On this Day in Movie History, July 13, 2012: Producer Richard D. Zanuck Dies at 77

A spokesperson for his production company, The Zanuck Company, Richard D. Zanuck, the producer of “Jaws” and “Driving Miss Daisy,” died Friday in Los Angeles. The cause of death was a heart attack. He was 77.

The son of famed 20th Century Fox head Daryl F. Zanuck, he made his own indelible mark on the movie business by championing a young director named Steven Spielberg–a then unknown. Together their adaptation of Peter Benchley’s pulpy novel Jaws about a killer shark terrorizing a beach town would usher in a new era of summer blockbusters. As an independent producer, he remained a major boaster of top shelf directing talent.

As befitting a son of Hollywood royalty (his mother was actress Virginia Hill), Zanuck made a big splash in the movie business almost immediately after graduating from Stanford University and serving as an army lieutenant. He joined his father as a story and production assistant on two 20th Century Fox films, “Island in the Sun” and “The Sun Also Rises.”

At 24, he made his debut as a full-fledged producer with the dramatization of the Leopold and Loeb murder trial. The feature film “Compulsion,” won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for the ensemble work of its stars Orson Welles, Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman.

As head of his own production entity, The Zanuck Company, Zanuck remained active in the movie business, producing this summer’s box office misfire “Dark Shadows,” an adaptation of the 1960’s soap opera that failed to connect with audiences.

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1928 – Bob (Robert Edward) Crane (actor: Hogan’s Heroes, Return to Peyton Place, Super Dad; DJ: KNX [LA]; found murdered in his hotel room in Scottsdale, AZ June 29, 1978)

1940 – Patrick Stewart (actor: Star Trek: The Next Generation [series], Gunmen, Excalibur, L.A. Story, Conspiracy Theory, X-Men)

1941 – Robert Forster (actor: Cover Story, Diplomatic Immunity, Delta Force, Standing Tall, The Death Squad, Medium Cool, Reflections in a Golden Eye, Banyon, Nakia)

1942 – Harrison Ford (actor: The Fugitive, Clear and Present Danger, Presumed Innocent, Indiana Jones series, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Star Wars, Apocalypse Now, American Graffiti, Sabrina, The Devil’s Own, Air Force One, Six Days Seven Nights, Random Hearts)

1946 – (Richard) Cheech Marin (Cheech of Cheech and Chong; comedic actor: Desperado, Far Out Man, Born in East L.A., Rude Awakening, Nash Bridges, Judging Amy)

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