Now that I can look back across the years, from the so-called vantage point of experience and two world wars, extensive travel and contact with many outstanding personalities, it gives me a great deal of reassurance to know that way down deep, the fundamental values I learned as a boy in a small town in Nebraska, stand me in good stead every day of my life. I have found one thing to be so very true—the virtues I learned as a boy are still fundamental virtues. My point of view has changed, of course, over the years, and so has that of my friends. But so much of all this change of viewpoint is like a small boy gazing at a hill on the plains of Nebraska. The hill remains the same; the small boy only sees it from another angle as he grows up.
I have always tried to walk completely around every hill I’ve encountered in life so that I could get a view from every angle. This, I think, reveals the difference between honesty and cynicism. When you see the hill from every angle, you have a much better chance of keeping life in focus. When you only see it from one angle, you run the very great danger of becoming cynical, which, to my way of thinking, is not only superficial, but poisonous.
Two of the fundamental virtues that have been such a great comfort to me in my life, from the days of my boyhood in Wahoo, Nebraska, until now, are loyalty and charity. There are other fundamentals I learned as a boy that go hand in hand with me every day of my life wherever I am, but these two—loyalty and charity—I think have played a larger part in my life than others. Loyalty is not only just a term; it has always been a way of life for me. I mean not only loyalty to my friends and family, but to the honest values on which our country was founded, and to me, this guidepost of loyalty of necessity means loyalty to one’s own self, which to me is a basic, essential honesty.
When I was growing up, I rebelled against so many things and fought against so many of the basic ideas of life, but I found after so much rebellion and walking completely around that hill on the Nebraska plains in my mind’s eye, that these virtues had not been tested over the centuries in vain.
Charity is another rule that has been of great comfort to me in so many trying situations. Charity is something you must learn. I’ve been very lucky in life because I’ve been in a position in life to give charity, and one should never expect any other reward from charity than the satisfaction it gives. When it is needed, there is such a desperate urgency about it that the recipient often does not have time to thank the giver. In talking about any charity, you must give from your heart, and any other type of giving is a terrible cheat on life itself. I think somewhere deep in the consciousness of things, such dishonesty is felt.
In walking around the hill on the plain each day of my life, the virtues I see, whether I am in London, Paris, Rome, Cairo, New York, Hollywood, or Wahoo, Nebraska, are always the same. I am grateful for those old-fashioned virtues that I learned as a boy in Nebraska, and I hope I will have enough humility always to be thankful I was born in a country that gave me this chance at life.
Darryl F. Zanuck started acting as a movie extra when he was eight years old. After World War I he returned to Hollywood to work as a scriptwriter and producer. A long-time executive for Twentieth Century-Fox studios, Zanuck won two best picture Oscars for “Gentleman’s Agreement" (1947) and “All About Eve" (1951).
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