Motion Pictures Industry Pioneer. He was the founder of the Fox Film Corporation. Born in Tolcsva, in what was then the Kingdom of Hungary, he was brought to the United States as an infant by his German-Jewish parents. He had a hardscrabble childhood in a tenement in New York City, New York's Lower East Side, and left school at age 11 to help support his family. After years of toiling in the garment business, he saved enough money to buy a penny arcade in 1904 and was soon operating nickelodeons throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan. He then set up a film distribution branch, The Greater New York Rental Company. Along with fellow exhibitor Carl Laemmle, the pugnacious Fox opposed Thomas Edison's Motion Picture Patents Company in its quest to monopolize the budding movie industry. He successfully sued the MPPC when they revoked his distribution license in 1909, and began producing his own films three years later. His first stars were the original screen vamp, Theda Bara, and cowboy hero Tom Mix. In 1915 he consolidated his holdings into the Fox Film Corporation and built it into a major Hollywood power. By the mid-1920s Fox was turning out 50 feature films and 100 short subjects a year and controlled a nationwide chain of over 1000 theatres. His greatest film of the period was director F.W. Murnau's "Sunrise" (1927), which was recognized at the first Academy Award ceremony for "Best Artistic Quality of Production" (a distinction subsequently absorbed into the "Best Picture" category). When rival Warner Bros. studios began experimenting with its Vitaphone sound-on-disc system in 1926, Fox countered with the Movietone system, which laid an audio track onto the film itself; this superior method quickly became the standard for talking pictures. Its initial use was in 1927 for Fox Movietone News, the first newsreel with sound. To accommodate this new technology he constructed a state-of-the-art studio in what is now Century City, California. In 1929 Fox acquired a controlling interest in Loew's Inc., the parent company of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) studio, and was poised to become the world's most powerful movie mogul when the October 1929 stock market crash and a federal anti-trust investigation effectively ended the deal. At the same time he was critically injured in a car crash, which left him unable to fight off a hostile takeover bid from a group of bankers. With his finances hopelessly tangled, Fox was forced to sell his $200 million empire for $18 million in 1930. Continued litigation devoured his assets and he declared bankruptcy in 1936. In 1941 he was sentenced to a year in prison for bribing a judge in his bankruptcy proceedings; he was paroled after six months in a Pennsylvania penitentiary in 1943. When Fox died at 73, not a single Hollywood representative attended his funeral. His name remains today in the 20th Century-Fox studio (formed in 1935) and the Fox broadcast and cable television networks.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards