Marvin Davis Used His Studio Clout to Fund Diabetes Research

Marvin Davis - P 2014
Jim Smeal/WireImage

Marvin Davis - P 2014

"It's good to own a studio. ... People return your calls much faster," his widow, Barbara, tells THR of the oil billionaire's charitable efforts

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.