In the beginning, there were four brothers, Sam, Jack, Harry and Albert. Jack Warner was the most outlandish of his brothers, cracking jokes and creating enemies wherever he went. In fact, it seemed as if he was the spokesperson for the budding film conglomerate. Sam, Harry and Albert, on the other hand, were the ones who had started it all out.
Back in Youngstown, Ohio, Sam was the first to stumble onto a Kinetoscope. After that, just like Laemmle and Fox, the Warner brothers set up their own Nickelodeon. As their business grew, the Warner brothers never tried to set themselves up as “genteel figures”, just like their predecessors.
The Rise into Fame
When the Warners began producing their own films, their first major film was released in 1918. It was based on the memoirs of a former American ambassador, My Four Years in Germany. However, it was in the year 1927 that their business really boomed.
As Sam and Jack Warner tried to promote their films, they were keen on using radio as a means for advertisements, that was when they hired Major Nathan Levinson, who was a young sound engineer. He set up the Warner brothers’ first radio station, called KFWB. Inspired by Levinson’s work, Sam Warner visited the Bell Laboratories, in New York. While he was there, Sam was introduced to a device that synchronised sound and moving pictures. Thus the potential for talking films was born.
After the exhibition, Sam and his brothers returned to Hollywood, determined to incorporate the new technology into their films. Unlike their predecessors, who saw sound pictures as ridiculous and absurd, the Warner Bros, saw it as a golden opportunity and in 1927, they released the first ever talkie, The Jazz Singer. Unfortunately, when the film premiered, Sam Warner suffered a major cerebral haemorrhage, and his brothers rushed to see him. They were too late. However, his legacy exploded all over the country, as film moguls, amateurs and the general public alike, watched the first ever talkie.
As David Puttnam suggests, Samuel Goldwyn’s wife recalled that the audience left with “terror on all their faces, as they realised that the game they had been playing for years was finally over”. With the advent of synchronised sound, the Warner Brothers had the chance to grow exponentially. In December of the same year, as The Jazz Singer was released, the studio released their first full all-talking short, My Wife’s Gone Away (1927). After that, it was a shoe-in for the Warner Bros. They started releasing more and more talking pictures, becoming even bigger than their counterparts in Universal Studios, 20th Century Fox and even the late MGM Studios.
Personal and Professional Conflicts
Despite their success and their growing empire, the Warner brothers themselves experienced much turmoil between themselves. Ever since the beginning, both Jack and Harry never saw eye to eye. Harry was a much more practical man. He fled to the financial offices in New York, to escape his brother’s embarrassing antics. When Harry Warner died in 1958, it was said that Jack Warner didn’t even attend his brother’s funeral.
Regardless of their feud, Sam’s death really shook up his brothers. He was the very first to see the potential of sound movies, and the family left to pick up the pieces, had to continue his legacy, as he would most likely see fit. Thus the unrelenting march the Warner Bros. company danced all through the golden age of Hollywood.
Warner Bros. Today
It is not surprising that even today, Warner Bros. is a household name. Churning out films such as The Matrix, the Harry Potter Series and the Hobbit trilogy. Their film empire has not only taken over the world but has even expanded into the likes of TV and music production. Their names are everywhere, labelling popular TV shows like Friends (1994-2004), The Big Bang Theory (2007-Present), The Flash (2014-Present) and Supernatural (2005-Present). It will be a matter of time before they finally meet a worthy opponent, or perhaps they will continue to dominate the film and media industry, for years to come.