Darryl Zanuck was an anomaly among Hollywood moguls, a studio head who rose from the ranks of writers and producers and never lost his respect for stories or screenwriters. 20th Century Fox: The First 50 Years
, a whirlwind tour through the studio that Zanuck built, never reveals much of the man but ably documents his achievements. Writer-director Kevin Burns, who has made a career chronicling the studio's fortunes, spotlights Fox's industry-shaking innovations--the sound-on-film Movietone process in the late 1920s and the widescreen CinemaScope process in the early 1950s--and dives into the crisis of Cleopatra
, which threatened to bankrupt the studio. It was saved by a little musical by the name of The Sound of Music
. To illustrate the studio's early foray into TV production, he unearths extremely rare clips of telefilm remakes of Fox classics Laura
(starring Robert Stack) and Miracle on 34th Street
(with Thomas Mitchell). The balance of the portrait is an infomercial for the studio's greatest hits, a montage of classic film clips only intermittently spiced with interviews and behind-the-scenes glimpses. Narrated by James Coburn, this documentary is an entertaining look at the changing face of Hollywood and the changing fortunes of its classiest studio. Though rarely as probing as it could be, it's pleasantly informative. --Sean Axmaker
Step inside the Hollywood dream factory! If you love movies, you won't want to miss this fascinating and fact-filled chronicle of the first 50 years of Twentieth Century Fox. Hosted by James Coburn, this look back at the birth of a major Hollywood movie studio is packed with 129 minutes worth of clips from over 120 films, revealing interviews, archival footage and fascinating film outtakes. You'll witness the boom times and the hard times. The unforgettable stars and stories. The trend-setting innovations and behind-the-scenes moments. They're here to enjoy as Shirley Temple, Tyrone Power, Betty Grable, Henry Fonda, Marilyn Monroe and more great stars shine...as beloved classics (The Grapes of Wrath, Miracle on 34th Street), musicals (The Sound of Music, Oklahoma!) and little gems (Charlie Chan at the Opera) shape legends and lore...as studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck builds an unforgettable Hollywood dream factory. They're all here. For a movie fan, they're all a dream come true.