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Fox (Fuchs), William


FOX (Fuchs ), WILLIAM (1879–1952), U.S. film producer. Born in Tulchva, Hungary, Fox worked in his youth in New York's garment center. In 1904 he bought his first nickelodeon, installed a motion picture machine, opened a chain of movie theaters in the U.S. and abroad, and started a career that led him in 1915 to the presidency of Fox Film and Fox Theater Corporations. Dissatisfied with the quality of films distributed, he began to make his own films in a rented barn. In 1917 he built studios in Hollywood. By the 1920s he had created a multimillion-dollar empire that controlled a large portion of the exhibition, distribution, and production of film facilities during the era of silent film. Fox introduced organ accompaniment to the silent films shown in his theaters and was a pioneer in designing movie theaters for the comfort of its patrons. Through a well-orchestrated use of publicity, he developed Theda Bara into the first screen vamp and the first film star. Even during the Great Depression, Fox had the foresight and the wherewithal to outfit more than a thousand theaters with equipment to make possible the advent of talking pictures. In 1927 he developed the first commercially successful sound film, the news series Movietone News.

The stock market crash of 1929 and the entry of Wall Street into the film industry involved him in years of litigation and eventual loss of money and power. Charges of stock manipulation were filed against him in 1932, and he told a Senate subcommittee he was the target of a "bankers' conspiracy." He declared bankruptcy in 1936, and in 1942 served five months in prison on charges of obstructing justice in his bankruptcy claim. The Fox Film Corporation was the antecedent of Twentieth Century Fox.


Americana Annual 1953. (1953), 259; J. Laurie, Vaudeville (1953), 410–1.

[Linda Gutstein /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

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