The Securities and Exchange Commission suspended trading in Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. shares yesterday following an announcement by a former convict that he and his associates plan to take control of the company.

Claude Cockrell Jr. of Nashville and associates claimed Thursday that they have acquired 22 per cent of Fox's 7.5 million shares. The group he heads includes actor Stuart Whitman and Virginis Briggs, a film marketer and screen writer, according to The Wall Street Journal.

But Fox chairman Dennis C. Stanfill called Cockrell's assertion "bizarre" and told reporters than the majority shareholder of the company is EMW Associates Inc., which has a 9 per cent interest.

The SEC imposed a 10-day trading suspension on the Fox shares because it said it was concerned with "the impact the uncertainties are having on the market." The commission said it would end the suspension as soon as its staff completes an investigation.

Cockrell confirmed reports that he was convicted in Memphis of receiving and concealing stolen property. He served a sentence in the Nashville state prison from 1973 through 1975. Cockrell is currently on parole, which is set to expire next year.

Cockrell said he has not filed disclosure forms with the SEC because he and his associates are working together on an informal basis.

"It is most peculiar that Cockrell did not identify any of his alleged associates or the source of his financial backing or other provide relevant information which would disclose the number of shares owned by the group he speaks for," Stanfill added.