Hollywood Renegades Archive

The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers

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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 the distributor.

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 Pictures.



Allvine, pp. 149-154; Gomery, pp. 86-88, 178-179; Balio, pp. 118-130.

See Bibliography.


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