Tag Archives: Charlie Chaplin

Jew of the Week: William Fox & Joseph Schenck

William Fox

Wilhelm Fried (1875-1952) was born in Hungary to German-Jewish parents that soon immigrated to the U.S. Growing up in New York City, Fried worked in various odd jobs in the fur and garment industry, and even as a newspaper boy. In 1904, having renamed himself William Fox, he purchased a “Nickelodeon” – the earliest kind of movie theatre (often just a converted store front) that showed short films for five cents (hence the term nickelodeon). In 1915 he founded Fox Film Corporation, which originally focused more on building theatres and studios than producing movies. In 1929, Fox attempted to buy out a major share in fellow company MGM. However, a scandal ensued and Fox’s opponents convinced the Justice Department to investigate him for violating anti-trust laws. At the same time, Fox was severely injured in a horrific car accident. Immediately after this, the stock market crashed (sparking the Great Depression). The combination of these three events drove Fox into total bankruptcy, and by 1930 he lost all control of his company. During his bankruptcy hearing several years later, Fox attempted to bribe the judge, and was thus sent to six months in prison. He never returned to the film industry, and died quietly with no Hollywood producers at his funeral.

Joseph Schenck

Fox Film would be taken over by Joseph Michael Schenck (1878-1961), a fellow Jew, born in Russia. Like Fox, Schenck’s family immigrated to New York City. While working at the concession stand of Fort George Amusement Park, Schenck saw the potential of film, and saved up money, together with his brother, to buy Palisades Amusement Park in 1909. Soon after, the brothers parted and Joseph headed to Hollywood for a fresh start. He rose to become president of United Artists (a company co-founded by Charlie Chaplin). He later founded his own company – 20th Century Pictures – in 1933, together with Darryl Zanuck. Two years later, they took over Fox Film to create ’20th Century Fox’. This giant production company is behind such classics as Star Wars, Die Hard, Planet of the Apes, the Simpsons, Family Guy, the X-Files and countless other hits

Words of the Week

Do not judge your fellow until you have stood in his place.
Pirkei Avot 2:4