Warner Brothers built family dynasty in Hollywood
Kin’s project recaps Warner Brothers’ legacy in film
BY GENE TRIPLETT
When the name Warner Brothers is mentioned, some people picture Humphrey Bogart as the sweaty double-crosser in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” or a fiery-eyed Bette Davis hot-boxing cigarettes in almost every movie she ever made. Others see Bugs Bunny tormenting wabbit-hunting Elmer Fudd, or hear the carnival-spirited Looney Tunes theme “The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down” and Porky Pig stuttering “That’s all, Folks!”
But few people can name the siblings who made them all famous.
A number of older movie fans remember the line “Jack L. Warner in Charge of Production” that used to appear beneath the familiar WB shield at the beginning of every film, but Harry, Albert and Sam, the other three brothers who founded Hollywood’s only family-owned studio, are largely forgotten by today’s moviegoing public.
“It’s very simple,” said Harry Warner’s granddaughter, Cass Warner Sperling. “(Jack) out-survived everybody.”
Jack L. Warner also was the most visible of the clan, attending every important Hollywood function, dining and drinking in all the right places, and welcoming all the publicity he could get.
That’s why Sperling wrote a book and filmed a documentary, both titled “The Brothers Warner” — to set the record straight and give credit where it’s due in the building of this Hollywood family dynasty.
The award-winning documentary, an official selection at 33 film festivals worldwide, has just been released on Warner Home Video.
“Harry was actually the spokesperson and the president in the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s,” Sperling said of her grandfather. “So, if you’d asked anybody back then, they would have known who Harry was. He was the strategic general and the one who kept that place going financially for 50 years.”
Sperling, 62, spent 30 years researching personal and studio archives and conducting interviews with relatives, actors, executives and others with close ties to the Warners. What she has assembled are fascinating never-before-seen photos and footage showing filmmaking’s crude beginnings, the “Golden Age” of Hollywood and the story of four sons of Russian-Jewish immigrant parents — real name Wonskolaser — who developed a powerful work ethic early on.
From a storefront theater, complete with a sheet for a screen and borrowed funeral parlor chairs for seats, they went on to build not only one of the leading Hollywood studios but one of the most innovative and groundbreaking dream factories in the industry.
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