Fred Zinnemann (1907–1997)Director | Assistant Director | Producer

Date of Birth 29 April 1907, Vienna, Austria-Hungary [now Austria]
Date of Death 14 March 1997, London, England, UK  (heart attack)
Birth Name Alfred Zinnemann
Height 5' 6½" (1.69 m)

Initially grew up wanting to be a violinist, but while at the University of Vienna decided to study law. While doing so, he became increasingly interested in American film and decided that was what he wanted to do. He became involved in European filmaking for a short time before going to America to study film.

Spouse (1)

Renee Bartlett (9 October 1936 - 14 March 1997) (his death) (1 child)

Awarded first annual John Huston Award for Artists Rights. [1994]
Father of film director-producer Tim Zinnemann.
Former father-in-law of Meg Tilly and Christine M. Walton.
He is widely credited with an incident known as "you first". The story goes that when Oscar winner Zinnemann sat down in a office for a meeting with a clueless young executive, the executive asked him to list what he had done in his career. Zinnemann humiliated the executive by reportedly answering, "Sure. You first.". Of this, Zinnemann said: "I've been trying to disown that story for years. It seems to me Billy Wilder told it to me about himself.".
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890- 1945". Pages 1238-1247. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
He directed the film debuts of Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando and Meryl Streep.
Directed 18 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Hume Cronyn, Montgomery Clift, Gary Cooper, Julie Harris, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Anthony Franciosa, Audrey Hepburn, Glynis Johns, Paul Scofield, Robert Shaw, Wendy Hiller, Jason Robards, Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda and Maximilian Schell. Cooper, Redgrave, Robards, Sinatra, Reed and Scofield won Oscars for their performances in one of Zinneman's movies. Additionally, Ivan Jandl received a Juvenile Awards for is performance in Zinneman's The Search (1948).
Is portrayed by Bruce Gray in Sinatra (1992) and by Walker Edmiston in Grace Kelly (1983)
Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1961
Is portrayed by Peter James Haworth in Hollywoodland (2006).
His father was an Austrian Jewish doctor.
Became a naturalized US citizen in 1936.
After abandoning his law studies at the University of Vienna, he was trained to be a cinematographer at the École Technique de Photographie in Paris (1927).
He was made a Fellow of the British Film Institute in recognition of his outstanding contribution to film culture.
His main influence as a director was famed documentarian Robert J. Flaherty who made a huge impression on the young Zinnemann when he acted as assistant director to Flaherty on an early 1930s project that was ultimately abandoned.
His first big-budget film was The Seventh Cross (1944), starring Spencer Tracy. The two men admired each other, but did not get on very well. A dozen or so years later, Zinnemann was set to direct Tracy in The Old Man and the Sea (1958), but they disagreed bitterly over Zinnemann's plan to make as much of the film as possible at sea and in a real fishing-boat. Zinnemann began filming second-unit footage of the ocean and fish with cameraman Floyd Crosby, but then left the project, and John Sturges replaced him as director. Some of his footage was in the final film, however.
In 1963, it was announced that he would make a large-scale film for Twentieth Century Fox entitled "The Day Custer Fell", about the battle of Little Big Horn. The film, scripted by Wendell Mayes, was due to be made in Todd-AO on a budget of 18 million dollars, a huge sum then. Fox had recently had enormous problems with Cleopatra (1963) and was reluctant to spend so much money quite so soon after that film, and Zinnemann also worried them by saying that he had planned not to use any big stars - although Fox had suggested an all-star cast along the lines of its recent hit, The Longest Day (1962). When Zinnemann's current movie, Behold a Pale Horse (1964) proved to be a critical and financial flop, the Custer project was quietly postponed, and Zinnemann instead made A Man for All Seasons (1966). This proved to be a huge success and an Oscar-winner, so the Custer movie plan was briefly revived in 1967, but it was still thought to be too expensive, and Fox executives were opposed to Zinnemann's desire to hire Japanese star Toshiro Mifune for the role of Sitting Bull. The announcement that a cheap version of the story was being made in Spain - this was Custer of the West (1967), starring Robert Shaw - led to the cancellation of the film.
Zinneman was promoted from directing shorts at MGM to features when his boss Jack Chertok graduated into a producer for the studio. Their first film was Kid Glove Killer (1942).
Zinneman's first Hollywood job was as an extra in All Quiet on the Western Front (1930).
The Member of the Wedding (1952) is the director's personal favorite of his own films. His favourite individual scene is Sir Thomas More's goodbye to his wife and daughter in A Man for All Seasons (1966).
Zinneman's greatest disappointment as a director was the cancellation of "Man's Fate," adapted from the Andre Malraux novel, about a week before cameras were set to roll. All the sets were built, $4 million had been already spent, and the cast (Peter Finch, Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, David Niven) had rehearsed a week to ten days in costume. James Aubrey had just taken over MGM in November 1969 when he pulled the plug. It was the studio's third corporate change in as many months. Zinneman bitterly remarked that it was "a shattering experience that took 4 1/2 years out of my life." The director had invested three years in preparation and over a year involved with the acrimonious lawsuit that followed.
Among the projects that Zinneman was attached to but didn't do were The Clock (1945), _Hawaii_, The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), The Old Man and the Sea (1958), and Custer of the West (1967). He also worked on "Abelard and Heloise" and "Man's Fate," neither of each was made.
According to Zinneman he was inspired to be a director by four films: Greed (1924), Battleship Potemkin (1925), The Big Parade (1925) and The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928).
He directed two Best Picture Academy Award winners: From Here to Eternity (1953) and A Man for All Seasons (1966).