Sol Wurtzel
Date of Birth
Sep 12, 1881
Birth Place:
New York City, NY


A true "company man," American production executive Sol M. Wurtzel spent his entire professional career at one single studio. In 1914, Wurtzel joined the new Fox Film Company as private secretary to mogul William Fox, eventually surviving Fox's ouster from the company in 1930. Wurtzel's long-standing loyalty was rewarded when, in 1933, he was promoted to producer, turning out several of Fox's best Will Rogers and Spencer Tracy vehicles. When Fox merged with Darryl F. Zanuck's 20th Century company in 1935, several of the old guard were put out to pasture; Wurtzel was one of the survivors, but he was demoted from A-pictures to executive in charge of Fox's B-unit, where he remained until his retirement in 1949. Under his aegis, 20th Century Fox turned out several profitable series, among them the Charlie Chan, Mr. Moto, and Michael Shayne detective pictures, the Jones Family domestic comedies, and the Jane Withers musicals. Wurtzel developed several cast-in-stone theories during the late '30s, among them the notion that no film is successful without a villain: He would often interrupt a story conference by shouting to the writers, "Where's the menace? Where's the menace?" He also was convinced that his B-films would post a profit no matter how much time or money was spent on them, so why endeavor to make his films any better? This theory resulted in four of the weakest Laurel and Hardy comedies ever produced -- all of which were box-office successes. Comedian and Fox contractee Harry Ritz summed up the artistic quality of Sol M. Wurtzel's output by commenting, "Things have gone from bad to Wurtzel." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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