Saul Zaentz started out in the music industry post his service in the Army during World War II. He worked with the Jazz at the Philharmonic which included him managing tours for such musicians as Duke Ellington and Stan Getz. He joined Fantasy Records in the mid-1950s and stayed there through the 1960s having discovered Creedence Clearwater Revival. Although CCR and Zaentz didn’t end on the best terms they did find a lot of success during their partnership. He went into movie production and found further success with some Oscar-winning titles you may be familiar with.
Here are the top films of World War II veteran and producer Saul Zaentz
1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Our favorite story of Jack Nicholson’s “trip” to the mental hospital which is a cover for his character to escape a crime he committed, but he meets the “lovable” Nurse Ratched during his stay. Well, he meets a lot of interesting characters, the nurse is well, the main antagonist, although Nicholson may bring a bit of it on himself with his character. It stars Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Will Sampson and Danny Devito with the film debut of Christopher Lloyd, great Scott!
The film is based on the book of the same name and earned five Oscars which include Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Nicholson), Best Actress (Fletcher) and Best Adapted Screenplay. This was the first of Zaentz’s Oscar wins of many more to come. Oh and it made $163.3M in the box on a budget of about $4M. Pretty nice ROI.
Amadeus is a film focused on the fictionalized story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart upon his leaving Salzburg. It covers a fictional rivalry between Mozart and Antonio Salieri, another famous composer, in the court of Emperor Joseph II. The movie is based on the 1979 stage play of the same name.
The movie stars F. Murray Abraham as Salieri and Tom Hulce as Mozart. Elizabeth Berridge, Cynthia Nixon and Jeffrey Jones (who’s still after Ferris) round out the top-notch cast. Both Abraham and Hulce were nominated for Oscars with F. Murray Abraham being the winner. It came out in early September 1984 and grossed $90M at the box office. It won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Best Sound, so just a few, whew.
3. The English Patient
Last but not least of Zaentz’s Oscar wins, The English Patient is based on the novel of the same name. It is about a man burned beyond recognition that speaks with an English accent and recalls his life in flashbacks. The flashbacks eventually reveal the true identity of the man and the love affair he was in before the war. The film is a highly fictionalized story about Laszlo Almasy a Hungarian aristocrat, aviator and explorer and a few more people of note. It stars Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe and Kristin Scott Thomas.
The movie garnered multiple Academy Awards such as Best Picture (here we go again), Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Binoche), Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original DramaticScore and Best Sound. Well, Zaentz did well with his team on this one. The movie’s budget was about $30M and it brought in $232M.
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