Richard Zanuck documentary: Entertaining

Oscar�-Winning Producer Richard D. Zanuck in new original

Oscar�-Winning Producer Richard D. Zanuck in new original documentary "Don't Say No Until I Finish Talking." (Credit: TCM)

DOCUMENTARY "Don't Say No Until I Finish Talking: The Story of Richard D. Zanuck"

WHEN | WHERE Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Turner Classic Movies

REASON TO WATCH Great movies, copious clips, big stars.


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WHAT IT'S ABOUT Richard D. Zanuck was a Hollywood prince who became king. Son of "golden age" 20th Century-Fox czar Darryl F. Zanuck, young Dick grew up surrounded by "all the magic and all the strangeness," as it's phrased by another show-biz kid, "Andy Griffith Show" actor-turned-movie director Ron Howard.

The pair collaborated on "Cocoon," one of the dozens of films touched upon in this loving salute, in which Dick Zanuck's life leaps from college sports to running the Fox studio at age 27. Which isn't to say he didn't deserve the gig. He would greenlight '60s titles from "Planet of the Apes" and "M*A*S*H" to "Valley of the Dolls," where he got to fire Judy Garland.

Anecdotes like that are as abundant here as classic clips. Most, however, emerge from Zanuck's post-deposement decades as a producer, ranging from "Jaws" to "The Sting" to six Tim Burton flicks, through last year's "Dark Shadows," just before Zanuck died of a heart attack at 77.

From the '50s to the '10s, seven decades of steady gems. And dad only had a little to do with it.

MY SAY Old-time Hollywood turned into something else entirely during Zanuck's show-biz reign, but you wouldn't necessarily get that from "Don't Say No." Executive producer Steven Spielberg knows all about the fall of the studio system, the '70s emergence of rebel auteurs and the movies' evolution toward blockbuster thrill ride. Guess he assumes everyone does, neglecting the broader arc that makes Zanuck's life truly epic.

This is a cuddly portrait, sketched mostly through Zanuck's own reminiscences. Even his films get short shrift, as a parade of pals, colleagues and relatives recounts what a great guy Dick was to know (sons and surfers love him) and work with (Spielberg, Howard, Clint Eastwood, William Friedkin, Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, various studio chiefs). All right, already. Understood.

If only "Don't Say No" had also lent due perspective to Zanuck's singular place in Hollywood history.

BOTTOM LINE Entertaining, but smaller than it ought to be.

GRADE B

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