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20th Century Fox Essay, Research Paper

Wilhelm Fried was born in Hungary of German-Jewish parents, and brought to America while still an infant in 1879. As William Fox, he would preside over a major Hollywood film studio of the teens and '20s — one destined to reach even greater heights in the '30s and '40s as 20th Century-Fox. In 1904 Fox purchased a Brooklyn penny arcade from animation pioneer J. Stuart Blackton, and with its profits soon had a chain of New York City movie houses. He began producing films in 1912, and in 1915 formed the Fox Film Corporation, which produced, distributed, and exhibited films for the next 20 years. The first stars at Fox were the celebrated "vamp," Theda Bara (Carmen, 1915; Cleopatra, 1917; Salome, 1918), rugged leading man William Farnum (Les Miserables, 1918; A Stage Romance, 1922), and cowboy superstar Tom Mix (The Wilderness Trail, 1919; Just Tony, 1922; The Rainbow Trail, 1925). Director John Ford worked exclusively at Fox in the '20s and made two acclaimed Westerns in 1924, The Iron Horse and Three Bad Men, both starring his discovery George O'Brien. Ford also made numerous dramas, notably Cameo Kirby (1923) with John Gilbert and Four Sons (1928). Howard Hawks directed the silents Fig Leaves (1926) with George O'Brien and A Girl In Every Port (1928) with Louise Brooks; Frank Borzage directed Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell in the hit romantic dramas Seventh Heaven (1927) and Street Angel (1928). Most notably, Fox imported German director F.W. Murnau and writer Carl Mayer, who made the classic drama Sunrise (1927) with Gaynor and O'Brien. With General Electric, Fox developed Movietone, the first successful process for wedding a sound track directly onto film. The studio's early talkies include Ford's The Black Watch (1929) with Victor McLaglen and Salute (1929) with George O'Brien; the interracial romances Frozen Justice (1929) and South Sea Rose (1929), both directed by Allan Dwan; and the Western In Old Arizona (1929), directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Warner Baxter as the Cisco Kid. Fox had been steadily buying movie theaters, and by the end of the 1920s was one of the great "integrated majors," along with MGM, Paramount, RKO, and Warner Bros. But the stock-market collapse of 1929 crippled the studio, and William Fox was bought out by a group of bankers in 1930; Sidney R. Kent replaced him as president in 1932. At the new Fox, John Ford and writer Dudley Nichols made the war drama The Lost Patrol (1934) with Victor McLaglen and the comedy Judge Priest (1934) with Will Rogers. Spencer Tracy starred in The Power And The Glory (1933), written by Preston Sturges. Frank Lloyd helmed the hit Noel Coward adaptation Cavalcade (1933), and Henry King directed Janet Gaynor in State Fair (1933). But the star who saved the studio in the mid '30s was six-year-old Shirley Temple, starting with Stand Up And Cheer (1934).In 1935, Fox merged with 20th Century, the production company of Joseph M. Schenck and Darryl F. Zanuck, which had been distributed by United Artists. The new corporation, 20th Century-Fox, had Kent as president, Schenck as chairman of the board, and Zanuck as vice president in charge of production. Shirley Temple remained the gem in the studio's crown; here vehicles included Wee Willie Winkie (1937), directed by John Ford, and Heidi (1937) and Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm (1938), both directed by Allan Dwan. Zanuck produced numerous films in his first years at the studio, including director Ford's The Prisoner Of Shark Island (1936) with Warner Baxter, written by Nunnally Johnson; Call Of The Wild (1935), directed by William A. Wellman and starring Clark Gable; the actioner Under Two Flags (1936), directed by Frank Lloyd and starring Ronald Colman; the Alice Faye musical On The Avenue (1937); the Tyrone Power vehicles In Old Chicago (1938), Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938), and Jesse James (1939), all directed by Henry King; and King's Stanley And Livingston (1939) with Spencer Tracy. The late 1930s also saw Henry Fonda starring in two films from Ford and writer Lamar Trotti, Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) and the Revolutionary War drama Drums Along The Mohawk (1939). Less prestigious yet valuable to the studio were three series: the musicals of figure-skater Sonja Henie, starting with One In A Million (1936) and Thin Ice (1937); the "Mr. Moto" mysteries, with Peter Lorre as the Japanese detective, which began with Think Fast, Mr. Moto (1937); and the "Charlie Chan" mysteries, with Warner Oland (and later, Sidney Toler) as the Chinese detective, begun by the old Fox and reactivated by the new studio with Charlie Chan In Paris (1935). Schenck resigned in 1941, after he was arrested for tax irregularities and union bribes. Kent died the following year and Spyros Skouras became the studio's president. Zanuck remained in charge of production, and 20th Century-Fox released many of its best films in the '40s. Zanuck's productions included John Ford's The Grapes Of Wrath (1940), Tobacco Road (1941), and How Green Was My Vally (1941); the remake Blood And Sand (1941) with Tyrone Power, directed by Rouben Mamoulian; the flagwaver Winged Victory (1944), directed by George Cukor and written by Moss Hart; and the Somerset Mauhgam adaptation The Razor's Edge (1946), also with Power. Zanuck shrewdly used the Alice Faye musicals to introduce new talent. Brazilian singer Carmen Miranda became a star appearing with Faye in That Night In Rio (1941) and Busby Berkeley's classic The Gang's All Here (1943). After making a hit opposite Faye in Tin Pan Alley (1940), Betty Grable soon became the premier musical star at Fox, with the hit 1943 musicals as Coney Island and Sweet Rosie O'Grady. Fritz Lang helmed the Westerns The Return Of Frank James (1940) and Western Union (1941). William A. Wellman directed the comedy Roxie Hart (1942), produced and written by Nunnally Johnson, and the classic lynch-mob drama The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), produced and written by Lamar Trotti. Alfred Hitchcock helmed the thriller Lifeboat (1943), Henry King directed the religious drama The Song Of Bernadette (1943) and the biopic Wilson (1944), and John Ford made the classic Wyatt Earp Western My Darling Clementine (1946) with Henry Fonda. Producer/director Ernst Lubitsch made his last films, Heaven Can Wait (1943) and Cluny Brown (1946); Otto Preminger had to complete the ailing Lubitsch's That Lady In Ermine (1948). As a producer/director himself, Preminger made the classic mystery Laura (1944) and the musical Centennial Summer (1946). Gregory Peck became a star in the A.J. Cronin adaptation The Keys Of The Kingdom (1944), written and produced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. As a director, Mankiewicz went on to score with the gothic Dragonwyck (1946) and the comedy/drama A Letter To Three Wives (1949). Lewis Milestone directed Dana Andrews in the war-atrocity drama The Purple Heart (1944) and the combat film A Walk In The Sun (1946). Elia Kazan directed his first feature, the family drama A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (1944); later, with Zanuck producing, he made landmark films about anti-Semitism (Gentlemen's Agreement, 1947) and racism (Pinky, 1949). Producer Louis de Rochemont made the factual, documentary-style espionage films The House On 92nd Street (1945) and 13 Rue Madeleine (1947), both directed by Henry Hathaway; he also produced the crime drama Boomerang! (1946), directed by Kazan. Important postwar films from Fox include the comedy Miracle On 34th Street (1947), written and directed by George Seaton; Henry Hathaway's crime films Kiss Of Death (1947) and Call Northside 777 (1948); the last American comedies of writer/producer/director Preston Sturges, Unfaithfully Yours (1948) and The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend (1949); the mental-institution drama The Snake Pit (1948) with Olivia de Havilland; the "Mr. Belvedere" comedies starring Clifton Webb, starting with Sitting Pretty (1948); and Howard Hawks' farce I Was A Male War Bride (1949) with Cary Grant. In the 1950s director Henry King worked repeatedly with Gregory Peck, including three Zanuck productions: the war drama Twelve O'Clock High (1950), the biblical epic David And Bathsheba (1951), and the Hemingway adaptation The Snows Of Kilimanjaro (1952). King and Peck also made the landmark Western The Gunfighter (1950), the romantic drama Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing (1955), and the F. Scott Fitzgerald biopic Beloved Infidel (1959). Zanuck's other important productions included Joseph L. Mankiewicz' classic Broadway comedy/drama All About Eve (1950) with Bette Davis; Elia Kazan's biopic Viva Zapata! (1951) with Marlon Brando; and the Madison Avenue drama The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit (1956), written and directed by Nunnally Johnson. The early '50s saw other noteworthy productions from 20th Century-Fox, including war films by John Ford (When Willie Comes Marching Home, 1950; What Price Glory, 1952), Fritz Lang (American Guerilla In The Philippines, 1950), director Anatole Livak (Decision Before Dawn, 1951), and writer/director Samuel Fuller (Fixed Bayonets, 1951; Hell And High Water, 1954). Elia Kazan helmed the thrillers Panic In The Streets (1950) and Man On A Tightrope (1952), and Delmer Daves directed the Western Broken Arrow (1950). Espionage tales included Joseph L. Mankiewicz' Five Fingers (1952) and Fuller's Pickup on South Street (1953). Marilyn Monroe starred in the comedies How To Marry A Millionaire (1953), written and produced by Nunnally Johnson; Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), directed by Howard Hawks; and The Seven Year Itch (1955), directed by Billy Wilder. Richard Burton became a star with two films directed by Henry Koster: the Daphne du Maurier adaptation My Cousin Rachel (1952), written and produced by Nunnally Johnson, and the epic The Robe (1953), the first CinemaScope production. Ethel Merman and Donald O'Connor co-starred in the Irving Berlin musicals Call Me Madam (1953) and There's No Business Like Show Business (1954); both were directed by Walter Lang, who also helmed the hit musical The King And I (1956). Otto Preminger produced and directed the Western River Of No Return (1954) with Marilyn Monroe and the all-black musical Carmen Jones (1954) with Dorothy Dandridge. Although Zanuck left 20th Century-Fox in 1956 to become an independent producer, he'd made a release deal with the studio. After Island In The Sun (1957), directed by Robert Rossen, most of his efforts were box-ofice disappointments. Zanuck vainly tried to make French actress Juliette Greco into a star with the Hemingway adaptation The Sun Also Rises (1958), directed by Henry King; the Romain Gary adaptation The Roots Of Heaven (1958), directed by John Huston; and the dramas Crack In The Mirror (1960) and The Big Gamble (1961), both directed by Richard Fleischer. Buddy Adler replaced Zanuck as head of production at Fox, and until his death in 1960 the studio released many notable films. Edward Dmytryk directed the World War Two drama The Young Lions (1957) with Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift, and the Western Warlock (1958) with Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn. John Huston directed Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957) with Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr and The Barbarian And The Geisha (1958) with John Wayne and Eiko Ando. Samuel Fuller wrote, produced, and directed the war film China Gate (1957) and the Western Forty Guns (1957). Fred Zinnemann directed the drug-addiction drama A Hatful Of Rain (1957); George Stevens produced and directed The Diary Of Anne Frank (1959). Other Fox hits included the soap opera Peyton Place (1957), produced by Jerry Wald; the musical South Pacific (1958), directed by Joshua Logan; and the science-fictioner The Fly (1958) with Vincent Price. The early '60s saw several important Fox releases. Jerry Wald produced the D.H. Lawrence adaptation Suns And Lovers (1960), directed by Jack Cardiff, and the Marilyn Monroe musical Let's Make Love (1960) directed by George Cukor. Elia Kazan produced and directed the Depression-era drama Wild River (1960) with Montgomery Clift, and Robert Rossen produced and directed his classic look at high-stakes pool, The Hustler (1961) with Paul Newman. But the interminable shoot of the epic Cleopatra (1963), starring Elizabeth Taylor, hurt the studio's reputation. This enormously expensive film didn't do well enough at the box-office, and it cost Skouras his reign at Fox. Zanuck then came to the studio's rescue; split from Greco, he poured all his energies into a massive recreation of D-Day, The Longest Day (1962), and it was a smash. Zanuck became president of Fox in 1962 and made his son Richard production chief. In these years Fox had such sucessful films as the Bette Davis thriller Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), produced and directed by Robert Aldrich; Zorba The Greek (1964) with Anthony Quinn, written, produced and directed by Michael Cacoyannis; The Sound Of Music (1965) with Julie Andrews, produced and directed by Robert Wise; the popular science-fictioners Fantastic Voyage (1966), directed by Richard Fleischer, and Planet Of The Apes (1968), directed by Franklin J. Schaffner; Schaffner's sweeping biopic Patton (1969) with George C. Scott; and the Western Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969) with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Other big-budget efforts, however, failed to make a sufficient profit, and damaged the studio over the '60s: the Michelangelo biopic The Agony And The Ecstasy (1965) with Charlton Heston, produced and directed by Carol Reed; The Bible (1966), directed by John Huston; Wise's musical Star! (1968) with Julie Andrews; Fleischer's musical Dr. Dolittle (1967) with Rex Harrison; and the Barbra Streisand musical Hello, Dolly! (1969), directed by Gene Kelly. In 1969 Zanuck became chairman of the board, and Richard was made president. But the next year, he forced his son out of the company, and then resigned in 1971 to become chairman emeritus. Dennis C. Stanfill then became chairman and CEO of 20th Century-Fox. The 1970s saw such Fox hits as director Robert Altman's Korean War satire M*A*S*H (1970); the crime film The French Connection (1971), directed by William Friedkin; producer Irwin Allen's disaster films The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974, a Fox/Warner Bros. co-production); Mel Brooks's horror parody Young Frankenstein (1974); the occult thriller The Omen (1976) and its sequels; the Bob Fosse musical All That Jazz (1979, a Columbia/Fox co-production); and the science-fiction chiller Alien (1979) with Sigourney Weaver. Above all, the studio was blessed with George Lucas' mega-hit Star Wars (1977). Fox also released notable smaller films: Sounder (1972) and Norma Rae (1979), both directed by Martin Ritt; An Unmarried Woman (1978) with Jill Clayburgh, written and directed by Paul Mazursky; and the bicycle-race comedy/drama Breaking Away (1979). In the early '80s, the studio's fortunes rose still higher with Lucas' sequels The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return Of The Jedi (1983). Mr. Mom (1983), written by John Hughes, was a box-office smash, as were other lowbrow comedies — Porky's (1981), The Cannonball Run (1981), Revenge Of The Nerds (1984), and their sequels. They were big business at Fox, eclipsing the black comedies The Stunt Man (1980), directed by Richard Rush, and Prizzi's Honor (1985), directed by John Huston, as well as films by such comedy experts as Mel Brooks (History Of The World, Part 1, 1981) and Jerry Lewis (Hardly Working, 1981). Fox' important dramas included the gay-themed Making Love (1982); the courtroom tale The Verdict (1982), directed by Sidney Lumet; director Martin Scorsese's The King Of Comedy (1983) with Robert De Niro; the fact-based anti-nuke drama Silkwood (1983), directed by Mike Nichols; and the acclaimed Paris, Texas (1984), written by Sam Shepard and directed by Wim Wenders. The big box-office went to the romantic actioners Romancing The Stone (1984) and The Jewel Of The Nile (1985), both with Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas; director Ron Howard's rejuvenation fantasy Cocoon (1985); and the shoot-'em-up Commando (1985) with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Marvin Davis bought Fox in 1981, making Alan J. Hirschfield chairman and CEO; in 1985, Davis sold the company to Australian publisher Rupert Murdoch, who formed Fox, Inc., consisting of 20th Century-Fox Film Corp., Fox Television Stations, Inc., and Fox Broadcasting Company. The late '80s saw such important Fox releases as the horror films The Fly (1986) and Dead Ringers (1988), both directed and co-scripted by David Cronenberg; the science-fiction sequel Aliens (1986); the Coen Brothers' comedy Raising Arizona (1987); writer/director Oliver Stone's Wall Street (1987) with Michael Douglas; the comic fantasy Big (1988) with Tom Hanks, directed by Penny Marshall; and the Bruce Willis actioner Die Hard (1988) and its '90s sequels. Joe Roth became chairman of 20th Century-Fox Film Corp. in 1989, and before his resignation in 1992 brought Fox to what was then its biggest moneymaker since Star Wars, the comedy Home Alone (1990) produced and written by John Hughes — which also yielded Hughes' hugely successful Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (1992). Other early-'90s Fox hits were Sleeping With The Enemy (1991), Aliens3 (1992), and My Cousin Vinny (1992). Peter Chernin replaced Roth, and Fox has struck gold with the Robin Williams comedy Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) and the 1994 actioners Speed and True Lies. The most recent of the studio's hits are the science-fictioner Independence Day (1996), the second-highest-grossing film of all time, and the re-issue of Lucas' Star Wars trilogy. Whoever guides 20th Century-Fox into the 21st century, they will preside over an illustrious history as well as a vital present.


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