Warner Bros: The Making of an American Movie Studio by David Thomson tells an abbreviated history of the studio’s founding and filmography.
The book was published through the Jewish Lives series at Yale University Press in 2017. A paperback came out in the fall of 2019. Compared with The Brothers Warner, which I’m writing about tomorrow, it’s only a snippet into their lives. If you want a look into their lives without all the in-depth conversations from family members, the book does an okay job.
This is a studio that made their way from being an independent movie producer to one of the biggest names around. The sons of a Jewish cobbler started their way into filmmaking in the early years of the 20th century. However, they would prove to be innovative and change the way we watch movies. Silent movies were the rage going into the late 1920s. Everything would change with Don Juan and The Jazz Singer. Both films are the first films to feature sound. The Jazz Singer alone would become the first film with spoken dialogue. I’m not going to dive into the filmography.
If there’s one thing I learned about the Warner Brothers through reading this book, it’s that Jack L. Warner was an asshole. The Brothers Warner goes more in-depth on this part of their lives. I also can’t help but think how things would look if Sam Warner didn’t die the day prior to the premiere of The Jazz Singer. He was the brother that Jack looked up to. After Sam’s death–and because of Jack’s infidelity–the relationship between Harry and Jack would only worsen through time. The worst came upon reading how Jack threw both Harry and Abe under the bus upon selling the studio.
If you want a definitive biography, it isn’t going to be Warner Bros.