Warner Bros. Essay, Research Paper
The Warner family immigrated from Poland to Baltimore in 1883 and for several years traveled around the United States and Canada before finally settling in Youngstown, Ohio. Of the twelve children, Harry was born in Poland in 1881; Jack, the youngest, was born in London, Ontario, in 1892. In 1903 the family purchased the 90-seat Cascade Theatre, a nickelodeon in Newcastle, Pennsylvania (where Jack sang for the audience during intermissions). By 1905, Jack, Harry, and brothers Albert and Sam were also in film distribution, and started film exchanges in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Compelled to sell out to the Patents Company not long after, they resumed working in exhibition and by 1913 were producing films with Warner Features. By 1917 they had a hit with the wartime biopic My Four Years In Germany, based on Ambassador James W. Gerard's book, and in 1923 they incorporated a company and started a Hollywood-based studio called Warner Bros. Harry, the president, and Albert, the treasurer, managed the New York headquarters, while Sam, the chief executive, and Jack, production chief, ran the California studio. They released over a dozen films that year, and soon had their first big star: a German shepherd called Rin Tin Tin. Darryl F. Zanuck was skilled at scripting these popular adventure films, and wrote such Rin Tin Tin hits as Find Your Man (1924) and The Lighthouse By The Sea (1925). He was also adept at comedy and drama, and among his many '20s writing credits are slapstick comedies starring Charlie Chaplin's brother Sydney, including the 1926 hits Oh! What A Nurse! and The Better Ole. Warners also had John Barrymore under contract and had starred him in Beau Brummel (1924) and the "Moby-Dick" adaptation The Sea Beast (1926). German director Ernst Lubitsch signed a five-picture deal with Warners in 1924, and made such memorable comedies as The Marriage Circle (1924), Lady Windermere's Fan (1925), and So This Is Paris (1926). In 1925 the studio acquired the production company Vitagraph along with its network of exchanges. The following year Warners teamed with Western Electric to form a subsidiary called Vitaphone, which developed a system of prerecorded sound played on discs, to accompany silent films. They tested this technique for adding music and sound effects in some musical shorts as well as their celebrated adventure feature, Don Juan (1926) with John Barrymore. Sam Warner, who helped invent this sound process, died in 1927, the day before the studio released the first feature with synchronized songs and dialogue: The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson. The film's spectacular success, and the revolution in talking movies that followed, made Warner Bros. one of Hollywood's most powerful film studios. Warners had also been buying up theaters in the 1920s, which gave them control of the market for first-run releases; by the begining of the 1930s they were one of the five big "integrated major" studios, along with Fox, MGM, Paramount, and RKO. In 1928 Warners released the first all-talking film, the hit gangster movie The Lights Of New York, a two-reeler that they had expanded into an hour-long feature. Zanuck was appointed studio manager that same year, and soon thereafter became head of production. Warners then further expanded by buying out First National Pictures — and reaping their vast distribution system and huge studio facility in Burbank. Zanuck stayed at Warners until 1933, when he left to form his 20th Century company (later to merge with Fox as 20th Century-Fox); but during the early '30s he supervised many of the films that launched highly profitable genres for Warners. The studio's greatness at making tough gangster movies began with the Zanuck productions Little Caesar (1930), directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring Edward G. Robinson, and The Public Enemy (1930), directed by William A. Wellman and starring James Cagney. Warners' fame in social-protest dramas started with Zanuck's Five Star Final (1931) and I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang (1932), both directed by LeRoy. Zanuck also supervised Disraeli (1929), starring George Arliss, which began Warner's successful cycle of historical biopics, and the classic musical 42nd Street (1933), starring Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler and choreographed by Busby Berkeley. The crime or gangster picture became almost a Warners signature in the '30s, thanks to stars Robinson (The Hatchet Man, 1932), Cagney (Lady Killer, 1933), and, by the mid 1930s, Humphrey Bogart (The Petrified Forest, 1936; Dead End, 1937). As Robinson and Cagney became big stars, their parts became more sympathetic, even in crime films — with Bogart as the bad bad-guy, getting his lumps from Robinson in Bullets Or Ballots (1936) and The Amazing Doctor Clitterhouse (1938), or from Cagney in Angels With Dirty Faces (1939) and The Roaring Twenties (1939). Warners' grittiness also paid off in incisive social dramas, most notably Wellman's Wild Boys Of The Road (1933) and LeRoy's They Won't Forget (1937), and in several hard-boiled prison films, including 20,000 Years In Sing Sing (1933) and San Quentin (1937). Historical biographies worked well with Arliss (Alexander Hamilton, 1931; Voltaire, 1933), until he moved on to work at Fox in 1934. The studio kept up its commitment to the genre with director William Dieterle and actor Paul Muni: The Story Of Louis Pasteur (1935), The Life Of Emile Zola (1937), Juarez (1939). The '30s also saw numerous musicals from Warners, most notably those choreographed by Berkeley: Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933), Footlight Parade (1933), Dames (1934), and Gold Diggers Of 1935 (1935, which he also directed). Feeling the pinch in the Depression, the studio was careful to economize in its salaries and schedules. Yet its roster of talent and range of production expanded over the '30s. Bette Davis became a major star in a series of popular romantic dramas, including Dangerous (1935), That Certain Woman (1937), Jezebel (1938), Dark Victory (1939), and The Old Maid (1939). Errol Flynn was embraced by the public in his rousing actioners directed by Michael Curtiz: Captain Blood (1935), The Charge Of The Light Brigade (1936), and The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938). The studio could also boast a tight pair of horror films directed by Curtiz, The Mystery Of The Wax Museum (1933) and The Walking Dead (1936); a stylish Shakespeare adaptation directed by Dieterle and Max Reinhardt, A Midsumer Night's Dream (1935); director Howard Hawks' drama of rival mail pilots, Ceiling Zero (1936); and the espionage drama Confessions Of A Nazi Spy (1939). The '40s brought changes to Warners' treatment of genres. Social dramas faded with the Depression. The historical biopic vogue ended with Dieterle directing Robinson in two 1940 films, Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet and A Dispatch From Reuters. Crime movies were eclipsed by the violence of World War Two; the studio's gangster cycle also peaked that year with director Raoul Walsh's High Sierra, in which Humphrey Bogart became a star playing a sympathetic gangster. After the war, the genre had its last hurrahs at Warners with two classic performances: Robinson in Key Largo (1948), directed by John Huston, and Cagney in White Heat (1949), directed by Walsh. The war effort also transformed Warners' musicals, which now tended to be star-filled flagwavers: Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), This Is The Army (1943), Hollywood Canteen (1944). Even the studio's biopic of George M. Cohan, the classic Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) starring James Cagney, was part of the good fight. Bette Davis became an even more formidable star at Warners in the '40s, demanding better roles and getting them: The Letter (1940), In This Our Life (1942), Now, Voyager (1942), Old Acquaintance (1943), Watch On The Rhine (1943), The Corn Is Green (1945), Deception (1946), and Beyond The Forest (1949), her last film under contract at Warners. Joan Crawford left MGM and signed with Warners, where she'd make her finest "three-hankie" dramas: Mildred Pierce (1945), Humoresque (1946), Possessed (1947), Flamingo Road (1949). After his swashbuckler The Sea Hawk (1940), Errol Flynn kept busy in the '40s with Westerns (Virginia City, 1940; They Died With Their Boots On, 1941; San Antonio, 1945; Silver River, 1948) and war films (Dive Bomber, 1941; Desperate Journey, 1942; Edge Of Darkness, 1943; Objective Burma!, 1945). After Warners rewon World War One with The Fighting 69th (1940) and Sergeant York (1941), the studio took on the Axis in such popular combat films as Action In The North Atlantic (1943), Air Force (1943), Destination Tokyo (1943), God Is My Co-Pilot (1945). After High Sierra, Bogart secured his stardom with the classic The Maltese Falcon (1941), an adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's detective novel, and the first film directed by Warners writer John Huston. Bogart went on to star in several first-rate Warners films of the '40s, most notably the classic wartime drama of romance and espionage, Casablanca (1942); To Have And Have Not (1945) and The Big Sleep (1946), both directed by Howard Hawks and co-starring Lauren Bacall; and Huston's classic account of greed and paranoia, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1948). The Maltese Falcon had also co-starred the great character actor Peter Lorre with Huston's discovery, stage actor Sydney Greenstreet. Warners went on to team the pair as leads in several first-rate mysteries and thrillers, including The Mask Of Dimitrios (1944) and Three Strangers (1946), both directed by Jean Negulseco, and The Verdict (1946), directed by Don Siegel. Other important Warners releases of the '40s include the sports biopic Knut Rockne — All American (1940); the Jack London adaptation The Sea Wolf (1941); the dark drama Kings Row (1942); Pride Of The Marines (1945), with John Garfield as a blinded veteran; the espionage film Cloak And Dagger (1946); the drama of a deaf-mute girl, Johnny Belinda (1948); King Vidor's adaptation of Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead (1949); and the Danny Kaye comedy The Inspector General (1949). The studio's animation department, active since 1930, came into its own in the '40s thanks to such directors as Tex Avery, Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett, Frank Tashlin, and Chuck Jones, who made Warners the center of the short-cartoon universe with a gallery of beloved cartoon stars: Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Tweety and Sylvester, Yosemite Sam, and the Road Runner and the Coyote. Two major filmmakers also worked at Warners during the '40s. Frank Capra directed a pair of films, Meet John Doe (1941) with Gary Cooper and Arsenic And Old Lace (1941, released '44) with Cary Grant, before leaving to join the military. Alfred Hitchcock began working at Warners after the war with the thrillers Rope (1948) and Under Capricorn (1949); his work there became even stronger in the '50s, especially with Strangers On A Train (1951), Dial M For Murder (1954), and The Wrong Man (1957). John Huston had become an independent filmmaker at the end of the '40s, but returned to Warners for one of his best films of the decade, the Melville adaptation Moby Dick (1956). Elia Kazan directed many of his finest films at Warners in the '50s: the Tennessee Williams adaptations A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Baby Doll (1956); the John Steinbeck adaptation East Of Eden (1954), which introduced James Dean; and the provocative satire of media manipulation, A Face In The Crowd (1956). James Dean's other two films, both released after his death, were also for Warners: the classic drama of troubled teenagers, Rebel Without A Cause (1955), directed by Nicholas Ray, and George Stevens' epic Giant (1956), from the novel by Edna Ferber. Warners' biggest difficulties in the 1950s were competition from television and the loss of its theater holdings in 1953, when the government's Consent Decree split the company into two entities: The theaters went to the control of Fabian Enterprises, Inc., and production and distribution were to be handled by Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. In 1956 Harry and Albert Warner sold their shares in the company to an investment group; Jack kept his shares, becoming the single largest shareholder and president of the company. During these years, singer and actress Doris Day became a star at Warners with such hit musicals as By The Light Of The Silvery Moon (1953), Calamity Jane (1953), and The Pajama Game (1957). The studio also made several notable Westerns in the late '50s: John Ford's The Searchers (1956), Arthur Penn's The Left-Handed Gun (1958), Delmer Daves' The Hanging Tree (1959), and Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo (1959). In the '60s, many of Warners' biggest hits were films with a pre-sold audience, thanks to their genesis as successful plays: Dore Schary's FDR biopic Sunrise At Campobello (1960); the Americana musical The Music Man (1962); Edward Albee's Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1965), the debut film of director Mike Nichols; the classic Lerner and Loewe musical My Fair Lady (1965), directed by George Cukor. Other major Warners releases of the early '60s include director Fred Zinnemann's Australian comedy/drama, The Sundowners (1960); the romantic drama Splendor In The Grass (1960) and the immigrant saga America, America (1963), both directed by Elia Kazan; producer/director Robert Aldrich's gothic thriller What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962), with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford; the alcoholism drama Days Of Wine And Roses (1962), directed by Blake Edwards; and two John Ford Westerns, the race-themed Sergeant Rutledge (1960) and the epic Cheyenne Autumn (1964). In 1967 Warners was acquired by the Canadian-based Seven Arts Productions, Ltd., and became Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, Ltd.; Jack Warner sold them his shares and became an independent producer, making the flop big-budget musical Camelot (1967). Before the new company was bought out by the end of the decade, it released three of Warners' most important films of the '60s: Arthur Penn's landmark Bonnie And Clyde (1967); John Huston's drama of homosexual repression, Reflections In A Golden Eye (1967); and Sam Peckinpah's classic Western The Wild Bunch (1969).The conglomerate Kinney National Service acquired Warner Bros.-Seven Arts in 1969, and in 1971 changed its name to Warner Communications, Inc. Former talent agent Ted Ashley was appointed chairman and CEO of the studio (now reverted to its old name, Warner Bros.) and guided Warners to many of its most successful 1970s releases: the horror hit The Exorcist (1973); Mel Brooks' classic Western spoof, Blazing Saddles (1974); the disaster film The Towering Inferno (1974), a co-production with 20th Century-Fox; the Watergate saga All The President's Men (1976); the musical remake A Star Is Born (1976) with Barbra Streisand; the Neil Simon comedy The Goodbye Girl (1977), a co-production with MGM; and the action series started by Superman (1978). Actor Clint Eastwood began releasing his films almost exclusively through Warner Bros., kicking off with a string of box-office hits: The Outlaw Josie Wales (1976), The Enforcer (1976), The Gauntlet (1977), and Every Which Way But Loose (1978). Robert A. Daly succeeded Ashley in 1980, with Terry Semel becoming president and COO; together, they brought Warners to such hits as the series launched by Police Academy (1984) and Lethal Weapon (1987); Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King, The Shining (1980); Tom Cruise's breakthrough film, Risky Business (1983); Joe Dante's horror comedy Gremlins (1984); the Cambodian drama The Killing Fields (1984); and Steven Speilberg's Alice Walker adaptation, The Color Purple (1985). Eastwood continued to score with a range of genres: comedy (Any Which Way You Can, 1980), action (Firefox, 1982), crime (Sudden Impact, 1983; Tightrope, 1984), Western (Pale Rider, 1985), and war (Heartbreak Ridge, 1986). Time, Inc., purchased Warner Communications in 1989 and created Time-Warner, one of the largest communications and entertainment companies in the world. That same year, Warners hit box-office gold again with the series launched by director Tim Burton's Batman. The studio's other major hits of the '90s include the drama Driving Miss Daisy (1990); the Kevin Costner vehicles Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991) and The Bodyguard (1992); Oliver Stone's political drama JFK (1991); Spike Lee's biopic Malcolm X (1992); the Clint Eastwood Western Unforgiven (1992); the television-derived drama The Fugitive (1993); the save-the-whale kid's film Free Willy (1993); and the animation/live-action blend Space Jam (1996) which teams basketball player Michael Jordan with Bugs Bunny. With a track record such as this, the studio that was pivotal in bringing sound to motion pictures should continue to hold the ears — and eyes — of audiences for a long time to come.