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Fred Zinnemann (1907-1997) was born in Austria and raised in Vienna. Zinnemann studied law at the University of Vienna, then pursued studies at the École Technique de Photographie et de Cinématographie (Technical School for Cinematography) in Paris in 1927. For the next two years he worked as an assistant cameraman in Berlin, notably on "Menschen am Sonntag" ("People on Sunday") (1929). In the autumn of 1929 Zinnemann came to the United States, arriving in New York City at the dawn of the Depression. From there he traveled by bus to Los Angeles, where his first film job was as an extra in "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1930), followed by work as a production assistant for director Berthold Viertel. Through Viertel, Zinnemann met Robert Flaherty and became Flaherty's assistant in Berlin in 1931 for a proposed Russian documentary. Zinnemann returned to the United States in the summer of 1931, again assisting Viertel in New York and then Hollywood. In 1932 Zinnemann worked for Arthur Hornblow Jr. at United Artists (Samuel Goldwyn), first as a production assistant, then as a technical adviser. The opportunity to direct a feature took Zinnemann to Mexico in 1934 for the filming of "Redes" ("The Wave") (1937). Zinnemann returned to Hollywood in 1935 and continued working as an apprentice and journeyman, most notably for George Cukor as a production assistant on "Camille" (1936). A research job at MGM led to a directing job in the Shorts Department. Over a four-year period Zinnemann directed 18 short films, including several Pete Smith Specialties. With "Kid Glove Killer" (1942), Zinnemann made the transition to directing features. The semirealistic style of "The Search" (1948) and "The Men" (1950) brought him further recognition. Zinnemann's maturity as a director is evident in "High Noon" (1952). His other notable films include "From Here to Eternity" (1953), "Oklahoma!" (1955), and "The Nun's Story" (1959). In the 1960s Zinnemann began producing the films he directed, establishing his own production company, Highland Films. The pinnacle of his career, "A Man for All Seasons" (1966), was soon followed by the debacle of "Man's Fate" (unproduced). Zinnemann continued directing in the 1970s with "The Day of the Jackal" (1973) and "Julia" (1977). His last film was "Five Days One Summer" (1982). Zinnemann directed two Academy Award-winning short subjects: "That Mothers Might Live" (1938) and "Benjy" (1951). His seven nominations in the directing category include Academy Awards® for "From Here to Eternity" and "A Man for All Seasons" (he also received an Academy Award as the producer of that film when it won Best Picture). Zinnemann served on the Academy Board of Governors from June 1963 to May 1964.
The Fred Zinnemann papers span the years 1885-2001 (bulk 1950s-1980s) and encompass 93 linear feet of manuscripts, 17.5 linear feet of photographs and 36 artworks. The collection contains production files, television files, story material, correspondence, and subject files. Among the more than 20 productions represented are "Act of Violence" (1949), "Behold a Pale Horse" (1964), "The Day of the Jackal" (1973), "Five Days One Summer" (1982), "From Here to Eternity" (1953), "High Noon" (1952), "Julia" (1977), "A Man for All Seasons" (1966), "The Member of the Wedding" (1952), "The Men" (1950), "My Brother Talks to Horses" (1947), "The Nun's Story" (1959), "Oklahoma!" (1955), "The Search" (1948), and "The Sundowners" (1960). Zinnemann's shooting scripts (usually heavily annotated) exist for "The Day of the Jackal," "From Here to Eternity," "A Man for All Seasons," "The Member of the Wedding," "Oklahoma!," "The Seventh Cross" (1944), "The Sundowners," and "Teresa" (1951). Among the many other items of interest are a hand-drawn rifle by author Frederick Forsyth for "The Day of the Jackal"; Renee Zinnemann's script notes for "Jackal" (Renee Zinnemann was active in her husband's career and often contributed notes on script material or screenings); and voluminous publicity files for "Five Days One Summer." All 18 short films directed by Zinnemann for MGM are represented by scripts and production material. Titles range from "Friend Indeed" (1938) to "Kid Glove Killer" (1942). Many of the scripts contain Zinnemann's thumbnail storyboard pencil sketches. Two films with preproduction material, ultimately not directed by Zinnemann, include "Hawaii" (1966) and "The Old Man and the Sea" (1958). In the material for the latter are three handwritten letters from Ernest Hemingway. Other films of interest include "Benjy," "The Negro Sailor" (1945), "Off the Highway" (1962), and "Redes." More than 40 unrealized productions—many of which were under the auspices of Zinnemann's production company, Highland Films—are documented. "Man's Fate" is thoroughly chronicled by script material, casting, correspondence, and legal material ensuing from Zinnemann's lawsuit against MGM. (MGM backed out of the film just days before shooting was set to begin and refused to pay for preproduction expenses already incurred.) Other titles include "Abelard and Heloise" (for Universal), "The Dybbuk" (for Columbia and Warner Bros.), "The French Lieutenant's Woman" (for Paramount), and "The Last Secret" (for 20th Century-Fox). For "French Lieutenant's Woman" a final draft screenplay by Dennis Potter is heavily annotated by novelist John Fowles. Fowles states his reason for each suggested change in the margin. The television files contain files on "Markheim" (1956), along with several British documentaries about Zinnemann. The story material files contain correspondence and supplementary material compiled by or submitted to Zinnemann for consideration.
The correspondence files date from the mid-1940s; however, the bulk of the letters are from the 1960s to the 1990s, with each succeeding decade yielding more correspondence (carbon copies of Zinnemann's letters are present, particularly in the 1990s). Many of the files include only a handful of letters. Correspondents include Jon Cleary, Floyd Crosby, Norman Dyhrenfurth, Audrey Hepburn, Henwar Rodakiewicz, Han Suyin, Dan Taradash, and Gunther Von Fritsch. Zinnemann's business and financial affairs are illuminated in voluminous correspondence with his various personal managers, lawyers, and agents. The William Morris Agency file covers a 50-year span dating from 1939. Correspondence with Christopher Mann Ltd., first with Roger Burford in 1958 and then with Christopher Mann, Zinnemann's British agent/personal manager, covers Highland Films, various story properties, and financial and contractual matters. Likewise, correspondence with Alexander Tucker Business Management, Zinnemann's accountant, first with Alexander Tucker from 1965 to 1969 and then with Robert Morgan from 1969 to 1972, chronicles Zinnemann's business and personal financial affairs. Correspondence with Zinnemann's lawyer, Marvin B. Meyer, involves financial and contractual matters from the 1960s through the 1980s. Frequent correspondence with Sallie Turpin, the Zinnemanns' London secretary, entails professional and personal matters from 1967 to 1971. Family correspondence includes letters from wife Renee, son Tim, and brother George. Items of interest include a 1931 letter from Robert Flaherty introducing Zinnemann to Arthur Hornblow at United Artists and a 1949 typed thank-you letter from Montgomery Clift.
The subject files contain correspondence and clippings on various organizations and film festivals, along with biographical material on Zinnemann. Files on organizations in which Zinnemann participated include the Academy, the American Film Institute, the Artists Rights Foundation, the Directors Guild of America, and the Directors Guild of Great Britain. Causes that were important to him are included in the material; Zinnemann was particularly opposed to colorization, and there are voluminous correspondence and clippings on that subject. Biographical material includes Zinnemann's handwritten notes (in German) regarding his Greyhound bus trip from New York to Los Angeles, circa late 1929; a list of films viewed from 1923 to 1929 (categorized and rated); a notebook listing films seen from 1929 through 1936. "Fred Zinnemann—An Autobiography: A Life in the Movies" (1992) is thoroughly documented by correspondence and handwritten notes and photocopies of photographs that were potential candidates for inclusion in the book. Clippings—mostly political—show his interest in later years on topics ranging from Communism to Nazi war crimes. There are files regarding Zinnemann's activities with the Office of War Information (OWI) in the 1940s and civil defense in the 1950s.
Gift of Fred Zinnemann, 1984-1996, with additions from Tim Zinnemann, 1997-2004, and Linda Ayton, 2014.