The heavyweight executive suffered a fatal cardiac arrest at his home in Beverly Hills this morning.
He was the son of famed 20th Century Fox head Darryl Zanuck and started his career there, working on the likes of The Sound of Music and The Chapman Report.
But after being made president of the company, he ended up being sacked by his father following a series of blunders, including the disastrous performance of 1967′s Dr Dolittle.
Richard revealed he had been raised as a member of silver screen royalty, rubbing shoulders with stars from a young age.
Even before he attended his first Oscars at the age of seven, he was being entertained by house guests such as Tyrone Power and Orson Welles.
He said: ‘I was practically born on Stage 5 at the studio.
‘As a young kid I had to be driven to the lot to sell Saturday Evening Posts.
‘Every summer through high school and college I worked in a different department (at Fox). So the studio to me was like a home.’
However it all ended in tears, as poor performers including Hello Dolly and Star helped sound the death knell of the Hollywood musical, crippled the studio financially and ultimately sealed doom in a boardroom coup in 1970.
His production partner David Brown, who died in 2010, said: ‘We were eliminated.
‘Dick was told by his father that he could’ve been spared, but that I, who was regarded as Dick’s Svengali, would have to go.
‘He said, “If David goes, I go.” That’s the way it’s been with us.’
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