Warner Bros.: 100 Years of Storytelling, written by Mark A. Vieira, is the must-own centennial book about the studio’s history.
Vieira dives into the vault to bring readers images that many of us have probably never seen before. The author brings a century of WB history to life in front of our very eyes. TCM host Ben Mankiewicz pens the forward.
Every chapter consists of a few page of text before showing off a decade’s worth of images from films and publicity stills. Vieira notes the Oscar winners and nominees for every year since the very first Oscars. If it were up to me, Phil Lord and Chris Miller would have won for The LEGO Movie but that’s the fault of the Academy for snubbing them. You can make the same argument about Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Even though Nolan’s film lost, it still won because of the Academy changing the number of nominees. But anyway, there are more pages of photos than text so this book is a really quick read. I finished reading over the course of two weekends and then dived into the new documentary on Max.
To discuss the history of Warner Bros. in this review would be rehashing thoughts written about the recent documentary along with The Brothers Warner (book and documentary). In short, Benjamin Warner wanted a better life for his family and moved from Poland to America. Following a stint in Canada, the family would end up in Ohio. It’s from there that Harry, Abe, Sam, and Jack Warner would enter the entertainment business. They would make their way out to Hollywood and eventually form Warner Bros. in 1923. Harry would work out of the New York office while Jack would run be in charge of production in Hollywood and later, Burbank.
The brothers would continually innovate. If you’re familiar with Hollywood history, Sam Warner put a lot of effort into bring sound to The Jazz Singer. But as we all know, he died before the New York premiere. While his brothers missed the premiere, it would change film history as we know it. That’s just one part of the story. This is the studio that gave us the likes of Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Looney Tunes, and more. It was the studio that got sued, forcing contracts to be no more than seven years. The lawsuits would later lead the Golden Age of Hollywood into New Hollywood and beyond.
Warner Bros., more than any other studio, brought the fight against Nazi Germany to the big screen. No other studio was willing to lose the German market at the time but they didn’t care. The looming war factored into the patriotic shorts and no shortage of films that can fall under the category of “war preparedness.” Harry and Jack didn’t have the best relationship with each other but they were both strong American patriots and knew that the Nazis had to be defeated. Are there any studio heads today that will look at what they did and fight back against fascism on American soil? Other than Bob Iger at Disney…
This book looks back at 100 years of history on soundstages between the studios on Sunset and in Burbank. There have been no shortage of mergers and acquisitions–one of which led to Harry’s stroke and death as well as Abe no longer talking to Jack. Jack might have wanted to be president so badly but it ruined the relationship with his brothers. Anyway, Vieira touches on both business and creative sides in the book but I would say the recent centennial documentary goes a bit more in-depth. What will the next 100 years look like? It’s hard to say.
Mark A. Vieira’s new book, Warner Bros.: 100 Years of Storytelling, is a must-own book and perfect companion reading to the four-part 100 Years of Warner Brothers documentary.
Running Press will release Warner Bros.: 100 Years of Storytelling in bookstores on May 30, 2023.
Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Substack.