The Brothers Warner, written by Cass Warner Sperling, tells the definitive story of the Warner Brothers, their family, and the studio.
If you want to learn more about how the studio came to be, this is the book for you. This is the book that shows how Harry, Abe, Sam, and Jack Warner would come together to start a studio. They took a similar motto from The Three Musketeers in that they were all for one and one for all. If they didn’t agree on something, they wouldn’t move forward.
The Brothers Warner takes an in-depth look at Jack Warner’s infidelity. As an added touch, Jack Warner Jr., his son, provides a lot of insight into his father’s actions. Not only as the head of production but as a family man. It turns out that Jack’s infidelity would drive a wedge not just with Harry but Jack Jr.
Interestingly, I learned by way of this book that the Warner Brothers originally acquired the rights make Gone with the Wind. Things changed when David Selznick heard Mervyn LeRoy discussing this at a party. He paid $5000 more for the rights and the rest is history.
Heading into World War 2, the Warners were the only studio willing to risk losing the European market during the rise of Nazi Germany. The events that transpired in the late 1930s led to an employee getting murdered in their Europe office. Joe Kaufman’s death changed everything. The studio would go onto green light the 1939 film, Confessions of A Nazi Spy. I’ll have more on the film in the days to come but the film, “as the first major motion picture to deal with Nazism and to warn the world of the threat to democracy, brought down the wrath of Congress.”
Even though Sam’s and the death of their parents drove Harry and Jack apart, the conditions in Europe united them. A strongly worded telegram to FDR in 1940 went without a response. It only proves to show that the FDR administration didn’t do enough prior to Pearl Harbor. Another story for another day.
I’m not going to lie that I started getting tears towards the end of the book. It’s hard not to especially with reading about the fall of the dynasty. It isn’t just that Jack Warner turned against his family but his relationship with both his son and brothers would never be the same. Moreover, he basically killed Harry Warner when he decided to buy the company back. This comes after all three surviving brothers agreed to sell together.
The Brothers Warner offers a lesser look at their overall filmography but a bigger look at who they were as people.