older films, which had completed their North American runs, suddenly had new territories for distribution. Adjusting to the boom, Fox focused on A films,...

  8. CHAPTER 4 A Slow Decline, 1951–1960
    (pp. 161-227)

    The early 1950s were an anxious time for Twentieth Century-Fox. The film-going audience in the United States dropped about 10 percent in 1951; in 1952 attendance started strong, but in the fall it suddenly dropped another 10–20 percent. The split between Fox’s production and exhibition businesses was also looming, which meant that the company would soon lose a major chunk of its assets and revenue. Business as usual was not an option, and so Spyros Skouras in New York and Darryl Zanuck in Los Angeles both announced economy moves. Skouras in 1951 said that 130 Fox executives would take...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Bust and Boom, 1961–1965
    (pp. 228-266)

    when Buddy Adler died in mid-1960, he was not really replaced as head of production at Fox. Spyros Skouras named low-budget producer Robert Goldstein as the new head of production, but he kept most of the decision-making power for himself. Goldstein had done well as the head of Fox’s London production office, but that also meant he did not have a strong power base at the Los Angeles studio. Several months later, Skouras made Peter Levathesanotherhead of production for the company, but without removing Robert Goldstein from the job. Levathes’s background was in television, which might have proved...

  10. Epilogue, 1966–2011
    (pp. 267-276)

    The amazing mid-sixties revival of Twentieth Century-Fox continued for a few years. The studio was solidly profitable in 1966, 1967, and 1968, fuelled by hits such asThe Blue Max(1966),Our Man Flint(1966),Valley of the Dolls(1967), andPlanet of the Apes(1968) as well as the worldwide release ofThe Sound of Music. Fox television was in solid shape as well, with several hit series, includingBatman(1966–1968) and the small-screen version ofPeyton Place(1964–1969). However, there were danger signs, at least in retrospect; the cost per movie was rising alarmingly, and Fox...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 277-290)
  12. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 291-300)
  13. Index
    (pp. 301-314)