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 chronicles the significant shift that came about at the end of 1915, when Fox sent employees to Los Angeles to helm the Fox West Coast studio … Krefft’s history gives us the whole story, one that shows us the tenacity of a titan instead of the bitter caricature left by his final years. Coupling expert scholarship and the tight prose of a seasoned journalist, The Man Who Made the Movies provides an overdue addition to film history. Krefft captures both the culture of the origins of cinema as a business and the many fascinating personalities at play within the narrative.
A wonderfully cinematic prologue — ‘Past the half-block-long ochre-and-slate-colored Spanish Baroque facade, under the marquee that blazed nightly with the power of 4,500 bulbs’ — reveals how Fox lost everything soon after he hit his pinnacle in 1929 … It’s a complex life, and Krefft can’t avoid a suffocating emphasis on accountancy and legal details. The book is practically a primer on New York theater leasing rates and the cash thievery of the city’s corrupt Tammany Hall political machine, which helped Fox finance his early movie palaces. Then there’s his drawn-out anti-trust battle with Thomas Edison’s movie monopoly, and the eternal inequity of movie-star salaries … Life, ever unfair, had its way with the fantastic Mr. Fox. Yet Krefft reminds us, in this big, brassy production of a book, of his grand legacy.
The Man Who Made the Movies is more of a chronicle of a business than a biography of a man, despite its claims to be about ‘the meteoric rise and tragic fall of William Fox.’ This occasionally makes for dry reading, a problem exacerbated by the loosely edited state of the book—the six months between the 1929 stock-market crash and Fox’s loss of his companies seem to take place in real time. … Ms. Krefft has done an extraordinary job of putting him in the spotlight through exhaustive research in archives and libraries across America. The book is an immensely valuable resource. Ms. Krefft does not create an alternate picture of her subject so much as she deepens the existing one: a frightening level of expedience and aggression, with a touch of megalomania … But there is a central issue of identity and responsibility that Fox dodged, as does Ms. Krefft.