Symptomatic Of A Sinking Fox?
Shallow Biz For Deep Waters (1948)
This was director Henry King's next for 20th after Captain From Castile. He'd again go on location, this time to
20th Fox was towed in a same hole by 1948 as the rest of a fraught industry. Even pictures made economically were bleeding red. Tightened measures had become policy after cost overruns made losers of otherwise big grossing Forever Amber and Captain From Castile. Zanuck was getting alarmist notes from Spyros Skouras with each mailbag. Skouras predicted collapse for the company unless Zanuck turned grim tide, which he darkly implied might put everyone out of work. A decision had been made to increase volume as well as reduce expense, so as "to keep studio overhead and distribution overhead in line with total picture costs and in line with worldwide film rentals." 20th would release twenty-one features in 1948, up from eighteen in 1947. There would be twenty-four in 1949. Average cost of a 1948 film was $1.870 million, according to Skouras. Deep Waters came in at $1.4 million, pretty thrifty for having been largely shot across the country.
Fox wasn't alone in its panic. Warners and Metro would do a same about-face, more releases for less money. WB reinstated a "B" program, and MGM hired Dore Schary to exert discipline he had learned at RKO. Zanuck would send memos to all staff warning them of dire consequence from waste. The movies would get cheaper, and look it. Compare any wartime-through-1947 Fox feature with those between 1948 and Cinemascope. A DFZ concern was "audiences ... outguessing the producers. They know all the answers. In most cases, they are way ahead of us, and thus most pictures seem formula and routine" (see p. 170-71 in Rudy Behlmer's Memo From Darryl F. Zanuck). Had the public simply grown tired of movies? Falling receipts suggested they had, and "volume" output from hidebound majors wasn't going to bring them back.
Close look at Deep Waters finds little to sell either then or now. It's clear
The Crowther pan revealed a wider discontent. Critics had long since mocked