THE WARNER BROTHERS by Michael Freedland


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There are no surprises or fresh insights in this rudimentary Warner Bros. rundown--which inevitably focuses almost entirely on Jack (whose story is familiar to movie-book buffs) and which often slides into rehashed star-by-star, film-by-film history. Freedland (Maurice Chevalier, Jerome Kern, etc.) sketches in the now-legendary Warner beginnings, from immigrant arrival to nickelodeon travels and early filmmaking. He emphasizes the lifelong rivalry between straitlaced, money-wise Harry and the impetuous, much-younger Jack. To well-read, soon-dead brother Sam, he gives (in a typical simplification) sole credit for the evolution of talkies. The later decades are largely devoted to the wrangles between Jack (often displaying ""devout cowardice"") and his stars: Bette Davis, Jimmy Cagney, Errol Flynn, Bogart. And, inevitably, there are the pictures of Jack as a randy fool (""The only women excluded from his bed were his own employees;"" Marilyn Miller an exception), as a political neanderthal and McCarthy-ra creep--going overboard ""to show that his own sheet was as white as that of any rampaging Ku Klux Klansman."" Why was this cretinous pig such a successful mogul, then? ""His penchant for detail. . . he knew every face on the lot and what could be done with the face. . . ."" With a little new interview material, but mostly culled from the many recent Hollywood memoirs: a drab chronicle--with no drama or appeal in the personal-story, no special feeling for the studio's films, and lots of trivia going around for the second or third time.

Pub Date: Dec. 7th, 1983
Publisher: St. Martin's