Vienna-born Fred Zinnemann had childhood dreams of becoming a musician, and later planned on a law career, before his viewing of the movies of Erich Von Stroheim drew him into the movie business, initially as a cameraman. He came to the United States in 1929, and later found work as an editor, and subsequently as an assistant to documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty, and then as an assistant to choreographer Busby Berkeley. He joined MGM in the late '30s as a director of comedy shorts, and won an Academy award for his 1938 short subject That Mothers Might Live. Zinnemann moved up to full-length features in 1941, but found little opportunity to work on anything but B-pictures until 1948, with The Search, a drama set in post-World War II Europe. He didn't really become a major recognized box-office name as a director, however, until 1952 when his Western drama High Noon, starring Gary Cooper, which had been perceived by most observers as headed for commercial disaster, became a monster box-office hit and a multi-Academy award nominee. Zinnemann's handling of From Here to Eternity solidified his reputation as one of Hollywood's most reliable hands at dealing with difficult screen material. Comfortable in most genres, Zinnemann subsequently excelled in musicals (Oklahoma!), adaptations of stage work (A Man for All Seasons, for which he won another Oscar), and thrillers (Day of the Jackal). Along with Billy Wilder, Zinnemann represented the most successful of expatriate European directors in Hollywood.
by Bruce Eder biography