Warner Bros. at 100: How the Hand Brothers built a cornerstone of Hollywood – Variety

David Zaslav went furniture-furniture when he moved into the Warner Bros. executive building. He moved a lot last year. The new CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery had Jack L. Warner pull a large dark wooden cabinet out of storage for his use. He also found a leather book holder of the law once pressed by another of his predecessors in the story studio: Steven J. Ross.

Zaslav inherited these totems in a sunken work space overlooking Olive Avenue in Burbank to showcase his formidable legacy, both in business and in popular culture.

“I wanted to remind them that we show as much spirit in the directing business now as the Warner brothers did in directing a hundred years ago,” Zaslav says. With the studio center of its incorporation of brands such as Warner Bros. Pictures Inc. (official date is April 4, 1923), the company has never been more focused on the use of good intellectual property, expertise in production and global distribution. The muscle has been built over the past 100 years to its potential in the second century. The huge Warner Bros. The film and TV library is the foundation of WB Discovery’s empire-building ambition to transition from traditional cable to direct-to-sumer streaming.

But the 12,500 movies and 2,400 TV programs in the vault aren’t the only elements of Warner Bros.’s past leader. the future From the early days of the studio built by the four brothers (Harry, Sam, Albert and Jack) who owned nickelodeons and silent movie theaters in Pennsylvania and Ohio, it had a powerful influence on its storytellers and ethos. Where MGM offered the bounty of escapism, flowing gowns and tuxedos, Warner Bros. from theological realism, potboilers and melodramas that often touched on social ills and other contemporary issues. Warner Bros. he directed gangster movies (“Little Caesar,” “Public Enemy”) and Bette Davis unleashed on the screen in dozens of 1930s movies that helped establish the archetype of American youth as tough, smart and sassy — no fools. .

“MGM was an unscrupulous studio. Warner Bros. it was a grittier studio,” says film critic and historian Leonard Maltin. “This shows in the types of stars they have hired and nurtured. Gone are the unlikely men who didn’t fit conventional definitions of beauty or beauty: Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart. Lively pace and torn stories – nothing was accidental or coincidental. It was Warner Bros. INSTRUCTED “

Harry, the eldest son, served as president of Warner Bros. He served as the CEO of Pictures. Sam was essentially a chief technology officer and chief operating officer. Albert managed to distribute all the activities, while Jack, who was almost 11 years younger than Harry, called the shots as a show with a view to creating and creating talent.

The brothers had a lot of experience at the time of the iconic WB logo shield on the West Coast as Warner Bros. Some of the four were engaged in the business of “friends” and the distribution of silent notes and briefs from the late 1900s. They soon moved into producing their own films. The efforts of the Warner brothers began to have a contraction – and notice in the pages Variety – around 1917 and ’18 are silent, such as “Passions inherited? and “My four years in Germany.”

Warner Bros. It was the forerunner of today’s conglomerate media. Led by Harry and Sam, he pursued growth through acquisitions in a very strategic manner. The brothers bought Vitagraph Studios in 1925 for their sound technology assets – and embraced the new film business with the release of the first mainstream “talking picture,” 1927’s “The Jazz Singer” starring Al Jolson. (Fun re: Stay in, Variety referred to sound films as “speak” rather than “speak.”)

In 1928, WB Stanley Corp. It bought America’s first national theaters and records, which came with an 85-acre lot in Burbank, which the studio still calls home. In the 1930s, Harry Potter picked up sheet music publishing companies, and Looney Tunes and Merrie Melody production presses launched to promote the songs.

“The family had two extraordinary visionaries in Sam and Harry,” said Cass Warner, who is Harry’s niece. “I saw the potential of moving together with music and sound.”

Like the study itself, the iconic shield logo of Warner Bros. developed over the years. From top left, early 1920s; late 20s; early 70s, mid-1970s; and to the present day
Courtesy Images

Sam’s story could be a movie unto itself. Being known as the most perfect, he would pull off the miracles he was swimming in. In 1925, his interest in communications technology led Warner Bros. it became the first Hollywood studio to invest in a broadcasting cause when it launched on the Los Angeles radio station KFWB (aka Fighting, Warner Bros.). He then threw himself into the preparation of the Vitaphone company’s synchronized sound system for film printers.On October 6, 1927, the premiere of “The Jazz Singer” at Warner Bros. The flagship theater in New York. On the day he triumphed in his biggest industry endeavor, Sam died in a Los Angeles hospital of a sinus infection that led to pneumonia. When Harry Warner broke out from the East Coast with his brother, he changed in Albuquerque to expedite his arrival in Los Angeles with a privateer, but he was still four hours late; Variety reported in his Oct. 12 1927, obituary for Sam.

In the case of “The Jazz Singer” – and the excellent promise, “You haven’t heard yet” – Warner Bros. Competitors had no choice but to achieve a healthy and full complexion of the race. A big bet has been made by the innovation studio, which previously snagged a German shepherd named Rin Tin Tin to pull its biggest box-office hit. Warner Bros. not only has he been a titan of Hollywood, he has been a force in exporting American culture and ideals around the world.

“They were producing over 100 films in the 1930s,” says Zaslav. “Back then, if you lived in a town or a small town, movies were how you saw the world, how you learned what New York looked like, how people wanted to go on a date. The motion picture business has sharpened our view of what it means to be American.

Harry Warner was primarily a deeply loving, idealistic and observant of his Jewish faith. For his direction, he produced a study in the films of the rising issue such as “The Black Legion”, which took on the Ku Klux Klan, and historical dramas such as the 1937 “The Life of Emile Zola”, which bagged the first best picture Oscar WB. “Confessions of a Nazi Spy” in 1939 was one of Hollywood’s first attempts to address fascism in East Germany. Around that time, Warner Bros. He was the first major Hollywood player to stop doing business, initially, with Hitler’s Germany.

The success of the Warner Studios took the family to incalculable heights and inevitably moves followed, most notably the sale of many of the studio’s libraries, which Jack orchestrated in 1956. He encouraged Harry and Albert to sell their shares and buy them back secretly. and remained in the studio until it was sold again in 1967 to Seven Arts Prods. Two years later, Kinney Corp., a conglomerate that started operating lots and got funeral homes, acquired Warner Bros.-Seven Arts. Kinney CEO Steven J. Ross took over the reins of the studio, a company on its way to becoming Time Warner, the largest media company in the world, after its merger with Time Inc. in 1990.

For Cass Warner, who wrote the family history in the 2007 book and documentary “The Warner Brothers”, when the shield reaches the century mark, it feels “vindication” for the work put in by his grandfather and great-uncles. Harry and Albert were still estranged from Jack at the time of his death (in 1958 and 1967, respectively). Jack Warner, 86, died in 1978.

Cass Warner has high praise for Zaslav and his team, who first connected with her after the deal was closed with AT&T to acquire WarnerMedia in April 2022.

“They would be so happy to see that their dream is still alive and well and expanding,” Warner says. “My grandfather was amazed to see all the new ways that people can communicate with each other. The company’s original motto was ‘Pictures that educate, enlighten and entertain.’ I really have to believe it. ”

Tim Gray contributed to this report.

(above: Sam Warner, Albert Warner, Jack Warner and Harry Warner)


The Al Jolson starrer “The Jazz Singer” changed everything about the movie business. But months before Jolson’s voice rang out in theaters, Warner Bros. The first indication of adding audio to motion pictures came in 1926 when John Barrymore delivered the vehicle “Don Juan”.

The silence of the film was enhanced by a number of musical readings and sound effects that were placed in theaters on a projector manufactured by Vitaphone. This synchronized-sound technique was not intended to last long, although the sound was perfectly balanced for turning movies. Variety tried hard to explain how it all worked with this steampunk-esque graphic that appeared in our Aug. 7. 1926 current, special edition of “Don Juan” jump big.

From August 7 1926, special edition of Variety
Variety Archives

Warner Bros. his innovation at the glitzy premiere on Aug. 6. 1926 show at the Warner Theater in Manhattan. The presentation opened with a sound-enhanced short play featuring the voice of Will Hays, president of what would become the Motion Picture Assn.

“No story ever written for the screen is as dramatic as the history of the screen itself. Tonight we write another chapter in that history,” Hays told the crowd. for this public demonstration Vitaphone synchronized sound reproduction with action reproduction.

Special first page Variety edition dedicated to WB’s sound innovations in 1926’s “Don Juan”.
Variety Archives

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Ava Grey

Hi there! I'm Ava Grey, an enthusiastic article writer with a passion for the arts, fashion, and staying informed about current events. As a journalism student at the New York Academy of Art, I'm driven to use my writing to create positive change and spark meaningful conversations. I'm particularly interested in contemporary art and sustainable fashion, and I love exploring how people use these mediums to express themselves and communicate their values. I believe that staying informed and hearing different perspectives is essential for personal growth and learning, and I'm always eager to engage in lively debates and discussions.

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