Warner Brothers started as a small production company
in the 1930’s, set up by the four Warner brothers: Jack, Sam, Harry, and Albert.
In 1927 they made the world’s first ‘talkie
’ (film with sound
), ‘The Jazz Singer
’ (1927) with Al Jolson
They located in Sunset Boulevard
With the success of ‘The Jazz Singer’, they moved to 110 acres Burbank Lot
, which they used to share with Columbia
, and are still there.
A brief timeline of early Warner Brothers:
1910 – Jack and Harry start Nickelodeon
1923 – Become Warner Bros
1926 – WB own 10 cinemas. They sign producer Darryl Zanuck, who later became head of 20th Century Fox.
1929 – WB lose $20million in the depression
1933 – Zanuck replaced with Hal Wallis
1935 – WB own 140 cinemas in Pennsylvania alone.
1937 – Warner Bros. Production unit becomes operational
1941 – Profits: $5.5million
1946 – $19.5million by this time
1947 – An all time high of $52million
Early WB stars include some of the greats: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, James Cagney, Burt Lancaster, Doris Day, Gary Cooper.
Future president Ronald Reagan made his film debut in 1937 in Warner Brother’s ‘Love is in the Air’.
Warner Bros preferred black and white, gritty dramas, film noir (perverse, seedy narratives), gangsters. They also experimented with comedy musicals. Here are some of the characteristics of Warner Bros films, in particular the films they made during studio-system-era Hollywood:
Film noir/melodrama – cheap and effective.
Dark and seedy narrative.
Economic but atmospheric: cheap sets, low-key lighting, filmed at night, fast editing, flashbacks.
Individual background music.
Costume to convey character (examples include the fur coat in Mildred Pierce).
In the late 50’s they changed to full colour, and also began to focus on TV. They are now large suppliers of TV sitcoms, while their main film genre is gritty action films.