Jack "J.L." Warner (August 2, 1892 - September 9, 1978), born John Leonard Warner in London, Ontario, Canada of a Polish-Jewish family, was the president and driving force behind the highly successful development of Warner Brothers Studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California.
Fascinated with moving pictures early in his life and foresaw their impact on society, Jack Warner spent his life making movies, entertaining the public, but losing the love of his brothers in the process. Warner. Bros. remains a household name, associated with quality and many classic films that now belong to the cultural archives of the world.
Warner was one of twelve children born to Benjamin Warner (probably Varna) and Pearl Leah Eichelbaum, a Yiddish-speaking Jewish family from Krasnosielc, Poland. There were three other Warner brothers besides Jack; Harry Warner (1881-1958), Albert Warner (1883-1967), and Sam Warner (1887-1927). In 1883 desiring a better future for his family and himself, Benjamin Warner made his way to Hamburg, Germany, and then took a ship to America.1 The rest of the family joined him in Baltimore less than a year later.
In 1896, the family relocated to Youngstown, Ohio, following the lead of Harry Warner, who established a shoe repair shop in the heart of the emerging industrial town.2 Jack Warner, who spent much of his youth in Youngstown, indicated in his autobiography that his experiences there shaped his early sensibilities. Warner wrote: "J. Edgar Hoover told me that Youngstown in those days was one of the toughest cities in America, and a gathering place for Sicilian thugs active in the mafia. There was a murder or two almost every Saturday night in our neighborhood, and knives and brass knuckles were standard equipment for the young hotheads on the prowl".3
Early film career
In Youngstown, the Warner brothers made their momentous leap into the movie business, albeit in a limited manner. In the early 1900s, Sam Warner took a job as a projectionist at Idora Park, a local amusement park.4 He quickly persuaded the family of the new medium's possibilities and arranged the purchase of a Model B Kinetoscope from a projectionist who was "down on his luck".5 The enterprising brothers screened a well-used copy of The Great Train Robbery throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania before seizing the chance to purchase a small theater in 1906.6 That year, the brothers purchased the Cascade movie palace in New Castle, Pennsylvania, a business they maintained until moving into film distribution in 1907.7 The Warner brothers established the Pittsburgh-based Duquesne Amusement Company, which proved lucrative until the advent of the Motion Pictures Patent Company, which charged distributors exorbitant fees.8
Formation of Warner Brothers
In 1910, the Warner brothers pooled their resources and moved into film production.9 When Warner Brothers was formed in 1918, Jack became co-head of production along with elder brother Sam.10 Sam died in 1927 (just before the premiere of the first "talking" picture, The Jazz Singer), and Jack became sole head of production.11 He ran Warners' Burbank, California studio with an iron hand.
In 1956, Jack, Harry, and Al announced they were putting Warner Bros. on the market. Jack secretly put together a syndicate that bought control of the company. By the time Harry and Al learned of their brother's dealings, it was too late. The three brothers had gotten into numerous arguments over the
Comedian Jack Benny, who once worked at Warner Brothers, quipped, "Jack Warner would rather tell a bad joke than make a good movie."12
Jack was the second chief to also serve as company president, after Columbia Pictures' Harry Cohn, but could not keep up with changes in the industry. He sold the studio to Seven Arts Productions in 1967, after producing the film adaptation of Lerner and Loewe's Camelot, but remained active as an independent producer until the early 1970s. Among his last productions was another film adaptation of a Broadway musical, 1776.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Jack Warner has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6541 Hollywood Blvd. He also has a star on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto, which honors outstanding Canadians from all fields.
Films as Producer/Executive Producer
- 1917 My Four Years in Germany
- 1922 Dangerous Adventure
- 1926 Don Juan
- 1927 The Jazz Singer
- 1928 The Lights of New York; The Singing Fool
- 1929 Disraeli
- 1930 Little Caesar
- 1931 The Public Enemy; The Secret Six
- 1932 I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
- 1933 42nd Street; Gold Diggers of 1933; Footlight Parade; Wild Boys of the Road
- 1935 Captain Blood; Gold Diggers of 1935
- 1936 The Story of Louis Pasteur; Anthony Adverse
- 1937 They Won't Forget; The Life of Emile Zola ; Gold Diggers of 1937
- 1938 The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse; Gold Diggers in Paris
- 1939 Confessions of a Nazi Spy
- 1941 The Bride Came C.O.D.
- 1943 Action in the North Atlantic; Air Force; Casablanca; Mission to Moscow; Watch on the Rhine; Destination Tokyo
- 1944 Journey to Marseilles; Objective Burma
- 1945 Christmas in Connecticut
- 1946 Night and Day
- 1947 Life with Father
- 1948 Treasure of the Sierra Madre; Johnny Belinda'
- 1949 Montana
- 1951 A Streetcar Named Desire
- 1953 House of Wax
- 1955 East of Eden; Rebel without a Cause
- 1956 Moby Dick; Giant
- 1957 The Prince and the Showgirl; Chase a Crooked Shadow
- 1958 Auntie Mame
- 1959 The Nun's Story
- 1960 The Sundowners
- 1962 PT-109
- 1964 My Fair Lady
- 1965 The Great Race
- 1966 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
- 1967 Camelot; Bonnie and Clyde
- 1972 1776; Dirty Little Billy
- ↑ Warner, Jack L., and Dean Southern Jennings, 1965, My first hundred years in Hollywood, New York: Random House, 1965, OCLC 155702296
- ↑ Warner pp. 24-25.
- ↑ Warner pg. 29.
- ↑ Warner pg. 49.
- ↑ Warner pg. 50.
- ↑ Warner pg. 54-55.
- ↑ Warner pp. 55-57.
- ↑ Warner pg. 65-66.
- ↑ Warner pg. 73.
- ↑ Warner pp. 100-101.
- ↑ Warner pg. 180-181.
- ↑ Guenette, Robert, Here's looking at you, Warner Bros. the history of the Warner Bros. Studio, Burbank, CA: Warner Home Video 1993, ISBN 9780790717258
- Orr, Gregory, and Efrem Zimbalist. Jack L. Warner: the last mogul. West Long Branch, NJ: White Star 1993. ISBN 9781561277230
- Thomas, Bob. Clown prince of Hollywood: the antic life and times of Jack L. Warner. New York: McGraw-Hill 1990. ISBN 9780070642591
- Warner, Jack L. Jack of all trades: an autobiography. London: W.H. Allen 1975. ISBN 9780491019521
All links retrieved March 12, 2018.