Sunday, September 24, 2017

Born Today September 24: Winfield Sheehan


Winfield R. Sheehan, who is mostly and rightly remembered (when he is remembered at all) as a rather hard boiled Fox studio man; he was born on this day in Buffalo, New York.   When just a teenager, he served during the Spanish-American War, after wards going to work as a reporter for the New York paper The Evening World, reporting on police matters.  He later worked for both the Fire Commissioner and Police Commissioner in New York--this later work would lead him into the world of motion pictures, and would bring out  a resolute character in him--which would come into play with his time at Fox.  His most lasting effect on the system was the role that he played in the breaking of the Motion Picture Patents Company, also known as the Edison Trust, established in 1907 at the behest of the then major studios in New York.  When Fox got it's start with William Fox  establishing a new studio in New York, he enlisted the help of the police commissioner's office--of which Sheehan was a secretary--to help bust the MPPC.  This firmly established Fox as a major movie making player, and William Fox did not forget Sheehan's involvement in it.  His first involvement directly in the film business was to become the personal secretary to William Fox.  Followed by his first film making experience, which came in 1916 when he was assigned General Manager of A Daughter Of The Gods a now lost film starring Australian Annette Kellerman.  He then got into production work--a line of work he would remain in for the rest of his life-- serving for the first time as an executive producer on The Woman and the Law in 1918.  He would not get credit for any more production work until 1929, serving in the interim as studio General Manager and vice president; then taking up the job of Fox's chief of production sometime probably around 1926 or later, staying in the job until 1935, when the merged studio of 20th Century Fox put Darryl J. Zanuck in the job.  He worked in the shadows in production in The Black Watch a fully sound film (MovieTone) directed by John Ford and featuring Victor McLaglen and Myrna Loy.  Some of his last work at Fox involved production on a number of Shirley Temple films.  After his replacement at the studio, he went into independent production.  The last film that he produced was Captain Eddie a Fred MacMurray film directed by Lloyd Bacon in 1945.  He got the film produced through an independent studio with the partnership of 20th Century Fox.  Sheehan died that same year in Hollywood, CA. on the 25th of July.  He is buried at Holy Cross cemetery in Culver City. 

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