Before I start, THANK YOU to hollywoodlegends.net friend Brandon Fox in NY for the photos! Secondly ... get it RIGHT News Corp!!
at the end of his life, Fox bragged, "no second of those contained in the twenty-four hours ever passed but that the name of William Fox was on the screen, being exhibited in some theatre in some part of the world." These days that is an understatement and goes without saying obviously. Out of every mogul in the industry - his company has stayed the truest to it's original roots..something I am sure has kept him smiling in his grave. That said however, I am fairly sure he wouldn't have THIS guy working for him! It needs to be noted that William Fox was a pivotal person in changing the whole filmmaking world, ultimatly freeing pioneers to establish a setting to make films the way they so choosed. If not for Fox, in my opinion, major studios would not exsist today due to the fact they could have never been established early on. He has a Hungarian Film Club in his honor...very cool!!
William Fox, was born Vilmos Fuchs, in Tulchva, Hungary on New Years day, 1879. His parents weren't filthy rich by any means...but lets just say they werent lacking either. Annyway.. Young Vilmos and parents immigrated from Hungary when he was 9 months old. Upon their arrival in the United States, they legally changed their name to Fox. As a boy, it seemed he was, as his teacher told it.."always in an odd fog." He was an outsider at school and didn't talk much. He made excellent grades in school, but the silent type, often alone. While quiet, he also had a determination that he was right and would fight his theory with anyone willing to test it...something that would prove difficult for his parents, but work to his advantage later in life. He was filled with, dreams, and the ability to make negotiations. His father drilled in him, the importance of stuffing money away and saving. At 10 - he became an errand boy for a wealty Brooklyn family and successfully argued his salery was too low. This would become Fox's forte. At age 11, the Fox family would move and settle here in Virgina. Fox was, even as a boy, conisidered a work-a-holic. Ironically, working and saving became a hobby of young Fox. (Ironically later in life, he was said to not wear a watch because his day was finished when quote.."his work was done.) He had sheer determination, and gave things full focus and attention to detail. Early in life, he would take rides with his father to the bank and his father would let him make the family deposits. Things might've turned out much different for him had fate not stepped in. He wanted to be a banker terribly...as recalled by his lifelong friend Ernie Thompson. He would go on to finally land a job as a newsboy and and furman (trading furs.) In 1900 .. he landed a job that would forever change his life. He was hired on broadway to run a projector. He was obsessed and quickly took on a new passion. On his twenty-first birthday, Fox married Eva Leo; they had two daughters.
By 1904, he bought his own small nickelodeon. He set out to be number one in Brooklyn. He quickly became very popular among townspeople. The popularity increased when he started hiring live acts to entertain the audience between movies. Fox was most successful because he was a visionary. From this nickelodeon, stemmed another, then another, then another..eventually totalling up to 9 nickelodeons in the New York area. Even today, his theaters still stand in most major cities. He saw a place for organs in theaters, which added to the drama of the film screening for his patrons. Other theaters didn't have these at first, only Fox Theaters. It was at this point that William decided he would purchase the items and begin to make his own films. It seemed like the perfect idea. They would be Fox made, Fox produced, and screened in Fox Theaters! He did have a problem, however. Fox knew Thomas Edison controlled all filmmaking and production from his patient of the invention the motion picture camera, and that Edison formed a trust in early 1900's. His trust sought to control the production, distribution, and exhibition of films on the basis of their possession of existing patents. Fox knew Edison's trust had been posing a problem for some of the top filmmakers, (the Warner's, Carl Laemmle (eventually founded Universal), and Louis B. Mayer (of MGM fame). While most filmmakers were moving far west as possible to get away from Edison's patients, Fox decided to fight them. He issued a court statement that read, Edison's monopoly over the filmming industry was an unlawful conspiracy in restraint of trade. While the litegation was proceeding, Fox was already forming what was to be his production company. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court who, in 1917, ruled in Fox's favor granting filmmakers everywhere, the right to brand their films as they wanted. The move also forced improvement in the quality of productions..and giving Fox the green-light to start his own film company (no spotlights or music in those days, just this picture before Fox Films.)
In what I am fairly surepissed Edison off even more... Fox rented this studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey (not far from Edison's studio), and created his first feature film, Life's Shop Window. It was a smash success in his theater among his patrons. With a newfound company, he christened it, "Fox Film Corporation", and hit the ground running making two more films at Fort Lee. During that time, Fox also served as chairman of the Theatrical American Red Cross drive and of the United War Work Campaign Fund drive. Although he was motivated by patriotism and goodwill, these activities also brought valuable publicity to his films. In 1919 Fox acquired a studio on Tenth Avenue in New York City where he produced dozens of pictures there on a comparatively large scale. After a small time there, he began to hear from other filmmakers who had moved out west to escape the pressure of Thomas Edison's patient controlling days. He had heard them all talk about how seasonal it was year round for making films there. Liking the idea more and more, he visited before commiting and found it to be just as his fellow filmmakers described. He returned to New York and immediatly relocated his studios to Sunset Studios in Hollywood, where he established a production unit around 1917. Fox showed imagination in selecting stories, film writers, directors, and players. His films & studio over the next 10 years were top notch!!
In 1927, Marcus Loew, financial cheif of rival studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer died, and he left all control of MGM to his longtime associate, Nicholas Schenck. Fox saw an opportunity to expand his empire, and in 1929, in a gesture of good faith, up-front made a cash advance in an attempt to purchase the Loew family's holdings in MGM from Schenck. This MAJORLY pissed MGM studio bosses Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg off. Mayer saw this as a theif in the night type deal. In 1928, Fox started the popular Fox Movietone Newsreels. These were brief excerpts of the nations news on the silver screen. Newsreels had been made popular by mogul Carl Laemmle (i love that man), and were so popular, some bought tickets to the playing film, just to see the news.
Fox continued to build theaters, now on a bigger scale ... and continued to thrive for a time, continuing to build upon his studio and make state-of-the art films under his own namesake studio. In mid-1929, Fox was in a bad automobile accident (that almost took his life) on his way home one night. Rumors began to circulate amongst insiders that Louis Mayer had arranged the crash however that has NEVER been validated. In any case, Fox was very, very badly injured in the accident. During Fox's time recovering in the hospital...Louis Mayer did set out to seek revenge. Mayer was head of the California Republican Comittee and used his political connections to persuade the Justice Department to sue Fox for violating federal antitrust law. This, combined with the car accident, & losing virtually all his stocks in the market crash, would take it's toll on Fox.
After the 1929 stock market crash almost every Hollywood studio was in financial trouble, and the Fox empire he built, gradually fell apart within a year. In 1930 Fox had no other choice but to file for bankruptcy and SADLY..sell his controlling interest in the production, distribution, and theater holdings in the United States and abroad for a reported $18 million. Ironically, (sure as HELL not by coincidink) Nicholas Schenck..(the man Fox paid a handsome amount to in an attempt to purchase Loew's stocks in MGM), had a younger brother named Joseph Schenck, who had a company named 20th Century Pictures, bought Fox. He appointed a wealthy Chicago businessman named Sidney Kent as president, then merged Fox Pictures Corp, with Twentieth Century Pictures. In 1935, the new company became known as Twentieth Century-Fox.
In retirement, he would frequently visit his old theaters and make appearances at the Broadway theater. While still recognized when he would go out..he wanted none of it. He was, however, always friendly and greeted those who approached him. The evening of May 6th, 1952, was just such an evening. He spent the evening at a screening on Broadway and after was spotted autographing and posing for photos. On the morning of May 8th, 1952 - Fox died in his condo in New York. He was layed to rest at Salem Fields Cemetary in Brooklyn, NY. Click here to virtually leave flowers and a comment.
There is absolutely no doubt that William Fox forever changed the world of filmmaking through his successful win over Thomas Edison's trust. There is also absolutely no doubt of excellence in the brand he created. It was inferior..established..and proven! It had to have been or they would have easily changed the name of his company. His achievements were monumental as a creative businessman who produced films that influenced the lives of millions of Americans. I have seen several sources, online and in print, that say not one Hollywood representitive came to his funeral. Well..that would probably be because he didn't die for 21 years after leaving Hollywood, and the fact that he disassociated himself from Hollywood. I think anyone would've that got kicked like he did. The massive turnout of locals speaks volumes of those who knew him locally in New York, and those who didn't but maybe were fans of his.
RIP Mr Fox...your legend is a great and powerful one!!
I always bragged of the fact that no second of those contained in the twenty-four hours ever passed - without my name of William Fox was on the screen, being exhibited in some theatre in some part of the world... ~ Wm Fox