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

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

Vanda Krefft. Harper, $40 (944p) ISBN 978-0-06-113606-1

Journalist Krefft’s huge, dense, yet captivating biography highlights the early Hollywood mogul whose name long outlived his legend. Unlike Louis B. Mayer or Jack Warner, William Fox was effectively out of the movie business by the 1930s, leaving only his name on the company that would soon merge with Twentieth Century Pictures. While the story of his fall from grace is dramatic, his rise is just as fascinating. A Jewish immigrant from Hungary, he scrapped his way up in New York, eventually opening one of the first movie theaters in Brooklyn in 1904, when the new craze seemed likely to be a bursting bubble. Instead, Fox’s gamble paid off, and subsequent successes enabled him to found the Fox Film Corp. in 1915. Like many of his contemporaries, he built his empire on both production and distribution, and his attempt to take over the Loew’s theater chain led to an antitrust battle. Krefft seems to have uncovered nearly every fact or story about Fox extant. (Was it a sword swallower or a coin manipulator who attracted customers to Fox’s first theater? With no way to know, Krefft gives us both versions.) Whether Krefft is describing how Fox built his studio, ushered in the talkies, or weathered a litany of troubles—bankruptcy, jail time for trying to bribe a judge, and poor health—in his later years, her attention to detail makes for gripping storytelling. [em](Nov.) [/em]