Warner Brothers

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Warner Brothers

Warner Brothers, American movie studio executives and producers. Sons of poor E European Jewish immigrants, the brothers were Harry Morris (1881–1958), Albert (1884–1967), Samuel Louis (1887–1927), all b. Poland, and Jack Leonard (1892–1978), b. London, Ontario, Canada. The brothers opened (1903) a movie theater in Newcastle, Pa. and operated a film distribution business until 1912. Later Harry and Albert, who were responsible for the financial end of the business, went to New York and Sam and Jack, who managed the production and technical aspects, to California. The Warners made their first successful movie in 1917 and Warner's Hollywood studio opened the following year. In 1923 Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. was founded and in 1925 the brothers bought Vitagraph, with studios in New York and Los Angeles. With Sam's technical support, the brothers began experimenting with sound. In 1927 Warner Bros. released the first feature-length talking picture, The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson. During the 1930s the studio became known for a series of gangster films, action adventures, and melodramas. During World War II, it was active in the war effort and produced the masterpiece Casablanca (1942). In the late 1940s Warner Bros. was the first studio to begin television production. In 1956 the remaining three brothers sold the company, but Jack, through a secret deal, repurchased his shares and became president and the major stockholder. He sold control of the company in 1966 and stepped down as president in 1967. Among Warner Bros.'s most famous films are Little Caesar (1930), Mildred Pierce (1945), A Streetcar Named Desire (1952), Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and My Fair Lady (1964).

See Jack Warner's autobiography, My First Hundred Years in Hollywood (with D. Jennings, 1964), his biography by B. Thomas (1990, repr. 2002; studies by R. Behlmer (1985), C. Warner Sperling (1998), and R. Schickel (2008); The Brothers Warner (documentary dir. by C. Warner Sperling, 2008).

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