Publish date:
Updated on

Richard Zanuck and David Brown join Warner Brothers

On this day in 1971, in the latest development in a Hollywood-style family feud, Warner Brothers announces that it has hired Richard Zanuck (son of Darryl F. Zanuck, chairman and chief executive officer of 20th Century Fox) and David Brown, both of whom were forced out at Fox in a tense shakeup in December 1970.

Darryl Zanuck had taken control of 20th Century Fox from its founder, his father-in-law William Fox, after it went bankrupt during the Great Depression. Richard Zanuck was just 28 years old when his father made him chief of production in 1962; he became the youngest studio chief in Hollywood history. In 1969, he was named Fox’s president. Notable films made under his stewardship were The Sound of Music (1965), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), M*A*S*H (1970) and The French Connection (1971). Things soon went downhill, however, as a series of high-budget films produced disappointing box-office returns, adding up to a reported deficit of $21.3 million for the first nine months of 1970. It was an open secret within the industry that the Zanucks had increasingly found themselves at odds, with tensions exacerbated by threats of a proxy fight from disgruntled Fox shareholders.

Press coverage of Richard Zanuck’s forced resignation (along with that of Brown, his executive vice president of creative operations) maintained that Darryl Zanuck had effectively allowed his son to be pushed out in order to preserve his own position at Fox, the company he had been guiding since 1935. By the time Darryl Zanuck died in 1979, he and his son had reconciled. As announced on March 1, 1971, Zanuck and Brown joined Warner Brothers as senior executive vice president and executive vice president of creative operations, respectively. They lasted only a short time in the positions, however, and in 1972 formed their own independent film production company. The following year, Zanuck and Brown produced the Oscar-winner The Sting, and they hit the jackpot in 1975 with the release of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (made in association with Universal Pictures), the first-ever movie to gross more than $100 million.

In 1990, two years after they dissolved their long partnership, Zanuck and Brown were jointly awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The award made Zanuck the only second-generation recipient of the award, which his father won in 1945. That same night, he and his wife, Lili Fini Zanuck, picked up the Best Picture Oscar for Driving Miss Daisy (1989), the debut offering from their new production company. Zanuck’s more recent films include Planet of the Apes (2001), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Sweeney Todd (2007).

For his part, Brown has continued to produce–including such films as A Few Good Men (1992), Kiss the Girls (1997) and Angela’s Ashes (1999)–and is also a journalist and author who has worked as the managing editor of Cosmopolitan magazine (his wife, Helen Gurley Brown, was editor-in-chief for more than 20 years) and an occasional contributor to The New Yorker.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!


Peace Corps established

On March 1, 1961, President John F. Kennedy issues Executive Order #10924, establishing the Peace Corps as a new agency within the Department of State. The same day, he sent a message to Congress asking for permanent funding for the agency, which would send trained American men more

Soviet probe crashes into Venus

Venera 3, a Soviet probe launched from Kazakhstan on November 15, 1965, collides with Venus, the second planet from the sun. Although Venera 3 failed in its mission to measure the Venusian atmosphere, it was the first unmanned spacecraft to reach the surface of another planet. more

Salem Witch Hunt begins

In Salem Village in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Sarah Goode, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba, an Indian slave from Barbados, are charged with the illegal practice of witchcraft. Later that day, Tituba, possibly under coercion, confessed to the crime, encouraging the authorities to more

Honda unveils new Civic

On this day in 2005, at an auto expo in Geneva, Switzerland, Honda debuts the Civic Concept, a five-door hatchback. The Japan-based automaker launched the first Civic in the early 1970s and the compact, affordably priced car went on to become a best-seller in the U.S. auto more

Lindbergh baby kidnapped

On this day in 1932, in a crime that captured the attention of the entire nation, Charles Lindbergh, Jr., the 20-month-old son of aviation hero Charles Lindbergh, is kidnapped from the family’s new mansion in Hopewell, New Jersey. Lindbergh, who became an international celebrity more

Clifford replaces McNamara

Clark Clifford replaces Robert McNamara as Secretary of Defense. McNamara, who had first taken office under President John F. Kennedy, left amid a debate over Vietnam policy precipitated by the Tet Offensive. In the summer of 1967, McNamara had become convinced that the United more

Bomb explodes in Capitol building

A bomb explodes in the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., causing an estimated $300,000 in damage but hurting no one. A group calling itself the “Weather Underground” claimed credit for the bombing, which was done in protest of the ongoing U.S.-supported Laos invasion. The more

Mickey Mantle retires

On March 1, 1969, New York Yankees center fielder Mickey Mantle announces his retirement from baseball. Mantle was an idol to millions, known for his remarkable power and speed and his everyman personality. While “The Mick” patrolled center field and batted clean-up between 1951 more

Yellowstone Park established

President Grant signs the bill creating the nation’s first national park at Yellowstone. Native Americans had lived and hunted in the region that would become Yellowstone for hundreds of years before the first Anglo explorers arrived. Abundant game and mountain streams teaming more

Trains buried by avalanche

Two trains are swept into a canyon by an avalanche in Wellington, Washington, on this day in 1910, killing 96 people. Due to the remote location of the disaster and the risk of further avalanches, efforts to rescue survivors and find the bodies of the dead were not completed more

Kennedy establishes Peace Corps

Newly elected President John F. Kennedy issues an executive order establishing the Peace Corps. It proved to be one of the most innovative and highly publicized Cold War programs set up by the United States. During the course of his campaign for the presidency in 1960, Kennedy more

Grant nominated for lieutenant general

On this day in 1864, President Abraham Lincoln nominates Ulysses S. Grant for the newly revived rank of lieutenant general. At the time, George Washington was the only other man to have held that rank. Winfield Scott also attained the title but by brevet only; he did not actually more