Austrian-born US film director, responsible for a series of liberal, moralistic, social realist narratives centred on protagonists undergoing a crisis of conscience, who ultimately feel compelled to defend their beliefs. He received Academy Awards for From Here to Eternity (1953) and A Man for All Seasons (1966).
Zinnemann studied law at the University of Vienna, before opting for a career in film. He studied as a cameraman at the Ecole Technique du Photographie et de Cinématographie in Paris, France, and went on to work on several films in both France and Berlin, Germany. In Hollywood, he worked variously as an extra, editor, and assistant director, before making his directorial debut on the documentary Redes/The Wave (1934). He then directed a series of shorts for MGM, winning an Academy Award for That Mothers Might Live (1938). He moved on to feature-film direction in the 1940s with such films as The Seventh Cross (1947), starring Spencer Tracy, the co-Swiss production Die Gezeichneten/The Search (1948), and the taut noir thriller Act of Violence (1949).
Zinnemann proved himself an adept director of actors, working with some of the hottest new talent in 1950s Hollywood, among them Montgomery Clift and Marlon Brando. He often elicited some of the best work from his collaborators, as in Frank Sinatra's Academy Award-winning performance in From Here to Eternity. Zinnemann enjoyed his heyday in the 1950s, directing The Men (1950), the celebrated Western High Noon (1952), and A Nun's Story (1959), among several other critically acclaimed and commercially successful films. In his later years he based himself in London, England. Among his other works are The Member of the Wedding (1953), The Sundowners (1960), and Julia (1977).