Features and Columns · Movies

Darryl F. Zanuck and the Rise and Assimilation of 20th Century Fox

From CinemaScope to Murdoch to merging with the House of Mouse.
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By  · Published on February 25th, 2022

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores the history of 20th Century Fox studios.

As we move closer and closer to a future where the Walt Disney Company owns every single content creator, I find myself becoming especially nostalgic for that woebegone era when vying studios rose and fell like totemic giants. We’re now in a landscape that increasingly feels like a much duller and corporate version of The Blob (1958 or 1988, take your pick) rather than the highs and lows of big studios willing to risk it all to make it in Tinseltown. Am I being overly romantic? Maybe. But suffice to say: The world is a lot more interesting with a little competition.

Enter: 20th Century Fox, one of the former major film studios that inarguably defined the landscape of American cinema, on-screen and off. The result of a merger between Fox Studios and Twentieth Century Pictures, the company has now been engulfed and swallowed up by the ever-hungering gelatinous ooze that is the House of Mouse. Now, it is known as 20th Century Studios, a name that reflects the theatrical division’s divorce from the Rupert Murdoch helmed Fox Corporation. In case you haven’t picked up on it already, 20th Century Fox’s history is messy as hell. But then again, all good stories are.

Luckily for all you (messy, messy) film history lovers out there, the following video essay has cobbled together 20th Century Fox’s trials, tribulations, and victories to create a (pretty) brief historical account of the studio. Dispatched in the style of a film noir, the video essay charts everything from 20th Century Fox’s fascinating technological innovations (including CinemaScope) to box office saviors, corporate musical chairs, and more.

Side note: you know how that sing-song-y pattern that evangelical pastors, lawyers, and hypnotists use (it’s called “voice roll”) makes you especially susceptible/entranced? Well, it turns out that if you deliver Hollywood history in the style of a hardboiled private investigator, I will sit up straight and take notes. Something about the noir delivery makes me want to learn about film history. Bless this video essay for exploiting that for good. Now, without further ado, a (mostly) brief history of 20th Century Fox:

Watch “The History of 20th Century Fox”:

Who made this?

This video essay on the history of 20th Century Fox is by Filmmaker IQ is a YouTube channel disseminating all manner of film history and know-how. Their videos range from the highly technical (what to do if your green screen footage has something green in it) to the opinionated (are superhero movies destroying cinema?). Site-creator and director John P. Hess is our narrator. You can subscribe to Filmmaker IQ on YouTube here. And you can follow them on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).