The Man Who Made the Movies: The Meteoric Rise and Tragic Fall of William Fox

Vanda Krefft's fascinating and massive biography of silent film pioneer William Fox, The Man Who Made the Movies, resurrects the memory of the long-forgotten film mogul who started Fox Film Corporation. Krefft also rehabilitates his battered reputation. While most film buffs remember scrappy pioneer movie studio heads like Harry Cohn at Columbia, Carl Laemmle at Universal and Louis B. Mayer at MGM, among others, Fox has been largely forgotten because he lost his movie empire in 1930 (five years before it became 20th Century Fox).

A Jewish Hungarian emigrant, Fox entered the film business in 1904 when he purchased and built numerous theaters, and bought films from other studios to play in them. By 1914, he leveraged his investments to form Fox Film Corp. and started making his own films. Fox's top stars were screen vamp Theda Bara, cowboy star Tom Mix and leading man William Farnum. In 1927, Fox spent $1.2 million producing F.W. Munau's Sunrise. While the film never made back its cost, it won three Oscars at the first Academy Awards ceremony, including Best Picture. Fox's world began to fall apart when he tried to finance a merger with MGM; he was sued for violating antitrust laws, went bankrupt during the stock market crash, lost control of his studio during a hostile takeover and ended up in prison.

At more than 900 pages, this is an enormous, well-researched, entertaining and valuable contribution to preserving and correcting film history. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

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