Review of new book on William Fox

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JLNeibaur

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Review of new book on William Fox

PostWed Dec 20, 2017 11:47 pm

Here is my review of the excellent new book on William Fox:

http://jln4151.wixsite.com/jlneibaur-wr ... the-Movies
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostSat Dec 23, 2017 9:36 am

A very helpful review. It makes you feel like buying it instantly. Thanks!
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Jim Reid

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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostSat Dec 23, 2017 12:17 pm

Excellent review, Jim!
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostMon Dec 25, 2017 9:31 pm

The pages of this hardcover book are a shrunken less-than-six-inches by less-than-nine-inches and the type face is the unique "Invisible Small," a new font that makes reading require a magnifier. Look at the 900+ page volume in-person before you purchase the hardcover version.

The author, who has not successfully published a book prior to this, claims to have worked ten years on this thing, supported by grants from unexpected charities, and from the free sample-chapter I secured in Kindle format, she needed to spend another ten years to understand how business, government and Wall Street work, the facts of Fox and who-knows-what-else.

When an author proclaims his/her credentials as what schools she graduated from, as she does, rather than reporting/writing/researching expertise, take it as a warning sign.

The topic of Fox himself is a great one. I've been following the company for some 60 years, since the dawn of CinemaScope, and following its newsreels divisions since I was old enough to scrape 25 cents together for admission to Manhattan's Trans Lux newsreels-only theatre. From what I've already read, this author lacks critical ingredients of a reporter/writer: passion for the facts and the gift for finding them and understanding their meanings, experience and the sense not to write 900 pages of printed, often boring text. Foo.

She has no grasp of how politics worked back then (pay your bribe and get what you want), nor of some of Fox's stock scams, among other lackings.

(No, I have no interest in writing a book on anything at this point in my life.)

Ken
Last edited by Ken Viewer on Thu Feb 01, 2018 12:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostTue Dec 26, 2017 10:17 am

Ken's review of this wonderful book is both ludicrous and completely inaccurate --- as can be attested to by the many people who already have it and have read it. I have no idea what he is talking about regarding the book's size, but it is full size and there is nothing wrong with the typeface whatsoever.Perhaps it's time for him to buy glasses. Suggest you completely ignore his incorrect and off-base comments. Some people just like to bitch, regardless of the facts.

Buy it today!!

PS - Mr.Niebaur, thanks for your great and accurate review of this fine book. What are your thoughts about Ken's bizarre comments? Did he read a different book published by lilliputians?
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostTue Dec 26, 2017 11:24 am

vitaphone wrote:Ken's review of this wonderful book is both ludicrous and completely inaccurate --- as can be attested to by the many people who already have it and have read it. I have no idea what he is talking about regarding the book's size, but it is full size and there is nothing wrong with the typeface whatsoever.Perhaps it's time for him to buy glasses. Suggest you completely ignore his incorrect and off-base comments. Some people just like to bitch, regardless of the facts.

Buy it today!!

PS - Mr.Niebaur, thanks for your great and accurate review of this fine book. What are your thoughts about Ken's bizarre comments? Did he read a different book published by lilliputians?

I second this! The book is spectacular, and the final chapter reads like the close of a great tragedy - which it was. It's extremely well written, printed, and edited nearly perfectly, although I've seen two mis-spellings. Not bad for a modern day 1000 page book. I also agree that the review is spot on.
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostTue Dec 26, 2017 11:48 am

And yet another great and ACCURATE review of this super book. Ignore cinewhiner Ken above.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/boo ... 973043001/
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostTue Dec 26, 2017 10:12 pm

I have pulled some posts that were simply personal attacks on one of the posters in this thread.

I don't understand the complaint about type size-- it seems perfectly normal to me-- but we don't need to gang up on one poster.
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostTue Dec 26, 2017 10:44 pm

Thanks, Mike, but while you were pulling troll posts I was writing a short history of sound-on-film motion pictures shown on Broadway in New York City beginning in 1923 at the Rivoli Theatre. That post disappeared when I attempted to upload it. It's now late in the evening in New York and I didn't write any attacks on others, but am too tired to redo the post now.

So here are some clips of films using the widely-accepted first successful (by scholars of the sound-on-film art-form) Phonofilm process as shown in a major New York City theatre. And Phonofilm was co-invented and promoted by the owner of that process -- Dr. Lee de Forest, and a surprise for those who care about such things:

Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle as shown in 1923 at the Rivoli (Blake on the piano):

https://youtu.be/rnUhaMWs4Mw

Eddie Cantor performing, with the De Forest (capitalized D) corporate logo:

https://youtu.be/5uRwyGNqlMo

A photo of the Rivoli Theatre, on Broadway, with over 2,000 seats at the time:

http://photos.cinematreasures.org/produ ... 1310676002

And here's the aged Dr. de Forest himself in 1957 in a portion of a "This Is Your Life" episode:

https://youtu.be/LnlMUZfPdlg

I own a Kindle and a far superior Amazon Fire 8, and I would never take my machinery with me on the subways of New York City, where I live, or into the parks, where, in retirement, I like to sit and read in warmer weather.

(At a meeting of the New York Press Club once, I asked the then editor-in-chief of the New York Times if he read the Times via Kindle on the subway when he commuted to work every day, and he told me, in front of a packed room, "No" He said he didn't want to risk losing his Kindle, which is the same reason I don't carry one with me, but do sometimes carry books. I don't want to be a target for thieves... No one steals newspapers or a book but some will steal cell phones and tablets. He said he read the paper version on the subways. Smart man.)

More than I can say for the inept, in my opinion, author of the new Fox bio, and not just for the inaccurate sound issues. She missed the significance of Fox's development of Grandeur 70 -- which, although a failure in 1930, has led to the adoption of the widescreen format in movies and television, and of the creation of CinemaScope, 3-strip Cinerama, Todd-AO, Panavision, Super Panavision. etc.

Had she ever even seen the only known feature-film created and originally released in Grandeur that survives today in widescreen (a reduction print in 35 MM CinemaScope): "The Big Trail," one of the at least five versions filmed by Raoul Walsh? The author seems fixated on Mr. Fox being a faithful husband. How would she know and how would the answer affect the history of William Fox in the movies business? I've seen images of Mrs. Fox and she, at the time the film was shot, looked like my grandmother -- but with a lovely smile.

I will buy a Kindle-software version of the Fox tome to replace the hardcover version, but I won't be able to throw darts at it (kidding).

Ken
Last edited by Ken Viewer on Wed Dec 27, 2017 5:00 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostWed Dec 27, 2017 12:00 am

Ken Viewer wrote:Thanks, Mike, but while you were pulling troll posts


Pot, meet kettle.
"If I was your wife I'd poison your tea!"
"If I was your husband I'd drink it."


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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostWed Dec 27, 2017 12:37 pm

Right on Zool!!

Two more (of many) reviews of Vanda Kreft's superb and comprehensive biography of William Fox.


https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertai ... fc7b73f638

https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-06-113606-1
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostWed Dec 27, 2017 10:03 pm

There seems to be almost a personal animus in the fellow's attack.

Methinks the laddie doth protest too much.
"This bar of likker is now a bar of justice!"
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostWed Dec 27, 2017 11:27 pm

We all have our own opinions, some love JOAN OF ARC, some hate it, we all just have to deal with it.
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostThu Dec 28, 2017 9:33 am

Of the revised list of posters to this thread, only the original poster, JLNeibaur, and I clearly have obtained the book and read it (in my case, most of it).

I'd have thought some who didn't care for my observations about the volume would have discussed the particulars of it, but that would have required people to obtain the book (which, for the benefit of the author and publisher, would mean purchasing copies). Of course some here may be waiting for their local public libraries to provide copies (there's no wait at the New York Public Library, which serves only Manhattan, The Bronx and Statin Island, but it's not at every branch; I'm not aware of the situation at the separate Queens and the Brooklyn libraries).

Itstead of a discussion of merits and/or demerits, what we have here, at this juncture, are a few trolls, a few nice people who respect that not all opinions need be favorable, and a lack of discussion. Someone linked to a USA Today review wherein the reviewer attributed the rise of Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. and M-G-M to Fox's fight with Edison -- without realizing that Edison's patents, by the time M-G-M and Warners were created in 1924, would have been long expired.

And Paramount, in 1912, had secured immunity from Edison's legal warriors when Famous Players co-founder Daniel Frohman went to Edison, whom he knew and had done things to benefit Edison previously, and called in a favor of his own. Sans that, Adolph Zukor and two of the Frohman brothers would not have put up the money to finance, and obtain the U.S. rights to what became the first "feature film" -- shown on a roadshow basis at a Frohman theatre in Manhattan and then across the country.

If the reviewer doesn't know the facts, the author of the book cooked a 900-page melange of tribute to Fox's alleged fidelity to his wife, and most of the posters aren't interested in a discussion/debate, from my vantage point, why bother?

Ken
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostThu Dec 28, 2017 1:04 pm

I have read the book and ahem interviewed the author.

I looked at your post again and found it short on particulars with which to engage. You say she doesn't understand stock scams in the 20s. Could be! I don't understand them either, especially, so I'm not one to judge. But without a more solidly detailed case, I don't see much substance in your claim to help me decide one way or the other.

The case against the USA Today reviewer, who is not the author of the book, is valid but a bit nitpicky. Valid insofar as the reviewer perhaps uses not the best example in namedropping Paramount, nitpicky as the underlying point seems inarguable— Fox was the one who led the legal fight against the patents trust, which opened the field to the modern studio landscape in which we had Paramount-Fox-Warners-Universal-Columbia for most of a century and did not have Vitagraph, Triangle, Kalem, Selig or, not least, Edison.

You seem like a guy who knows some things, so I'm happy to welcome you here, but I will say that the persona of the guy who knows everything and nobody else knows anything is not one destined to last long in the community of a discussion board (I expect most here could think of another example off the top of their heads). A few other key principles of life here worth knowing about are here, the gist of which are, I will keep this thread tightly pruned if it seems to be about back and forth sniping and not the topic at hand.
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostThu Dec 28, 2017 5:30 pm

I just finished listening to your interview with the book's author, and appreciate your efforts and abilities to draw information out of Ms. Krefft. Having neglected your audio resource, I regret not listening to the various interviews sooner, and I'm not the person who gave your show a negative rating. As for Krefft's understanding of Fox and Wall Street's stock world, I fear there may not be any.

In appreciation of your pointing out but a few areas of my two posts that are lacking in adequate details, let me recount the main method The Fox Film Company used to acquire other-people's existing movie-houses, which represented most of the theatres in his various domestic and foreign chains. The Fox companies never had enough cash to meet the goals, so by the time he incorporated and issued stock, Fox was playing with "restricted" stock in his main company as his coin of the realm.

Restricted stock can't be sold or traded in the open market. But it does represent an ownership interest in the company, and can be used as a method of purchasing other things. (The New York Times, bless its heart, is controlled via restricted stock and its public stock has limited voting rights while the restricted stock has full voting authority and is mostly owned by the families of the heirs of Ochs and Sulzberger.)

So Fox, realizing it was way smarter to buy a licensed, existing theatre in various locations, rather than borrow money to build one and deal with permits, contractors, licenses, bribes to government officials, extortion by mobsters, etc., the Fox Film Company used such stock to "buy" most of its theatres. Hypothetically, if you yourself had a theatre worth $10,000 (1920s money if not earlier), assume I'm a Fox executive and come along with an offer of $25,000 for your theatre. That's a nice profit, particularly in a stock-market environment that is headed to the stars before crashing.

But, the stock I offer is restricted, which means if you accept it, you can't go out later that day and sell it on the stock exchange. Well, that's not a very good deal... So what I'm going to do for you, because I like you, and I'm a sucker for your unique theatre which has running water, and stock certificates are falling out of my pockets anyway, is offer, in writing, to buy that stock back from you in, ohh, five years for $100,000 in paper-money or gold. Boy, oh boy, will you clean up in that deal. What a mark I am...

And it worked as long as the stock kept climbing vertically. But one day the Roaring '20s ended and the stock markets crashed and burned. And when you came to me, at the end of the five-years we'd agreed upon, and demanded $100,000 in gold (which was still legal tender), silver or paper-money, I no longer could pay you because I had no cash.

Want some more stock? A boat-load of bananas and lousy books? A home-cooked dinner at my mansion? You can't even have your theatre back because you sold it.

Fox's underlings were running stock scams (and undoubtedly he was, too) faster than a projector can chew up film. And this is but one of them.

I don't think I'm the one who discovered this, in fact I know I'm not, but I don't recall who did, particularly since I hadn't yet been born.

And that's what killed Fox's hold on his operations, more than everything else combined. Mr. Fox was a stock swindler, among other talents he had, and not the holy man Krefft proclaims.

Sidebar: Having heard your interview now, I give Ms. Krefft credit for realizing the potential of the widescreen concept, even if only three Grandeur prints of "The Big Trail" were ever distributed -- one went to Fox-Australia, IIRC. As for Fox and television, Fox would have been a couple of decades too early, particularly since the technology of over-the-air telecasting and the camera inventions needed many years' of work to be properly realized, even if some of the British did have home-television in the 1930s, using what I understand to be mechanical-electric-marriage TV.

I could go on and on regarding the Fox company and stock scams, but is there any demand for it? Fox stock, rather than theatre revenues, made William Fox a very rich man, until he no longer was.

By the way, I read Upton Sinclair's book regarding Fox about a half-century ago. How in the world could that novice-author-Krefft have missed the prior biographies of Fox, as pointed out by a knowledgeable poster/scholar in the audio-interview thread previously?

Ken
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostThu Dec 28, 2017 6:28 pm

Our illustrious administrator Mike Gebert wrote:

"You seem like a guy who knows some things, so I'm happy to welcome you here, but I will say that the persona of the guy who knows everything and nobody else knows anything is not one destined to last long in the community of a discussion board "

Amen.

Please make it stop. "Ken Viewer" is clearly out of synch, appropriately from an early talkie standpoint, with every other poster, every other reviewer, and every other reader (including me) of this truly outstanding book. Even the esteemed Kevin Brownlow loves it. Whiners gotta whine I guess.
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostThu Dec 28, 2017 6:40 pm

I don't know the details of William Fox' stock operations, nor have I read Ms. Krefft's book, so I can't comment on the stock deals that Ken claims. Such operations were not, however, unknown. For real operators, ask me about Insull.

Other well-known companies with restricted (or "lettered" stock) include Ford Motor Company (which came public with the restriction in place) and Alphabet (aka Google) which instituted a "supervoting class" for the founders several years after the company went public, when they anticipated that their selling shares would eventually result in their owning less than a majority of shares, and Berkshire Hathaway. The Berkshire 'B' shares have ownership and voting rights that trade in proportion to their voting rights; they are, in effect, split Berkshire Hathaway A shares, that the company instituted because Warren Buffett finds it amusing to have a company whose shares trade at $300,000.

I do think there is a proper place for restricted stock, particularly in awarding employee bonuses and stock grants. However, except for a friend who worked for Merck for many years and was granted the right to buy restricted stock at a discount which he could not sell for fifteen years (thus giving him an appropriate interest in the long-term well-being of the company), most such awards are of free stock options that are poorly-disguised equity transfers.

Typically, supervoting classes have as their aim to maintain control of a corporation when majority ownership is lost. As a stock investor, I consider the honesty of such varied classes on a case-by-case basis. Should a company's initial public offering have the varied classes, then it is a fair and open offer; in a case like Alphabet, I consider it changing the deal unilaterally after the deal has been made, with no recourse, and improper. The Delaware Court of Chancery disagrees.

There were operating television systems prior to 1930. Hugo Gernsback sold kits based on Nipkow disc systems and broadcast images in August 1928 on WRNY from the Roosevelt Hotel. It was a mixed mechanical-electronic technology that was never sufficiently developed to become practical and the standard eventually was based on the cathode ray tube that Vladimir Zworykin championed.

Other than that expansion on Ken's comments, I don't know anything to add to this kerfuffle at the moment.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Thu Dec 28, 2017 7:36 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostThu Dec 28, 2017 6:41 pm

Well, I have no problem with someone having a different opinion of the book.

The explanation of Fox's operations above is pretty good, though I'm not sure how entirely different it is from Krefft's in the end except in interpretation of what the facts mean (the book's long section on theater acquisitions ends with discussion of Fox's various voting classes on page 372, for instance). She is favorably inclined toward Fox, and I think, a little more cynically, that he was fairly typical of fast operators in the 20s, which is to say, he played ball with some unsavory characters and some of the things he did have been pretty illegal ever since, not least because they led to his own fall. But that's more a matter of taste. Personally, I'll take those rascals over the gray suits who inherit their companies in the end, six days out of seven. Monumental jerk Steve Jobs over tower of Jello Tim Cook for me.

As for TV, I don't think anybody was going to make TV happen sooner than it did because of the events of December 7, 1941, but a powerful Fox might well have done things differently in the period leading up to that big halt of all progress. Who knows?
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 1:11 pm

I especially appreciate Mike Gebert's posts, missdupont's post and Bob Lipton's post.

For those interested, there is another William Fox biography still available new in its paperback edition, originally dating from 2006, and co-written by Fox's great-granddaughter, Susan Fox. It's sold by Amazon, some 300 pages long, and though it's been on my buy-it-one-day list for a long time, I've not yet read it:

https://www.amazon.com/William-Fox-Stor ... op?ie=UTF8" target="_blank

Ken
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 1:33 pm

I was certainly not aware of this other biography. It has me intrigued for several reasons, not least some statements made by those leaving reviews on the Amazon site. There is one, though, that I found most intriguing:

"A certainly well written and very informative book on a major player in the foundation of the movie industry. Hard to put it down once you start reading.
A much better effort than the old Upton Sinclair book, which was a self promoting thing.

One thing, the type font is way too small for such an important history and the book is just too small.
Hard to read with ease. Being cheap with the printing of such a needed book on Fox was not smart.
If a second edition ever comes out, make the print larger and darker.
Otherwise a most needed and fascinating book.
" Critique by James C, October 13, 2008

Sounds hauntingly familiar.

It's also interesting that the biography is written by the great-granddaughter of William Fox and her husband. One other critique is critical of the writing, especially as it incorporates quotes like a novel which make it highly suspicious to the critic, and "unprofessional". Yet another critique, written by a professor of film studies, considers the writing very professional. As any writer discovers very, very quickly in this world: sometimes you can't win for losing. Krefft's book is beautifully written, and the high praise it is receiving is most warranted. The research, though it may not be inexhaustible, is well done and noted. There are too many "biographies" that lack the back-up references, and no book is in-exhaustively researched, mainly because any author who knows every facet would never be able to put all the facts in a modern day publication without his or her own funds paying for the publication. Krefft's is nearly 1000 pages, and not one of them is extraneous.

I still like Krefft's book immensely, and, yes, I have read it all the way through. And, no, I'm no expert on Wall Street, though I'm certainly not poor for Wall Street, either - thank the good Lord!
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 1:48 pm

And this biography of Fox is still in print; am purchasing the Kindle version because author Solomon has credentials that impress me:

https://www.amazon.com/Fox-Film-Corpora ... 635&sr=1-1

Ken
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 1:59 pm

From a poster:

...One thing, the type font is way too small for such an important history and the book is just too small.
Hard to read with ease. Being cheap with the printing of such a needed book on Fox was not smart.
If a second edition ever comes out, make the print larger and darker.
Otherwise a most needed and fascinating book." Critique by James C, October 13, 2008

Sounds hauntingly familiar...


That makes me the second person regarding books about Fox to complain about print size and font.

If Seniors buy more books than kids, and I don't know, you'd think publishers would realize they need to cater to their market rather than sit around like too many now-deceased merchants and wait for bankruptcy.

Newspapers changed their readability issues; I was tossing some old clips of mine from the 1970s today (the wind-chill in Manhattan was, for us wimps, zero degrees and I'm not leaving my apartment) from major American newspapers and could not even read them without extra light and a magnifier. In this situation, going to larger type and darker fonts didn't seem to solve the newspaper industry's problems, alas.

Ken
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 2:07 pm

Edit: this book was originally listed by Nitrateville member Pathe Lehrman in another thread, along with all the other Fox bios out there (that I know of). According to Leonard Maltin, this book was privately published and is sold directly by the author for $55. Too rich for me; see below.

And this Fox biography was issued last year, apparently by a European publisher. It is not listed at Amazon, but there is an in-library-only reading volume available at the New York Public Library. I've tried to find a price for it, but it appears it's no longer for sale anywhere I looked, and I do buy books from various sources in the U.S. I'll read it at the library, though not today:

"William Fox and the Fox Film Corporation : a biography and a chronicle, also filmographies of the early productions..."
by Merrill T. McCord.

Leonard Maltin's capsule review:

"This is a formidable volume: in nearly 600 densely-packed, oversized pages, demon researcher McCord has attempted to tell the story of pioneer Fox and his incredible career, including filmographies of his early productions. To quote the author, “The filmography of features includes expanded synopses based primarily on comments of critics who actually saw the films at the time of their release. These comments were supplemented by carefully selected information from scripts, press material, biographies and autobiographies, and the original sources of those scenarios taken from plays, novels, and magazine stories. The productions are put in perspective by reports from exhibitors and by the assessments of newspaper and trade reviews (including British) representing the full spectrum of reactions and the sings of the times.” Silent-film buffs and scholars should be grateful to McCord for all the work he has invested in this book, which is privately published and available for $49 plus $6 shipping (payable by money order or check only)"...{ordering details deleted by Ken specifically because the author apparently does not accept Paypal or credit cards, and further, I don't want to violate board rules.}

Ken
Last edited by Ken Viewer on Fri Dec 29, 2017 8:49 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 2:27 pm

I don't think the font is notably smaller, but it's kind of lightweight which makes it a bit gray on the page. Still, as someone who grumbles at menus in dim restaurants, it didn't bother me.
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 3:35 pm

Interesting conversation. I preordered Ms. Krefft's book back in November and look forward to reading it as time allows.

Ken Viewer wrote:And this Fox biography was issued last year by a European publisher. It is not listed at Amazon, but there is an in-library-only reading volume available at the New York Public Library. I have no idea if it's in English but will find out, though not today:

"William Fox and the Fox Film Corporation : a biography and a chronicle, also filmographies of the early productions..."
by Merrill T. McCord.

Ken


It doesn't bother me when well researched books miss or gloss over some facts in order to dwell on issues deemed more important by the author. I'm more skeptical of 1) short, self-published efforts, and 2) books written by relatives of iconic figures several generations removed from the biographical subject. Such works often tend to be less informative and telegraph the perception of reverential treatment than well researched warts & all biographies.

While stock scams and the rise of Hollywood accounting in film production are interesting topics, what I'd like to see from a historical perspective is an in-depth analysis of the film moguls who controlled the inner workings of the film industry. IOW, it would be fascinating to read a warts & all appraisal of the studio system focusing on the casting couch culture and the public's perception of stardom then and (now) as seen through today's "me too" conscious lens. My 2 cents (adjusted for inflation, rhetorically speaking).
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boblipton

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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 3:55 pm

R. Cat wrote:Interesting conversation. I preordered Ms. Krefft's book back in November and look forward to reading it as time allows.

It doesn't bother me when well researched books miss or gloss over some facts in order to dwell on issues deemed more important by the author. I'm more skeptical of 1) short, self-published efforts, and 2) books written by relatives of iconic figures several generations removed from the biographical subject. Such works often tend to be less informative and telegraph the perception of reverential treatment than well researched warts & all biographies.

While stock scams and the rise of Hollywood accounting in film production are interesting topics, what I'd like to see from a historical perspective is an in-depth analysis of the film moguls who controlled the inner workings of the film industry. IOW, it would be fascinating to read a warts & all appraisal of the studio system focusing on the casting couch culture and the public's perception of stardom then and (now) as seen through today's "me too" conscious lens. My 2 cents (adjusted for inflation, rhetorically speaking).



That would be an interesting way of looking at the film industry, as a Langdon Diagram analysis. In truth, as film fans, we're interested in the films, and the story that we are more likely to find compelling is the story of those films and how they came to be, in the context of.... well, those films. Someone whose interest arises from other directions might well find other stories compelling. Ms. Krefft, in Mike's interview with her, was impelled to write her book, because of her acquaintance with members of Fox' family; I, with my background in business and business history, think that the story that Ken proposes, of a shady stock manipulator in an "anything goes" era of Wall Street sounds interesting. People who are interested in technological evolution will find the rise of feature films, Fox' championing of sound technology, and dabbling in 70mm. and even television interesting.

The good story is the one you find interesting and that says more about you than about the subject. Is Iris Barry a hero for championing unregarded, unfashionable silent movies in the 1930s or a villain for letting movies rot in the 1950s because their preservation did not match her scheduling? Was Fox a flawed hero or a villain? It all depends on what story you want to tell and what your societal contexts are. All I know is that that things were going along very well until Theseus went and wrecked the social order by killing that dragon. D**ned heroes!

Bob
If no one listens, then it’s just as well. At least I won’t get caught in any lies I tell.
— Joe Darion
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 4:05 pm

Back up references don't mean anything unless they are actually accurate and not repeating information that is wrong. From my post that I put up several weeks ago on Thomas Tally, someone posted information that academic Charles Musser had written, which was completely wrong. He had used Terry Ramsaye's "A MILLION AND ONE NIIGHTS" as reference, citing that Tally had seen his first film in Waco, Texas in 1896 and then came to LA to open a theatre, and that he opened the Electric Theatre on April 16, 1902 without checking to see if the information was correct. It was all wrong; from just perusing the Los Angeles newspapers and city directories, the real information comes out, that Tally was already living in LA and running a theatre in October 1895, a full year before he sees film and gets to LA, and that the Electric Theatre opened on May 10, 1902, not April 16. So while a book might be chock a block in listing references, if it does not check all those references to verify they are correct, then all they are doing is passing on wrong information, and showing they are not really informed.
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostSat Dec 30, 2017 10:42 pm

Thank you to all who have enjoyed my William Fox biography, The Man Who Made the Movies, and who have defended it in this thread. I am baffled by Ken's attacks. I don't know Ken and have never heard from him before.

I stand by my research and interpretations--I used primary source material as much as possible and sought multiple points of view to establish accuracy as best I could. I am perplexed by some of the errors Ken has made here--for instance, referring to an image of William Fox's mother as being that of his wife and claiming that I was unaware of previous biographies of Fox when in fact, I have a whole chapter on the Upton Sinclair book. (Regarding the Susan Fox/Donald G. Rosellini book, the authors describe that as a "biographical novel.")

I am sorry Ken had difficulty reading the type, but surely he knows that as the author, I had no control over that.

Happy new year, everyone!
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Re: Review of new book on William Fox

PostSat Dec 30, 2017 10:48 pm

missdupont wrote:Back up references don't mean anything unless they are actually accurate and not repeating information that is wrong. From my post that I put up several weeks ago on Thomas Tally, someone posted information that academic Charles Musser had written, which was completely wrong. He had used Terry Ramsaye's "A MILLION AND ONE NIIGHTS" as reference, citing that Tally had seen his first film in Waco, Texas in 1896 and then came to LA to open a theatre, and that he opened the Electric Theatre on April 16, 1902 without checking to see if the information was correct. It was all wrong; from just perusing the Los Angeles newspapers and city directories, the real information comes out, that Tally was already living in LA and running a theatre in October 1895, a full year before he sees film and gets to LA, and that the Electric Theatre opened on May 10, 1902, not April 16. So while a book might be chock a block in listing references, if it does not check all those references to verify they are correct, then all they are doing is passing on wrong information, and showing they are not really informed.


Agreed! Terry Ramsaye wrote in a breezy, entertaining style, but he seemed to be operating mainly from memory and didn't bother to check facts. Same with a lot of other early film history accounts. One has to do exactly as you prescribe--take nothing for granted and dig deep to make sure the names and dates and places make sense.
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