Salute to Fox - 7/24 & 7/31
In 1915 William Fox, a Hungarian-American motion picture executive originally named Vilmos Fuchs, founded the Fox Film Corporation to great success. Beginning with short reels the company quickly began making successful feature-length films and contributed to the rising superstars of the early 20th century, like Tom Mix, Theda Bara and Claire Whitney. Fox lost control of the company and its attendant theater chain in 1930 following the stock market crash of 1929. However, the Fox name would live on through various media ventures currently owned by Rupert Murdoch including the Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox News Channel, Fox Corporation and 20th Century Fox, which is now owned by the Walt Disney Company.
20th Century-Fox Film Corporation was formed in 1935 when two other movie executives, Joseph Schenck and Darryl F. Zanuck, left film studio United Artists over a stock dispute. They merged their own company, Twentieth Century Pictures, with Fox Film to begin the legendary new company 20th Century-Fox.
For more than 80 years, 20th Century-Fox--located on the Fox lot in the Century City area of Los Angeles--was one of the "Big Six" Hollywood film studios. In 1985, the studio was acquired by News Corporation (and dropped the hyphen in their name), which was succeeded in 2013 by 21st Century Fox. Disney's 2019 merger with that company means that 20th Century Fox now functions as a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios.
TCM salutes the company's legacy within Hollywood by presenting a sampling of Fox features, drawn from five decades of outstanding movie entertainment.
Bright Eyes (1934) was the first movie designed especially for the talents of child star Shirley Temple and introduced her signature song, "On the Good Ship Lollipop." The film was released late in 1934, and in February 1935 Temple became the first child star to be honored with a Juvenile Oscar. Producer and studio head Darryl F. Zanuck recognized Temple's potential and focused the resources of the newly formed 20th Century-Fox on the tyke who would become the studio's greatest asset of the 1930s.
Laura (1944), one of the all-time great mystery films, was produced and directed by Otto Preminger and based on the novel by Vera Caspary. Gene Tierney, a favorite leading lady at 20th Century Fox, stars as a gorgeous ad exec who is thought to have been murdered and haunts detective Dana Andrews through an evocative portrait. The film won five Oscar nominations and the award itself for Joseph LaShelle's mood-setting black-and-white cinematography.
Gentleman's Agreement (1947) was one of Fox's influential "message" pictures. This one is Moss Hart's adaptation of the Laura Z. Hobson novel about a journalist (Gregory Peck) who adopts a Jewish identity to write an article about anti-Semitism. Elia Kazan directs a superlative cast that also includes Dorothy McGuire as Peck's conflicted fiancée, John Garfield as a Jewish acquaintance facing prejudice and Celeste Holm as Peck's sharp-eyed, tart-tongued fashion editor friend. The film won Oscars for Best Picture, Director and Supporting Actress (Holm), with five additional nominations.
All About Eve (1950) is the ultimate movie about life in the theater with brilliant, Oscar-winning writing and direction by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Ironically, Bette Davis--fresh from her years as Warner Bros.' leading dramatic diva--delivers her most indelible performance in this Fox production as brittle Broadway star Margo Channing. Her fellow Oscar nominees include Anne Baxter (the Eve of the title), Celeste Holm, Thelma Ritter and winner George Sanders (Best Supporting Actor). Even Marilyn Monroe shows up in an adorable bit. The film won a total of 14 nominations and six Oscars including one for Best Picture.
The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965), adapted by Philip Dunne from the biographical novel by Irving Stone, casts Charlton Heston as Michelangelo, the immortal painter/sculptor/architect/poet. Director Carol Reed brings great scope and color to the film, which focuses on the artist's conflicts with Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison) over the painting of the Sistine Chapel. The movie earned five Oscar nominations in technical categories including Best Cinematography (Leon Shamroy) and Original Score (Alex North).
The French Connection (1971), one of the most exciting action thrillers ever made, stars Oscar winner Gene Hackman as Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle, a short-tempered New York Police Department detective on the trail of a heroin shipment from France. Adapted by Ernest Tidyman from a book by Robin Moore, the movie is directed with explosive power by William Friedkin, especially during a car-chase sequence that has yet to be topped. The film won a total of five Oscars including those for Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay, with an additional three nominations.
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) was the first entry in the Star Wars franchise although it is actually the fourth chapter in the storyline of the space-epic series created by writer-director George Lucas. (The subtitle Episode IV - A New Hope was added for the film's 1981 re-release.) This episode focuses on the attempt by Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and her Rebel Alliance to destroy the Death Star, a space station of the Galactic Empire. Other iconic roles are filled by Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Alec Guinness. The movie received ten Oscar nominations and earned seven awards in technical categories including a Special Achievement Award for sound effects. Earning $416 million in the U.S. and $314 million abroad, it became the highest-grossing film of all time, a record it held for five years.
The other films in our salute to 20th Century-Fox are The Black Swan (1942), Niagara (1953), The Fly (1958), The Great White Hope (1970) and Young Frankenstein (1974).
by Roger Fristoe