The Brothers Warner

So I watched The Brothers Warner last weekend. I enjoyed it, but in all, I wish it was more about their accomplishments and work than their ridiculous rivalry.

Basically, most of this doc was about how Jack Warner was a crazy jerk who got a lot of stuff done, but at the expense of his relationship with his brothers, particularly Harry Warner. This doc was about 90 minutes. A lot of it focused on their personal lives, and the family’s history. I mean, it was truly interesting to learn about, but I do wish there was more about their collaboration together to build one of the biggest studios in the United States.

I gotta say, the story of Jack Warner was pretty fascinating because he was basically THE caricature of a movie executive: loud, demanding, brash, hammy, and one to take the credit. Not one we would call modest by any means. Though, I would imagine it’s kind of difficult to dive beyond a caricature. Anyway, this was well done. I guess I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the history of the movie business.

From watching documentaries and specials on the early developments of the film industry, and reading things here and there, you would believe that The Warner Brothers Created Movies With Sound In Them. But of course they didn’t. I just finished reading a chapter I accidentally overlooked in my textbook, A Short History of The Movies. It starts like this:

According to legend, sound unexpectedly descended on the film industry from the skies like an ancient god out of a machine,when The Jazz Singer opened on Broadway on October 6, 1927.

And really, I knew that there’s no way that a huge change like that happens to revolutionize the film industry in such an overnight way. In fact, as I learned, people had been playing with synchronized sound recording and motion pictures for 30 years prior to Al Jolson telling us we ain’t heard nothing yet. Lee de Forest (remember that one, comm majors?) did a great service by developing the amplification of sound in 1906 and 1907. And then in the 1920s a group of three German guys developed the Tri-Ergon Process, which eventually became the sound patent for European film. Soon after, the Vitaphone (synchronized record and film) was developed, and that company was bought out by the Warners. Even still, other studios like Fox were playing with sound and film, distributing short films and newsreels with speeches, sound effects, music, vaudeville acts, etc. With Sound. Yep.

The Jazz Singer, then, is the First Full-Length Feature to Use Synchronized Sound As A Means of Telling A Story. Also, there was blackface. But it was for a reason, at least: black people were basically shut out of performing on the screen. This was a way of bringing black music to America’s upper crust without offending them — hey, it’s probably difficult to swallow the fact that your maid is far more talented than you.



About Michelle

I like pie. And clapping.

Posted on January 30, 2011, in American Film History, Quarter 1: Winter 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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