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Zinnemann a Director for All Seasons

Video: Many of the best works by the director, from 'High Noon' to 'From Here to Eternity' are available for home viewing.

March 18, 1997|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fred Zinnemann seemed almost incapable of directing a bad film. The winner of three Oscars, he also directed several actors to Academy Award-winning performances. Here's a look at some of his films on video.

One of Zinnemann's first major films was the exciting 1944 World War II thriller "The Seventh Cross" (MGM/UA, $20). Spencer Tracy and Hume Cronyn (who received a supporting actor nomination) star in this tale of seven men who escape from a German concentration camp. The movie marked Jessica Tandy's film debut.

Zinnemann directed Montgomery Clift to his first best actor nomination in 1948's "The Search" (MGM/UA, $20), a gripping drama about an American soldier stationed in post-World War II Berlin who befriends a 9-year-old amnesiac (Ivan Jandl) and attempts to find the boy's family.

Marlon Brando, fresh from his success on Broadway in "A Streetcar Named Desire," made his film debut under Zinnemann's guiding hand in the 1950 drama "The Men" (Republic, $20). Brando gives a subtle, touching performance as a paraplegic World War II vet who falls into a deep depression.

Zinnemann's 1952 "High Noon" (Republic, $20) is considered one of the best westerns ever made. Gary Cooper, who won the best actor Oscar, gives a taut, spare performance as a heroic town marshal forced to face four killers alone.

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Zinnemann won his first best director Oscar for 1953's "From Here to Eternity" (Columbia TriStar, $20), a complex adaptation of James Jones' novel set in Honolulu just before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The director decided to try his hand at a musical with mixed results with 1955's "Oklahoma!" (Fox, $20). Shirley Jones and Gordon McRae star in this lavish adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical. It's entertaining, but is not up to Zinnemann's usual standards.

Audrey Hepburn is luminous in Zinnemann's 1959 drama "The Nun's Story" (Warner, $20). She received an Oscar nomination as a young Belgian nun who serves as a nurse in the Congo and eventually leaves the convent.

Zinnemann's 1960 film "The Sundowners" (Warner, $15) is a highly enjoyable tale of an Irish family of sheepherders working in Australia in the 1920s, which was nominated for numerous Oscars including best film and best director.

In 1966, Zinnemann won his second best director Oscar for the thought-provoking "A Man for All Seasons" (Columbia TriStar, $20). The historical drama traces the life of Sir Thomas More (Oscar-winning Paul Scofield), the chancellor of England, who runs into conflict with Henry VIII (Robert Shaw) when the Catholic king wants to divorce his wife so he can marry his mistress.

Zinnemann's "The Day of the Jackal" (MCA, $60) is a dazzling 1973 thriller based on Fredrick Forsyth's novel. Edward Fox is perfectly cast as the cold, efficient assassin hired to murder French President Charles DeGaulle.

Zinnemann was at the top of his form with 1977's "Julia" (Fox, $20), an exquisite adaptation of Lillian Hellman's fictional memoir "Pentimento." Jane Fonda stars as the famed writer; Vanessa Redgrave plays her childhood friend who ends up dying in World War II. Both Redgrave and Jason Robards, as Dashiell Hammett, won supporting Oscars.

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