The Twentieth Century Bernard Fox Story

Joan Tozzer and M. Bernard Fox. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

"Joan and Bernard slipped over the ice with long silken glides that, because of their very effortlessness, were a moving picture of joyous youth." - Maribel Vinson Owen, "Advanced Figure Skating"

The son of Mary (Fitzpatrick) and Matthew Fox, Matthew Bernard 'Babe' Fox was born October 6, 1916 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He had two older brothers, Paul and Gerald, and in his youth divided his time between the family's year round home in Brookline and summer home in Marblehead. His Roman Catholic parents were well-to-do enough to employ three live-in servants. His father was the President and Director of the Brigham dry goods merchandising company and a former chairman of the Board of Directors of the B. Peek Co. in Lewiston and Filene's in Boston.

Joan Tozzer and M. Bernard Fox. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Bernard got his start on the ice while attending The Rivers School in Brookline, where he was captain of the hockey team. He didn't take up figure skating seriously until he was sixteen. He received instruction at The Skating Club of Boston from Willie Frick and was mentored by George Henry Browne.

Joan Tozzer, Bernard Fox and Margie and Jenny McKean. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In 1935, Bernard won the U.S. novice men's title and travelled abroad to England, where he toured the country's top ice rinks, learning dances like the Kilian, Blues and Viennese Waltz which weren't widely known in the United States at the time. The trip ended badly - his pairs partner Joan Tozzer broke her leg and Bernard injured his knee.

Joan Tozzer and M. Bernard Fox. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

The following season, Joan and Bernard won the U.S. junior pairs title. Bernard also won the junior men's crown, making history as the first man to win the national novice and junior titles in successive years. A noteworthy feature of Joan and Bernard's pairs routine were the Salchow jumps they did past other, which Maribel described as "a particularly rhythmic move, as the sway of their bodies as they approached on the rather long preparation was interesting and the dip for the jump was timed so that they passed each other actually in the air."

Joan Tozzer and M. Bernard Fox. Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine.

After claiming the bronze medal in senior pairs in 1937, Joan and Bernard went on to win three successive U.S. senior pairs titles. They also won the North American Championships in 1939. During their competitive career, Bernard was studying at Harvard University, where Joan's father worked as a professor. He graduated with a Bachelor Of Arts in 1938.

Joan and Bernard were named to the 1940 Winter Olympic team, but as we all know, those Games were cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II. Joan's engagement was announced before the 1940 Nationals, as was the fact that she planned to "completely, absolutely" retire from the sport once she was married that July.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Joan spent much of the War in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her husband Phillip served in the Police Reserve, spending "three nights a week out in a patrol car hauling in drunks, blackout violators, settling domestic troubles, seeing that all alien radios are locked up, etc." She worked four days a week in the Women's Air Raid Defense, plotting airplanes around the islands on giant maps. In her spare time, she volunteered with the U.S.O. 

Bernard served as a Lieutenant in the United States Navy from May of 1942 to November of 1945 and was deployed for a time in the Mediterranean, with sea and shore assignments in African, Italian and French waters. 

During the invasion of Southern France, Bernard was the Liaison Officer for Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, the  Commander of the United States Forces in the Mediterranean, aboard the Flagship of the French Fleet. The ship was hit three times by German shore batteries at Toulon, and Bernard was awarded the Croix de Guerre and Silver Star for his bravery and service.

During the time he served in the military, Bernard was still very much involved with skating. He served on the USFSA's Competitions and Rules, Skating Standards and Judges and Judging Committees and acted as a judge at several U.S. Championships. In 1948, he judged the men's and pairs events at the Winter Olympic Games and the women's event at the World Championships. The fact he never judged at a major international event again can be well explained by his marks at those Worlds in Davos. In the free skating, he and the Swiss judge who sat stood out like a sore thumb, placing the twenty skaters in the exact same order, often differing wildly from the rest of the panel with their marks.

M. Bernard Fox and Lucy Linder Pope's wedding. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Bernard had married Lucy Linder Pope six months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, with whom he had two sons, David and Richard. The couple divorced in the late sixties and she remarried to acclaimed Australian tennis player and coach Harry Hopman.

An episode of Bernard Fox's show "Code 3"

In the early fifties, Bernard began a long career as as a screenwriter and producer at the DuMont Television Network's WABD station in New York. He moved to Los Angeles in 1953, serving as Vice-President of Roland Reed Productions. in 1956, he started his own film production company in Hollywood, under the name Ben Fox. He specialized in Westerns and outdoor documentaries and his credits included "Waterfront", "Code 3", "Whiplash", "The Monroes" and "Racquet Squad". He also wrote several unsold pilots, including "Harbor Inn", "Charter Pilot", "Rails" and "The Forest Ranger". He directed three weekly radio productions for the U.N. Association of New England and did some production work for Hal Roach Studios in Culver City. In his memoir "Eighty Odd Years In Hollywood", director John Meredyth Lucas recalled that one of Bernard's scripts a "Ben Casey" episode was so "terrible" that he had to rewrite it behind his back. "The day after it aired, Ben called me," he recalled. "He quibbled about the casting of minor parts but told me, 'I thought you did a good job of directing.' I don't think he was being snide. He really thought what he'd seen was his script."

Bernard passed away in Santa Monica, California on October 6, 1998 - his eighty-second birthday. Though Joan Tozzer was inducted to the U.S. Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 1997, Bernard has never been honoured for his contributions to the sport in the thirties and forties.

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