At the far end of a lobby-sized green-and-gold Hollywood office last week, a wiry, high-domed man gnawed a massive cigar, paced briskly back & forth, and spewed memoranda in a loud Midwestern twang. Occasionally, hypnotized by his own train of thought, he ducked briefly into an open anteroom behind his desk, to stalk an idea among the stuffed heads of a water hog and an antelope, the skins of a lion and a jaguar, the sawed-off feet of an elephant and a rhino. Working in relay, three stenographers dashed into the huge office to scribble notes, dashed out again to rush the words down through the hierarchy of the 20th Century-Fox Film Corp.
The memos ranged from a pep talk on meeting the threat of television ("Quality is the only answer") to a query on a line of dialogue ("Can we get by with the word 'louse'? I thought it was taboo"). One memo noted that the titles in a trailer for a new movie were a "trifle too lurid." Another instructed a producer shooting in London not to use fog in any more scenes, "as it is very uneven." Still another suggested putting a new writer on a story in preparation: "It would be a four-or five-week job at the most, but as long as we have such a wonderful plot, let's get a good writer." Studio executives would add the new memos to sheaves that already included orders on casting and admonitions about make-up and wardrobe tests (one actress wore too much lipstick, and another's bosom was "still too exaggerated").
His pale blue eyes hovering over everything from finances to falsies, Darryl F. Zanuck was warming up to another 18-hour day as production boss of 20th Century-Fox and pacesetter for the U.S. cinema. No longer the wonder boy who at 25 ran the Warner lot, Zanuck at 47 is something no less phenomenal. In 142 Ibs. and a carefully measured 5 ft. 6¾ in., he embodies what may be nature's ultimate effort to equip the species for outstanding success in Hollywood. Producer Zanuck is richly endowed with tough-mindedness, talent, an outsized ego, and a glutton's craving for hard work. These qualities, indulged with endless enthusiasm for a quarter-century, have not only sped him to the top but have somehow left him free of ulcers and in the pink of health.
Since the war, Zanuck's 20th Century-Fox has consistently led the field in the quality of its films, by the verdict of both the box office and the critics. Last year the company's 24 pictures, costing a total of $43 million, pulled in a gross of $94 millionbigger, Fox executives claim, than that of any other major studio in proportion to the number and cost of movies made. This year the studio is spending $45 million on 30 movies. As in the past, each of them, from story conferences to cutting room, will be shaped in large measurefor better or worseby the taste and imagination of Cinemogul Zanuck.