Warner Bros.


Warner Bros.
   STANLEY KUBRICK enjoyed an unusually privileged association with Warner Bros. , a studio that released all of his pictures, beginning with A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and continuing to the present day, with A. I. (originally a Kubrick project and completed by STEVEN SPIELBERG). According to BRIAN JAMIESON, current vice president for international marketing at Warner (who worked with Kubrick for more than 20 years), Kubrick’s tenure at Warner began when John Calley, chief of production, brought Kubrick to the studio and established for him an atmosphere of relative creative freedom. Supporting this arrangement were other studio heads, including Stephen Ross,Ted Ashley, and, later, TERRY SEMEL. After Calley’s retirement, Semel continued Calley’s support of Kubrick. “It was Terry who embraced Stanley and nurtured the relationship and became the key liaison between Stanley and Studio,” says Jamieson,“and insured that he had absolute carte-blanche in terms of his own creative control. ” From Warner’s point of view, having Kubrick on board was an asset to Warner’s Wall Street standing. Moreover, says Jamieson,“he never went over budget and, despite his reputation for protracted and meticulously controlled shoots, was always mindful of his budgets and worked with small, efficient crews. He was so involved with the marketing of his films that we learned something from him. ” All of Kubrick’s films turned a profit, excepting BARRY LYNDON, which, although it was a failure in America, was successful in Europe.
   Warner Bros. was one of Hollywood’s “Big Five” films studios in Hollywood’s golden age and the only one operated by a family. Harry,Albert, Sam, and Jack Warner were the sons of a Polish immigrant who had come to America in the early 1880s by cattle boat. After dabbling in various nickelodeon projects, the brothers moved to Los Angeles and in 1918 produced their first important feature film, My Four Years In Germany. The studio moved into high gear in the 1920s with its most popular stars, John Barrymore and the legendary canine, Rin-Tin-Tin. An important acquisition came in 1925 when the brothers bought the Vitagraph Company, a Brooklyn-based studio from the early days of the silent film. Experiments began in 1926 with Western Electric to develop a sound-on-disc synchronized-sound system for talking pictures. Numerous short films and features like Don Juan (1926) and The Jazz Singer (1927), with Al Jolson, stimulated the talkie revolution. Warner’s first all-talking features appeared in 1928—including The Lights Of New York, The Terror, and The Singing Fool (with Jolson). The four brothers held the following responsibilities: Sam was the technological experimenter (although he died shortly before the release of The Jazz Singer); Jack oversaw all production at the Burbank studio; Albert was in charge of overseas distribution; and Harry acted as president from his New York office. An energetic policy of theater acquisition was consolidated in 1929 with the purchase of the First National chain. More than most studios,Warner in the 1930s established its own “look” and style, largely due to its efficient factory system and the supervision until 1933 of all production by Darryl F. Zanuck.
   “Social consciousness” films and contemporary dramas in the 1930s included gangsters films like The Public Enemy (1930), and Little Caesar (1930); problem dramas like Five-star Final (1931) and I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang (1932); biographies like The Story Of Louis Pasteur (1936); musicals like 42nd Street (1932) and the “Gold Diggers” series. Directors of Warner films known for their fast, lean style included Mervyn LeRoy and William Wellman. Apart from the Walt Disney studio, no other Hollywood studio contributed more to the World War II effort than Warners. First to release an anti-Nazi film, Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), the studio went to make numerous short subjects, documentaries, and features promoting the Allies (Casablanca (1942); Air Force (1943); Mission to Moscow (1944); and others). In 1956, after selling its pre-1948 films to television for $21 million, and after divesting itself of its theaters due to antitrust government activities, the studio sold rights to its theatrical releases to Associated Artists, which in turn sold them to United Artists. In 1967 Jack, by now the only partner left in the business, sold out to Seven Arts; and two years later the company was renamed Warner Communications. Time, Inc. , merged with it in 1989 to form Time-Warner, Inc. , which now supervises film production.
   J. C. T. and J. M. W.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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