The studio was founded in 1923 by four brothers, Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack L. Warner. Harry, the eldest, was president, Albert was in charge of distribution, and Jack, the youngest, was head of the studio in Burbank, California, USA. Sam passed away in 1928.
Warner Bros. began to rise to prominence in 1925 when it gambled on the new technological wave of bringing sound to motion pictures. In August 1926 Warners premiered their new Vitaphone process with Don Juan which used music recorded on a disc rather than having orchestral accompaniment.
In 1927 Warners released The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson that included Vitaphoned musical sequences. In 1928 the studio released The Lights of New York, the first all-dialogue film. Warners was now a major Hollywood studio.
Warner brothers of the 1930's was known for its popular musicals, such as 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933, choreographed by Busby Berkeley, social dramas such as I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang and Wild Boys of the Road, gangster films including Little Caesar with Edward G. Robinson and Public Enemy with James Cagney and high quality biographic films such as The Life of Emile Zola, The Story of Louis Pasteur, Juarez, all with Paul Muni, and Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet with Edward G. Robinson.
Click on the thumbnails to view larger images.
Photos L - R: Top Row: 3 views of 42nd Street, still from Gold Diggers of 1933, Busby Berkeley portrait, 2 stills from Little Caesar, Edward G. Robinson portrait, still from Public Enemy, James Cagney portrait
Bottom Row: James Cagney portrait, still from The Life of Emile Zola, 2 Paul Muni portraits.
Warners found success in the late 1930's and 40's with Humphrey Bogart in such films as The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca, the swashbuckling Errol Flynn and box office star Bette Davis in her many marvelous films, winning Academy Awards for Dangerous and Jezebel, nominations for Dark Victory, The Letter, The Little Foxes, Now, Voyager, and Mr. Skeffington. Other 1940's successes included Barbara Stanwyck in Christmas in Connecticut and William Powell and Irene Dunne in the film version of the Broadway smash, Life with Father.
Photos L - R: Bogie portrait, still from Casablanca, still from The Maltese Falcon, 2 Bette Davis portraits, 2 Barbara Stanwyck portraits, still from Life with Father.
Warner Brothers animated films were among the best produced by any studio with creative talent that included Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Tex Avery, Mel Blanc and Michael Maltese making cartoons starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig and so many others.
Photos L - R: 2 Chuck Jones portraits, portrait of Friz Freleng , 2 shots of the Looney Tunes characters.
In July 1956, Harry and Albert Warner sold their share in the company to a syndicate. The "new" Warner Bros. sold its pre-1948 feature films to television for a handsome profit and was a pioneer in TV production with series such as "77 Sunset Strip" starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and "Maverick" starring James Garner.
Portraits of Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and James Garner
In the 1960's, Warners scored a few successes with films such as The Great Race, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Bonnie and Clyde and Camelot. In 1967 Jack Warner sold his remaining interest in the company to Seven Arts, a Canadian corporation.
Stills from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Bonnie and Clyde
In 1970, Warner Brothers was purchased by Kinney National Services, Inc., a New York conglomerate. Ted Ashley became chairman and CEO and rented half the Burbank studio to Columbia Pictures. Ashley oversaw the production of such hits as The Summer of '42, Deliverance, What's Up, Doc?, and The Exorcist, the studio's first major blockbuster. In the late 1970s, Ashley was replaced by Robert Daly, and Clint Eastwood was Warner's most consistent box office star.
Stills from Deliverance and The Exorcist, portrait of Clint Eastwood
In 1989, Warner Communications merged with Time, Inc. to become the world's largest media company at that time and Batman became one of the highest grossing films of all time. Currently, the studio is still churning out successful films with no end in sight.
Click on the links below to learn more about the following Warner Brothers' actors:
James Cagney - One of a Kind
Bette Davis -- Actress --
Olivia de Havilland ~~ One Classy Lady
Troy Donahue - Warner Brothers' King of Suds
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