William Fox

William Fox, born in Tulchva, Hungary in 1879,  dominated the movie industry of the 1920's. He began a leading production company and  he owned various movie theaters, both in America and abroad. This is impressive for a Hungarian immigrant who was formerly in the garment industry.

Fox's empire began, when he bought a nickelodeon and turned it into a chain if movie theaters. This did not prove as lucrative  an enterprise as Fox expected, so he began to form a production company. By 1915 Fox had a monopoly over film production and was strong-arming the movie industry. This was such a beautiful monopoly because Fox pictures made the films, and they were viewed in Fox-owned theaters.

Fox was most successful because he was a visionary. He saw a place for sound in the movies when other producers and production companies did not. Even during the Great Depression, Fox retrofitted over a thousand theaters with equipment to make this possible.

Fox's domination of the movie industry could not remain long before it attracted attention, jealousy, and a desire to make Fox and Fox Pictures tumble. Fox Pictures suffered anti-trust litigation, and William Fox went bankrupt. He could not tolerate such failure, and tried bribing a judge. He was sentenced to jail and died May 8, 1952.

From Encyclopedia Britannic Online

Original name WILHELM FRIED (b. Jan. 1, 1879, Tulchva, Hung.--d. May 8, 1952, New York, N.Y., U.S.), American motion-picture executive who built a multimillion-dollar empire controlling a large portion of the exhibition, distribution, and production of film facilities during the era of silent film.

Fox worked as a newsboy and in the fur and garment industry before investing in a Brooklyn nickelodeon. By 1913 he was one of the most powerful of the independent exhibitors and distributors and led their successful fight against the Motion Picture Patents Company, an attempted monopoly of the industry. In 1915 the Fox Film Corporation, the progenitor of the Twentieth Century-Fox studios, was formed.

Fox introduced organ accompaniment to the silent films shown in his theatres and pioneered in designing theatres for the comfort of the patrons. Through an adroit use of publicity, he developed Theda Bara into the first screen vamp and a star. He was also famous for the 1927 news series Movietone News, the first commercially successful sound film.

Because of the expense of converting 1,100 theatres to sound equipment and the economic crisis of the early 1930s, Fox's empire crumbled. He declared bankruptcy in 1936 and in 1942 served a term in prison for obstructing justice. For the remainder of his life he lived quietly in Long Island, New York.

Interesting Tidbit

William Fox is not to be confused with William Fox Talbot, a major contributor to modern photography.

Web Links

William Fox Filmography

Movie Posters of the 1920's and 1930's

Twentieth Century Fox

Silent Film Necrology

The Ultimate Directory of the Silent Screen Performers:
A Necrology of Births and Deaths and Essays on 50 Lost Players

The Mining Company's Classic Movies Site

The Balcony
Silent Movies
The Silent Majority
U.S. National Film Registry -- Titles
Early Motion Pictures Home Page
The Hollywood Blacklist
Cinema@The Muse
Past Times: The Nostalgia Entertainment Newsletter
Silver Screen Sirens
National Film Preservation Foundation
National Film Preservation Board (Library of Congress)
Society for the Preservation of Film Music

Related Books

William K Everson. American Silent Film. New York DA Capo/Plenum 1998

Robert Benne. Screening the Past: Film and the Representation. Westport Praeger 1998.

Robert Benne. Seeing is Believing: Visions of Life Through Film. Lanham University Press of America 1998.

William K. Everson. American Silent Film. New York Da Capa/Plenum 1998.

Gene Fernett. American Film Studios:  An Historical Encyclopedia. Jefferson North Carolina; McFarland & Company 1988.

Blair Miller. American Silent Film Comedies: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Persons, Studios, and Terminology. Jefferson, North Carolina; McFarland & Company 1995.

Related Videos

Harold Casselton and Ted Larson. Touring the Silent Studios: The Stars, The Directors, The Writers. Festival Films 1998.

Hollywood Mavericks: An American Institute Film Presentation. The American Film Institute; Worldvision Home video Incorporation 1990.

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