‘The Man Who Made the Movies’
Vanda Krefft, Harper, 944 pages, $40.

The Hollywood studios that cultivated the golden age of movies almost never got off the ground. Blame Thomas Edison. The great inventor fought to secure royalties from anyone using a film projector, which ultimately crushed many exhibitors. But one industry pioneer fought back. He was William Fox, who used much of his own money to take down Edison’s Motion Picture Patents Co. and to secure freedom for film exhibitors to operate without legal harassment. If not for Fox, Edison would certainly have delayed the growth of movies.

Frequently passed over as just a footnote in mainstream cinema history, Fox deserves a place among the giants who founded what we call Hollywood. And now he gets that place in Vanda Krefft’s new biography, “The Man Who Made the Movies.”

With a combination of astute archival research and personal stories from Fox’s niece, Angela Fox Dunn, Krefft weaves a tale that will engage amateur movie enthusiasts and film historians.

Krefft’s history gives us the whole story — one that shows us the tenacity of a titan — instead of just the bitter caricature left by his final years when he lost his empire in possibly the largest legal fiasco in U.S. history. Coupling expert scholarship and the tight prose of a seasoned journalist, Krefft captures both the culture of the origins of cinema as a business and the many fascinating personalities at play within the narrative.

No longer Hollywood’s forgotten pioneer, William Fox now has the history he deserves.