Marvin Davis Used His Studio Clout to Fund Diabetes Research

The Davises attended a wrap party for 'Dynasty' at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1987. The show’s executive producer Aaron Spelling was a friend and said he based the Carringtons on the couple.
The Davises attended a wrap party for 'Dynasty' at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1987. The show’s executive producer Aaron Spelling was a friend and said he based the Carringtons on the couple.
 Jim Smeal/WireImage

This story first appeared in the Aug. 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Marvin Davis' primary motivation for his 1981 purchase of 20th Century Fox was not a love of cinema. The Denver-based oil billionaire, who put up $50 million of the $722 million cost with the remainder coming from outside financing, wanted the studio's assets, which included a Coca-Cola bottling plant, movie theaters in Australia, a Pebble Beach golf course and an Aspen ski resort.

And while Davis had a personally profitable tenure as owner (he sold his share to Rupert Murdoch in 1984 for $250 million), Fox didn't see many box-office successes. Hits included the adventure-comedy Romancing the Stone, but flops like the Sylvester Stallone-Dolly Parton musical comedy Rhinestone more than ate up the profits.

But owning Fox did wonders for his wife Barbara's passion project, the Denver-based Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes. (Their daughter Dana has Type 1 diabetes.) Before Marvin bought the studio, the Center's Carousel of Hope Ball fundraiser was the biggest gala in Colorado -- Frank Sinatra, who lived near the Davises in Palm Springs, performed at it three times. But after the Fox deal, the ball moved to L.A. and took on a life of its own; since its 1978 inception, it has raised close to $100 million and the Colorado center recently was ranked No. 4 in the country for diabetes treatment by U.S. News and World Report. "It's good to own a studio," says Barbara, who will throw her next ball on Oct. 11.

"Really, it is. People return your calls much faster and you can sell tables for a lot more money." 

Read more from THR's Philanthropy Issue here.

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