David Brown

David Brown married Helen Gurley Brown in 1959. Together they created the format for what became Cosmopolitan magazine, which Helen edited. (Los Angeles Times)

David Brown, the former 20th Century Fox executive who partnered with Richard Zanuck in the early 1970s and produced the blockbuster hit "Jaws," as well as "The Verdict" and "Cocoon" before launching a solo career as a film and theatrical producer, has died. He was 93.

Brown, the husband of former Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown, died Monday at his home in New York City after a long illness, said Donna Lagani, senior vice president and publishing director of Cosmopolitan.

As half of the Zanuck-Brown film producing team in the 1970s and '80s, Brown's other credits include films such as "The Sugarland Express" ( Steven Spielberg's first theatrical feature), "The Girl from Petrovka," "The Island" and "Neighbors."

Zanuck and Brown also were executive producers of "The Eiger Sanction," "MacArthur" and "The Sting," the 1973 film that won the best picture Oscar for producers Tony Bill and Michael and Julia Phillips.

Shortly before amicably splitting with Zanuck in 1988, Brown reportedly acquired the film rights to "Driving Miss Daisy" for the partnership, and he was executive producer on the 1989 film, which won the best picture Oscar for producers Zanuck and Lili Fini Zanuck.

Among Brown's later film credits as a producer are "The Player," "A Few Good Men," "Angela's Ashes," "Deep Impact" and "Chocolat."

In 1991, Brown and Zanuck jointly received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The award, which is voted on by the academy's board of governors, is presented to "creative producers whose body of work reflects a consistently high quality of motion picture production."

Two years later, they received the David O. Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award from the Producers Guild of America.

Brown's reaction to the lifetime achievement award, he told Daily Variety, "is one of total joy and gratitude for being able to spend a lifetime in the film world" -- not that he was "suggesting the lifetime has been spent. I'm busier now than when I was 30, so I take this as a mid-lifetime achievement award."

He was 76 at the time and still working.

A onetime journalist, Brown was managing editor of the old Cosmopolitan magazine in New York City in late 1951 when he was offered the job as head of the story department at 20th Century Fox, then presided over by studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck, Richard Zanuck's father.

Over the years, Brown earned a reputation in Hollywood for being what Spielberg has called "as classy a gentleman as has ever graced the behind-the-scenes."

Director Ron Howard told Variety in 1998 that, as a producer, Brown was "less the wheeler-dealer than the great judge of content. He knows that story drives everything. He loves writing, and he know what ideas will translate and what won't."

In an interview with Variety the same year, Brown explained that "I come by my interest in the written word almost genetically. I was reading the New York Times at age 5."

Born in New York City on July 28, 1916, Brown graduated from Stanford University in 1936 and from Columbia University's school of journalism in 1937.

That summer, he became the second-string drama critic and night editor for Women's Wear Daily.

He later teamed with future screenwriter Ernest Lehman writing freelance magazine articles, horoscopes for subway scales and vending machines, and ghost-writing radio comedy material for Eddie Cantor.

He also worked as nonfiction editor for Liberty magazine before he was drafted into the Army in 1943.

After serving as a first lieutenant in the psychological warfare section of military intelligence during World War II, he returned to Liberty, where he became fiction editor. The job "taught me how to evaluate fiction -- a skill that later got me a job in Hollywood," he wrote in his 1990 memoir "Let Me Entertain You."