The Formation of Twentieth Century-Fox
Darryl F. Zanuck and Joseph M. Schenck: Twentieth Century Pictures and the
Independent Boom of the 1930s
Excerpt from Hollywood Renegades by J.A. Aberdeen
The modern day media titan known as Twentieth Century-Fox was formed out of
the 1935 merger of two important film companies. One was the Fox Film
Corporation that had its roots in William Fox's independent exchange that
opposed Edison's Motion Picture Patents monopoly in 1909. The other major
company was briefly one of the most prominent and promising independent
production companies of all time — Twentieth Century-Fox.
Joseph Schenck, the president of United Artists, cofounded Twentieth Century
Pictures with Darryl F. Zanuck, former head of production at the Warner Bros.
studio. Twentieth Century Pictures was organized in April 1933 as a showcase for
the talented 30-year-old producer who resigned from Warners after a salary
dispute earlier that year. Zanuck turned down several lucrative offers from
other studios in order to devote his efforts to producing quality movies on an
independent basis. Twentieth Century signed a distribution deal with United
Artists in July 1933, and quickly became the most prolific supplier of films for
Unfortunately the new independent took a detour straight into the major
studio camp when Zanuck became outraged by United Artists' refusal to reward
Twentieth Century with UA stock. Schenck, who had been a UA stockholder for over
ten years, resigned from United Artists in protest of the shoddy treatment of
Twentieth Century, and Zanuck began discussions with other distributors.
In May 1935, when Sidney Kent at Fox Film asked the independent producer to
lead the ailing Fox studio, Twentieth Century Pictures and Fox Film merged. The
independent company, barely two years old, received top billing; Kent remained
president, Schenck became chairman, and Zanuck found himself head-of-production
of the new Hollywood powerhouse—the Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation.
Even though Twentieth Century, one of the most high-profile independent
companies, had abandoned the independent movement, Darryl Zanuck's initial step
of leaving Warners to form his own company had a trigger effect on other studio
executives and creative personnel who desired to go independent. David O.
Selznick and Walter Wanger, both of whom had considerable production experience
at the two preeminent movie factories Paramount and MGM, became independent
producers. Walter Wanger left his production unit at MGM in 1934. The following
year David O. Selznick did the same with the formation of Selznick International
Allvine, pp. 149-154; Gomery, pp. 86-88, 178-179; Balio, pp.