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William Fox (January 1, 1879, Tolcsva, Kingdom of Hungary, Austria-Hungary ‚Äď May 8, 1952, New York City, United States), born Vilmos Fried ((Hungarian: Fried Vilmos) [1][2]), was a pioneering American motion picture executive who founded the Fox Film Corporation in 1915 and the Fox West Coast Theatres chain in the 1920s. Although Fox sold his interest in these companies in a 1936 bankruptcy settlement, his name lives on as the namesake of the Fox Television Network and the 20th Century Fox film studio. He was among the pioneers of the motion-picture and entertainment industry.[3]


Early life

Fox was born Fried Vilmos to Jewish parents in Tolcsva, Hungary, then part of Austria-Hungary. The house he was born in was identified in 2008.[4] He came to America at the age of 9 months, where his name was anglicized to William Fox after his mother's family name[2] (Fuchs). He had many jobs starting at the age of 8. In 1900 he started his own company which he sold in 1904 to purchase his first nickelodeon. In 1915, he started Fox Film Corporation.

Film career

In 1925-26, Fox purchased the rights to the work of Freeman Harrison Owens, the U.S. rights to the Tri-Ergon system invented by three German inventors, and the work of Theodore Case to create the Fox Movietone sound-on-film system, introduced in 1927 with the release of F. W. Murnau's Sunrise. Sound-on-film systems such as Movietone and RCA Photophone soon became the standard, and competing sound-on-disc technologies, such as Warner Brothers' Vitaphone, fell into disuse. From 1928 to 1963, Fox Movietone News was one of the major newsreel series in the U.S., along with The March of Time (1935-1951) and Universal Newsreel (1929-1967).

In 1927, Marcus Loew, head of rival studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer died, and control of MGM passed to his longtime associate, Nicholas Schenck. Fox saw an opportunity to expand his empire, and in 1929, with Schenck's assent, bought the Loew family's holdings in MGM. However, MGM studio bosses Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg were outraged, since, despite their high posts in MGM, they were not shareholders. Mayer used his political connections to persuade the Justice Department to sue Fox for violating federal antitrust law. During this time, in the middle of 1929, Fox was badly hurt in an automobile accident. By the time he recovered, the stock market crash in the fall of 1929 had virtually wiped out his financial holdings, ending any chance of the Loews-Fox merger going through even if the Justice Department had given its blessing.

Fox lost control of the Fox Film Corporation in 1930 during a hostile takeover. A combination of the stock market crash, Fox's car accident injury, and government antitrust action forced him into a protracted seven-year struggle to fight off bankruptcy. At his bankruptcy hearing in 1936, Fox attempted to bribe judge John Warren Davis and commit perjury. Fox was sentenced to six months in prison. After serving his time, Fox retired from the film business. Fox died in 1952 at the age of 73. No Hollywood producers came to his funeral.

In 1935, Fox Film Corporation, under new president Sidney Kent, merged with the upstart Twentieth Century Pictures to form 20th Century-Fox which was itself merged into News Corporation in 1985. News Corporation, 20th Century Fox's corporate parent continues to make movies and started the Fox Network.

Fox personally oversaw the construction of many Fox Theatres in U.S. cities including Atlanta, Detroit, Oakland, California, San Francisco and San Diego.


See also

  • Fox Theatre for a list of Fox Theatres, past and present, in U.S. cities
  • An Empire of Their Own (book)


  • Gabler, Neal (1988). An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood. Crown. ISBN 0385265573.  

External links

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