Wednesday, January 1, 2014

William Fox, 1879-1952

Hungarian-born ethnic German immigrant Wilhelm Fried was born on this day in 1879. Like many Jews from that part of Europe, his family emigrated to New York, where Wilhelm eventually anglicized his name to William Fox. As William Fox, he eventually bought a nickelodeon, which he parlayed into a chain of early movie theaters, before in 1913 starting his own production company, unsurprisingly known as Fox Films, which of course exists to this day, although there have been several changes along the way thanks to mergers and acquisitions. William Fox himself wsa out of the movie business since the early 1930s, and therein lies what sounds like a very interesting story.

To make a long story short enough for a blog post, in 1929 Fox decided he was going to try to buy Loew's/MGM, which pretty much sent everybody in Hollywood to Washington to get the proposed acquisition declared either an antitrust violation, or not an antitrust violation, depending on which side you were on. Obviously, the acquisition never went ahead, that having to do in part with the stock market crash of October 1929, and in part to Fox's suffering a serious car accident. Fox himself lost a good deal of his fortune in the crash, which is what led to his getting pushed out of the studio that he founded, but which remained named for him.

Eventually, William Fox was forced to declare bankruptcy, and there's another story: Fox tried to bribe a judge as part of the bankruptcy proceedings, and wound up being sent to prison for perjury as a result. Fox was unlamented by the rest of Hollywood when he finally died in 1952, which is sad in a way, but considering how many enemies he must have made and how long he'd been out of Hollywood, I can understand why they wouldn't particularly care much about his passing.

Still, along with the Warner brothers, Carl Laemmle, Adolph Zukor, and the others, Fox deserves to be remembered for his pioneering role in the history of film after production left the New York area for California.

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