The Brothers Warner is the companion documentary to Cass Warner Sperling’s book and the film examines the Warner Brothers family and the studio’s legacy.
If there’s someone who can tell the Warner story, it’s Cass Warner Sperling. The fact that she’s Harry Warner’s grandaughter doesn’t hurt. This relationship helps to lend the film more of the personal story it needs. We get Cass’ personal stories about not only Harry but growing up within this famous family. Similarly, we get some commentary from Jack Warner Jr., Betty Warner Shinebaum, and Lita Heller. The trio were the first generation to grow up in America, The brothers were the only family to form a movie studio together. It makes since that the documentary is also a family affair.
The three older brothers had a dream to enter the motion picture business. Funny enough, this dream happened to come around the same time. Little brother Jack got in on it as well. If Sam didn’t die at a young age, it’s hard to know what would have happened. He was the brother who served as the buffer between older brother Harry and younger brother Jack.
Some of the stories in the film are familiar if you’ve also read the book. It certainly doesn’t hurt to hear those stories being told again on screen. There are a number of clips shown throughout the documentary. However, Sperling also manages to push through the studio’s focus on having a social conscience. This especially comes through when talking about films like Confessions of a Nazi Spy. I said it in my book review and I’ll say it again–not many studios were willing to take the risk at the time.
There’s a lot of archival footage so we get to hear from the brothers themselves. Well, mostly Harry and Jack do the talking at functions. Outside of the archival footage, one of the things that helps complement the film so well are the interviews. Among those interviewed are Warner employees, be it talent or other studio employees. Who better to discuss a sibling rivalry than Roy Disney Jr.?
The four Warner Brothers would certainly be proud of The Brothers Warner. It’s a film that lives up to their legacy even as the studio would be swallowed up by larger conglomerates over the years. One thing is for certain, both the book and companion film ensure that the Warner Brothers origins will never be forgotten.
DIRECTOR: Cass Warner Sperling
FEATURING: Harry Warner, Albert Warner, Sam Warner, Jack L. Warner