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History of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

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The California based Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation formed after the merger of two companies Fox Film Corporation and Twentieth Century Pictures in 1935. Darryl F. Zanuck, Raymond Griffith, William Goetz and Joseph Schenck started the Twentieth Century Pictures in 1933 and the Fox Film Corporation’s founder was William Fox who founded it in the year 1915.

William Fox built many theaters and created many legends in his impressive career. Sound Fox bought the rights of a German film sound processing technique and Fox was able to produce movies with music and effect track in 1926. The company was growing and more land was required for expanding. He bought around three hundred acre of land in Beverly Hills where he built the Movietone City.  After the death of his rival, Marcus Loew, William thought of buying Loew’s Inc. It had nearly two hundred theaters and also MGM studios under it. The deal was made and the companies were officially merged in 1929. But the owner of MGM studios, Louis B. Mayer, wasn’t happy with this idea and he revolted by calling on the Justice Department’s anti-trust unit and using political influence. Luck wasn’t on William’s side and he was injured in a car crash and by the time he was back to normal again the stock market crashed and he was totally bankrupt.

He lost all his fortune and was even had to go to jail. The only way out was to merge with another larger company. This is when the merger of Twentieth Century and Fox took place. Fox had nearly two hundred theaters under its belt, but at that time the Twentieth Century was in better financial condition, so the name of the new company was Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, which began functioning on May 31, 1935. Schenck became the chief executive and Zanuck was the head of production. The leading actor of this company Will Rogers was killed in a plane crash and the leading actress Janet Gaynor also began losing popularity. Zanuck then decided to sign up new artists with some fresh talent. That was when Tyrone Power, Betty Grable, Henry Fonda, Sonja Henie, and Don Ameche became a part of the Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation. They made many musical-dramas and movies on famous biographies, which became huge hit with the audiences.

The fortune of the company was rising rapidly and it became the third profitable studio of America, by overtaking RKO and MGM. During the World War II, Zanuck went to serve the country and his partner William Goetz took over the company. He made many lighthearted movies. But after Zanuck returned from the war, he wanted to produce some serious entertainment and made movies like “Gentleman’s Agreement”, “Pinky”, “Wilson” and “Boomerang” which also fell into adult films category.

After the World War, public were more attracted to television. Fox started experimenting on new ideas so as to bring the crowd back to the theater. With the help of three projectors the movie was projected on a huge concave curve, which created the illusion of three-dimensional character. The effect was achieved without polarized glasses with the help of French anamorphic projection, and this feature was named Cinemascope.  They made other theater owners to switch to this technology and also bore the conversion costs. “The Robe” and “How to Marry a Millionaire” were the first experimental films using this technology. After seeing their success other rival studios also adopted this technique. Although this attracted audiences for a while the numbers started to diminish again by 1956. The same year Zanuck announced his resignation.

Buddy Adler fitted into the shoes of Darryl Zanuck but he also died after a year. Others who followed couldn’t do anything to bring success to the company. Producer Walter Wagner convinced Elizabeth Taylor to star in “Cleopatra” and the movie proved to be a hit. Actress Marilyn Monroe was also roped in to work in “Something’s Got to Give”. But due to her untimely death the film was left uncompleted.  Other movies were also rushed and Spyros Skouras the successor of Buddy Adler wasn’t able to manage the company properly. Zanuck returned back again and somehow made the directors to take him back. He made his son Richard Zanuck the president. At first Zanuck was able to give big hits like “The Sound of Music” but his credential were questioned again there string of flops after that. Eventually he was removed from the company and president Dennis Stanfill and production head Alan Ladd, Jr. pulled the company back. Many investors joined the bandwagon and great hits were produced ever after that.

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