Fred Zinnemann

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Fred Zinnemann (born April 29, 1907 as Alfred Zinnemann in Rzeszów , Austria-Hungary , † March 14, 1997 in London ) was an Austrian - American film director .

Live and act

Fred Zinnemann, son of a doctor, was born in northeastern Austria-Hungary to a Jewish family and grew up in Vienna's 3rd district . In his youth he was close friends with the later Hollywood director Billy Wilder , with whom he sometimes went to the same class and stayed in contact for a lifetime. Zinnemann graduated from the Franz-Joseph- Gymnasium Stubenbastei in 1925 and, after initially being interested in musical training, began studying law .

In 1927, after strong resistance from his parents and relatives in Paris, he began training as a camera at the Ecole Technique de Photographie et de Cinématographie . Working in Berlin from 1928 , he was camera assistant in 1929 for a silent film with Marlene Dietrich . He completed his third camera assistant in the summer of 1929 for the film Menschen am Sonntag by Edgar G. Ulmer and Billy Wilder, "the soon-to-be famous outsider production by the Siodmak brothers".

Zinnemann left Germany in October 1929 and went to Hollywood . There he worked as an assistant director and short film director . He had an appearance as a minor actor in the feature film In the West Nothing New , but there was no acting career. Zinnemann first became assistant to the Austrian director Berthold Viertel and through him got to know Robert J. Flaherty . This gave Zinnemann an initial direction for the documentary film Netze (Redes) about the exploitation of Mexican fishermen. The film, on which the photographer Paul Strand participated, was made between 1934 and 1936. Zinnemann took American citizenship in 1936 and began working in the short film department of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in 1937 . For his third short film That Mothers Might Live about the Hungarian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis , he received his first Oscar in 1938 .

In the 1940s, after his first successes, Zinnemann was finally able to turn to the feature film. During the Second World War he was loaned by MGM to the producer Lazar Wechsler . During this time, among other things, The Drawn , which was awarded two Oscars. Zinnemann worked for MGM until 1948, after which he shot for various American studios. He later preserved his independence by producing his films himself.

In 1951 he shot the western classic Twelve Noon, perhaps his most famous film. The film received four Academy Awards in 1953 and earned Zinnemann the award for best director of the year from the New York Film Critics . The scene in The Godfather , in which a film producer finds the decapitated head of his favorite horse in his bed, is supposed to refer to a real incident in connection with a Zinnemann film project. Frank Sinatra , who sought and maintained close contacts to the American Cosa Nostra , is said to have been cast in a similar way for the film Damned in All Eternity in 1953 .

However, Zinnemann was not a typical Hollywood filmmaker. He spent only a fraction of his almost six decades-long career in Hollywood. Nevertheless, during this period he made it possible for later Hollywood stars such as Montgomery Clift , Marlon Brando , Grace Kelly , Rod Steiger , Meryl Streep to appear in his films. Zinnemann was awarded an Oscar five times, was nominated six more times and is considered one of the best directors of the 20th century.

Zinnemann died of a heart attack in London in 1997 at the age of 89. In 2008 Fred-Zinnemann-Platz in Vienna- Landstrasse (3rd district) was named after him.

Filmography (selection)




Academy Award (Oscar):

  • Awards:
    • 1939: Category: Best Short Film That Mothers Might Live
      • (The award was given to the MGM production company)
    • 1952: Category Best Documentary Short, Benjy
    • 1954: Category Best Director for Damned in All Eternity
    • 1967: Best Director for A Man in All Seasons category
    • 1967: Best film category (as producer) for A Man in All Seasons
  • Nominations:



Individual evidence

  1. Christoph Egger: Making a film means having to tell the truth In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung . April 26, 2007, p. 27 ( ).
  2. ^ Dieter Krusche, Jürgen Labenski : Reclams film guide. 7th edition, Stuttgart 1987, ISBN 3-15-010205-7 , p. 709.
  3. Michael Omasta in the weekly newspaper Falter . No. 17/2007, p. 67.
  4. Gina Galeta (compilation): Vienna 1967: reports from June 1967 (…) 8 June 1967: Gold medals of honor for Käthe Gold, Paula Wessely and Fred Zinnemann. In:, accessed on February 23, 2012.
  5. Three Viennese artists honored by the City of Vienna: Children, that was a year! In: Arbeiter-Zeitung . Vienna June 9, 1967, p. 12 ( - the open online archive - digitized).
  6. ^ Fred-Zinnemann-Platz - Vienna History Wiki. Retrieved November 13, 2019 .
  7. ^ Alfred Stalzer: 12 noon: Tribute to Fred Zinnemann. In:, November 2, 2009, accessed on February 23, 2012.


  1. "(...) 5th from (the now Polish) Rzeszow (not from Vienna, as can be read everywhere so far and as he himself always claimed!) Born Alfred 'Fred' Zinnemann (...)" - see: Kay Less : "In life, more is taken from you than given ..." Lexicon of filmmakers who emigrated from Germany and Austria 1933 to 1945. A general overview. 1st edition. Acabus-Verlag, Hamburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-86282-049-8 , p. 54, ( ).
    It was not until 1921/22 that Lehmann's General Apartment Gazette contained a
    Zinemann Oskar, Dr. total Heilk at the address Vienna, XIII ., Isbarygasse 14. From 1926 a tin man
    Oskar, Dr., doctor, III . Weyrg. 7, T. 95.890 . From 1927 there is no reference to Isbarygasse 14; the medical practice of Zinnemann sen. probably in the III. District have been relocated. From 1928 to 1931 (for Zinemann) the registration address Weyrgasse 9 appears for the first time, the residential address attributed to Fred Zinnemann in Viennese history. From 1932 onwards only Zinnemann Oskar, MDr., Priv. led to Weyrgasse 7; Oskar Zinnemann does not seem to have ordained at this time ; in 1933 he can no longer be found in Lehmann's medical directory of III. District. - see (as an introduction) page 1624 of Lehmann from 1921/22 ( ).

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