|Index||7 reviews in total|
Today the Warner name is just one component in a complicated corporate
entanglement that the multimedia era made possible. One of the first
and many things that we learn in this documentary is that the Warner
Brothers film empire really started like a corner-of-the-street family
affair, with the four sons of an East-European Jewish immigrant opening
a cinema in Pennsylvania, with an blanket as improvised screen and
borrowed chairs, with the wife of one of them playing the piano and
nickel entry ticket price. Then when movies became hard to obtain the
brothers decided to start making their own, and when the Edison
monopoly chased them from the East Coast to California history began.
The four brothers built an empire American style, one of the most successful enterprises in one of the most successful American industry of the 20th century. Yet, their path was not smooth, their life was milestoned by happiness and tragedies as well, and they were no saints. Grand-daughter Cass Warner's film has both the qualities of bringing a lot of information backed-up by original film sequences, and of bringing a personal touch, with interviews of the members of the family, as well as important people in the industry, and film and communication experts. I appreciated the participation of descendants and representatives from the competitor studios like Disney or Paramount who did not hesitate to participate in this homage documentary. All parts are well dosed and the balanced mix takes us through six decades of movie making in parallel with the American history, actually part of the American history of the 20th century.
The documentary is informative, good, and human, and seldom falls into the trap of the blind adoration of its subject. The story of the brothers Warner and of Warner Brothers the corporation is the material for a great feature film, yet to be made in the future. With a bit of luck it will add a few Oscars near the Warner Brothers name.
Cass Warner Sperling, granddaughter of Harry Warner, took on the
subject of Warner Brothers Studio and the brothers behind it and has
made an excellent documentary. She goes into the history of the family,
from its emigration from Russia, the kinds of jobs they could get, and
the family finally entering the nickelodeon business. Sperling tells
the story with a lot of warmth and a nice lack of formality.
The brothers were as different as any four people could be - the outlandish Jack, the good businessman Harry, the kind-hearted Sam, and the quiet Albert - but the main characters are Jack and Harry.
Naturally, since this is done by a family member, the emphasis is on the positive aspects of the studio - the risk-taking to get into sound, the tough social topics the studio tackled, their work against Naziism before World War II, and their wartime contributions. The difficulties with Sam Warner's widow, Lina Basquette, are soft-pedaled. It is noted that Sam's and Lina's child was taken from her and raised by the Warners. If that strikes people as odd, it's because it's not mentioned how much power and influence the family wielded against an actress. What also isn't mentioned is that the Warners had Lina blacklisted, and she never met her daughter until she reached adulthood.
Another thing left out is exactly how Sam Warner acquired Vitaphone, but it's possible that Cass Warner doesn't know the story. The anti-Semitism was rampant in Hollywood in the '20s, and in fact, Joseph Kennedy was one of the people determined to get the Jews out of the film-making business. Therefore, when Sam, who was a big redheaded guy, went to meet the Vitaphone people, he asked Lina to wear her Catholic cross. Unaware that Sam was Jewish, Warner Brothers was able to acquire Vitaphone.
No words are minced regarding Jack's ultimate betrayal of brother Harry and his whole family, a very shocking and sad page in the family scrapbook.
Some of the people interviewed include Lina Basquette, George Segal, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Debbie Reynolds, Roy Disney, Sherry Lansing, film historian Jeanine Basinger, Dennis Hopper, Tab Hunter, and ex-staff members at Warner Brothers - all very good and insightful.
Jack Warner used to call Raoul Walsh into his office and moan to him that he needed him to direct a film. Who's in it? Walsh would ask, and Warner would answer, "some bum." That's probably what he thought of his actors in general; unfortunately, he seemed to view his family the same way. A fascinating story and highly recommended.
Cass Warner, producer of this film, is actually the granddaughter of Harry Warner, one of the four original Warner Brothers. This documentary is not a retread of "You Must Remember This", the documentary which focused on the studio. This is the story of the four Warner Brothers themselves, starting back in the 19th century and their ventures into the entertainment industry that predate the forming of Warner Brothers the company by twenty years. It goes forward past the time that they exited the running of Warner Brothers the company and talks about the lives of the brothers themselves. Although Ms. Warner is a descendant, she doesn't get overly sentimental about her subject nor does she try to smooth over the real problems that the brothers had in their own private lives and with each other. The book by the same name has much more detail, of course, but this is still a very fascinating documentary for those interested in film history.
This documentary is about the Warner Brothers and their studio.
However, unlike other documentaries about film studios, this was more
like a home movie in many ways--with one of the granddaughters of the
original Warner Brothers narrating and talking with some family members
about their recollections (in addition to all the film historians who
comment). This gives it a rather intimate feel but also made you wonder
how objective the production was. For example, I often find that
autobiographies are FAR less interesting than biographies because they
tend to tell the tale from a far from neutral point of view. Now I am
NOT saying this film does this exactly. There is quite a bit of dirt in
the film about the animosity between Jack and Harry--making Harry sound
like a swell guy and Jack akin to Satan. But I did wonder about the
film at times--especially concerning Harry Warner's adoption of his
niece, Lina. What would a neutral party say about all this?
There were a lot of neat facts about the studio. I loved learning how the KKK sued Warner for their depiction in "Black Legion"! Or, how the studio was the first to refuse to sell movies in Germany and made the first anti-Nazi film from Hollywood--even when the nation was firmly in the isolationist camp. Interestingly, the film really didn't focus so much on the stars of the day--but more on the day to day behind the scenes events. I liked this, as if you want to see more about Cagney or Bette Davis, a documentary about them would make a lot more sense.
Overall, this is the sort of film that movie lovers like myself love--especially those who adore Hollywood during the classic years of the 1920s-40s. Fascinating--as it's filled with wonderful little stories and facts that film buffs will love. My only real problem with the film is that there is just too much material for a film that's just a bit over 90 minutes long. A mini-series would really due more justice to the history of this amazing studio.
Oddly, while the documentary was filled with a lot of film clips, some of them were of pretty poor quality--particularly the grainy and washed out one from "Giant". I am really not sure why this was the case.
This was a horribly disappointing documentary. The film never followed any defined structure. It is far too oriented on trivial family issues and random interviews, without delving into the historical importance of the warner bros. You never really get a feel for the times in which this happened. In fact you never get a feel for anything in the film. Its too bad that it was made by the someone in the warner family. They should have hired a non-biased third party to make this documentary. That said i absolutely love documentaries, even more than films, so i can be very critical of what i consider to be second rate, biased, and fail to be historically relevant.
Brothers Warner, The (2008)
*** (out of 4)
Pretty good documentary takes a look at the four Warner brothers (Harry, Albert, Jack, Sam) who would end up building one of the greatest and most loved studios in the history of cinema. Although it would seem the family had a lot of great fortune, they were haunted by several early deaths and many ending up turning their backs on one another. If you're looking for a documentary about all the great films released by the studio then you're going to be disappointed because this documentary actually takes a look at the family and not so much the movies. There's several stuff dealing with the movies that gets talked about including the brothers desire to make "real" dramas and how they fought the code and other studios to make a warning about Germany (CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY). I think fans of the history behind this studio will enjoy this doc the most as we get to see a lot of great photos of the boys as well as some video footage. There's quite a bit of talk from the relatives of the Warner's and we have a relative directing the film but don't let that worry you because there's quite a bit of brutal honesty here. Dennis Hopper, Debbie Reynolds, Norman Lear, George Segal, Angie Dickinson, Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. and Tab Hunter are just a few of the people who are interviewed. Some of the best stuff happens early on when we learn how the brothers ended up getting into the movie business and why they eventually moved out West.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The best service that this documentary does is remind us today that
there were three other Warner Brothers who created the studio besides
the most public of the brothers, Jack. Harry, Albert, and Sam all did
their part in creating the groundbreaking studio. The studio that
pioneered the most revolutionary of features since Thomas Edison
invented the motion picture, they made the movies talk.
The film was created by surviving Warner offspring and tells the story of the Warner kids, there were eleven in all that included the brothers who went into the nascent film business.
Even the most rudimentary students of film know of Warner Brothers reputation as the working class studio in the Depression era. After The Jazz Singer vaulted the studio into the front ranks of film business, the studio made films that also educated as well as entertained.
I've often thought that Warner Brothers was lucky to have as its first star Rin Tin Tin. No big salary squabbles with the German Shepherd, lots of profit with no headaches to go with them.
We never do get into the legendary quarrels Jack Warner had with his stars. No movie mogul ever fought with more of his contract players than Warner. Even he knew it, he supported Ronald Reagan in his first run for office as Governor because Reagan never gave him problems while he was under contract. Hardly in keeping with the politics of some of his best film creations.
The other brothers apparently led quiet lives and preferred to stay out of the spot light. Sam Warner died right around the time The Jazz Singer was having its premiere. He seemed to be the nicest of the bunch.
Jack Warner I think was jealous of his stars, he wanted to be a performer like them, but didn't have the talent. I love Jack Benny's line about Jack Warner, that he'd rather tell a bad joke than make a good movie. Says volumes about him.
The Warners left an indelible imprint on the film industry, no doubt about that. A more critical analysis could be used, but this can hardly be expected from the family. And this documentary will do until someone makes a more critical one.
|Plot summary||Plot synopsis||Ratings|
|Awards||External reviews||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|