American Film


We Bet You Didn’t know about Warner Bros.

To commemorate the 90th anniversary of Warner Bros. Pictures, we've compiled a list of 90 historical tidbits culled from a variety of sources, including the new documentary THE BROTHERS WARNER by Cass Warner Sperling, granddaughter of Harry M. Warner. Happy anniversary to our friends at WB!

  1. At the end of the 19th century, the Warner family came to America from Krasnosielc, a town near Warsaw that Russia had annexed from Poland.
  2. The family name was originally Wonskolaser.
  3. The brothers Warner were named Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack. There were eight other children in the family.
  4. In 1903, the three eldest Warner brothers became "Nickelodeon junkies," spending all their spare time and money on the five-cent moving picture machines.
  5. To raise capital for his sons' entry into the film business, a passion that required no university degree, Benjamin Warner sold his gold watch and "Bob," the horse that pulled his meat delivery wagon.
  6. Sam procured a second-hand Edison kinetoscope projector, "the machine that spells certainty of success in the motion picture business," to launch the partnership.
  7. Sister Rose Warner played the organ at her brothers' first theater, the Cascade in New Castle, Pennsylvania.
  8. Jack L. Warner was a "chaser," the theater employee charged with getting audiences to leave their seats after one screening – in his case, by singing badly. He once demonstrated his technique, bellowing "O sole mio!"
  9. Albert, physically the largest of the brothers, specialized in distribution and acted as a go-between for Harry and Jack, who frequently disagreed.
  10. Sam Warner was keenly interested in technological innovation and saved the studio in the 1920s by championing talking pictures.
  11. Jack L. Warner, 11 years Harry's junior, added the middle name Leonard to make his name sound "classy." He dyed his trademark brush moustache brown.
  12. In 1908, the brothers formed the Duquesne Film Exchange in western Pennsylvania to make it easier to obtain films that were in short supply. The business of distributing films proved more profitable than exhibiting them.
  13. Jack L. Warner once passed off a negative print, in which black and white were reversed, as the first film made with "all colored actors."
  14. When Thomas Edison tried to corner the film market in the Northeast, the Warner brothers moved to California, establishing offices at 18th and Main in Culver City before moving – temporarily – to Hollywood.
  15. Jack L. Warner played a soldier with syphilis in OPEN YOUR EYES (1919), the studio's first World War I training film. In 1940, WB produced DR. EHRLICH'S MAGIC BULLET, commemorating the discovery of a cure for the disease.
  16. The best-selling memoir of an American ambassador, "My Four Years in Germany," provided the basis for Warner Bros.' first successful feature and was acquired with a contract that included Hollywood's first "back end deal," a now commonplace arrangement requiring payment to artists only after a film has earned back its costs.
  17. While the actual historical character Beau Brummell; Clyde Fitch's eponymously named play; and a 1954 film adaptation all spell the name "Brummell," WB's 1924 silent movie title is spelled BEAU BRUMMEL.
  18. Sam Warner, 40, married Lina Basquette, 18, a performer in the Ziegfeld Follies on July 4, 1925. She was widowed two years later when Sam died of a cerebral hemorrhage two days before the premiere of THE JAZZ SINGER.
  19. Warner Bros. borrowed $7 million to purchase Vitaphone ("The Living Voice") in 1925 in order to create "talkies."
  20. The WB motto was "educate, entertain and enlighten."
  21. The first partial sound film by Warner Bros. was DON JUAN (1926) with John Barrymore, but the movie had no spoken dialogue. Instead, the soundtrack emphasized the clash of swords and boasted a musical accompaniment by the New York Philharmonic.
  22. The original Rin Tin Tin, a German shepherd rescued by an American soldier from a French battlefield during World War I, became a cash cow for Warner Bros., appearing in 27 films before his death in 1932. "Rinty" sired 48 puppies and also spawned a hit television series in the 1950s.
  23. Synchronized speech only accounted for about two minutes of THE JAZZ SINGER (1927) starring Al Jolson, the first "talkie."
  24. Leaving the premiere of the first talking picture, rival MGM producer Irving Thalberg remarked, "This thing won't last."
  25. Flush with cash from THE JAZZ SINGER, Warner Bros. acquired a chain of theaters from The Stanley Company of America and the new Burbank studios of First National Pictures in 1928. Diversification helped safeguard the company when the stock market crashed a year later.
  26. STEAMBOAT WILLIE (1928), Disney's first Mickey Mouse cartoon, was inspired by the innovative synchronized speech in THE JAZZ SINGER.
  27. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons joined Warner Bros. in 1930. Known for winking at the audience with topical film references and wise-cracking asides, these animated shorts offered an alternative to Walt Disney's brand.
  28. In the surviving prints of MAMMY (1930) starring Al Jolson, two songs by Irving Berlin – "The Call of the South" and "Knights of the Road" – are missing.
  29. WB's first Looney Tunes release was SINKIN' IN THE BATHTUB (1930), featuring the songs "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" and "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" in a romantic balcony scene. The cartoon ends with the words "That's all, folks," later appropriated and embellished by Mel Blanc as the stuttering Porky Pig.
  30. Harry M. Warner believed that film should instruct and, consistent with the Production Code, insisted that gangster movies like THE PUBLIC ENEMY (1931) conveyed the message that "crime does not pay."
  31. In the original THE MALTESE FALCON (1931), the role of Sam Spade, later made famous by Humphrey Bogart, is played by Ricardo Cortez.
  32. The release of Warner Bros.' I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG (1932), which depicted brutality by guards, forced prison reform throughout the United States.
  33. In the 1930s, Glenda Farrell played Torchy Blane, an investigative reporter who was always a step ahead of her police detective boyfriend, in seven of the nine "B" movies in the WB series.
  1. One year after Adolf Hitler became Germany's chancellor in 1933, Warner Bros., alone among the major studios, refused to sell to the German market, a principled stand that cost the studio the growing overseas portion of its box office revenue.
  2. In Busby Berkeley's FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933), the musical number, "By a Waterfall," uses a stage space larger than the entire theater that is meant to contain it.
  3. Humphrey Bogart and Leslie Howard originated their roles in THE PETRIFIED FOREST (1936) in the Broadway stage version of Robert E. Sherwood's play.
  4. The Ku Klux Klan sued Warner Bros. for defamation over BLACK LEGION (1937) – and lost.
  5. Jack L. Warner once told Albert Einstein that he had a theory of relativity, too – "Don't hire them!"
  6. In the 1930s, the Production Code prohibited Warner Bros. from going ahead with a production called CONCENTRATION CAMP, which was intended to educate the western world about Nazi atrocities, by threatening to contact the State Department about the perceived offense to a foreign government.
  7. James Cagney, often cast as a gangster in WB movies, plays Bottom, the Weaver in the WB production of Shakespeare's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1935).
  8. Harry M. Warner personally removed the word "Jew" from the script of THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA (1937), drawing criticism from his co-religionists yet making the film a more universal statement about prejudice.
  9. WB's NANCY DREW – DETECTIVE (1938) starring Bonita Granville was adapted from the 1933 "Nancy Drew" novel, "The Password to Larkspur Lane," written for the Stratemeyer syndicate by Walter Karig under the pseudonym "Carolyn Keene." (Granville served as Chair of the AFI Board of Trustees from 1986 to 1988.)
  10. Bette Davis' red dress sequence in JEZEBEL (1938), a black-and-white WB film, was based on a real-life white ball in Hollywood at which all the women dutifully wore white with the conspicuous exception of Norma Shearer.
  11. Warner Bros.’ CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY (1939), based on an FBI case in New York, was the first explicitly anti-Nazi film made in America. It was produced in the face of numerous domestic and international threats, and reversed the policy of the Hays office, which governed film standards under the Production Code.
  12. Gossip columnist Hedda Hopper reported that Sigmund Freud was a technical advisor on the WB film DARK VICTORY (1939), although the famous psychiatrist had died several months earlier.
  13. In CASABLANCA, which won the Academy Award® for Best Picture of 1942, the climactic scene of Rick seeing off Ilsa and befriending Captain Renaud was shot at Van Nuys airport in the San Fernando Valley.
  14. Harry M. Warner opposed the resettlement of displaced Jews to Palestine, citing the potential for conflict with Arab neighbors. He wrote a paper on the subject, advocating an alternative Jewish settlement – in Alaska.
  15. Jack L. Warner was seriously injured in a car accident five days after Harry's death from a stroke. Upon his return to the studio six months later, Jack fired his son for allowing the press to cast doubt on his ability to come back.
  16. THE SEA WOLF (1941) became the first movie to have its world premiere at sea when the liner SS America screened it between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
  17. The title of Ronald Reagan's 1965 autobiography, "Where's the Rest of Me?," was taken from his most famous line of dialogue from WB's KINGS ROW (1942).
  18. NOW, VOYAGER (1942) was Bette Davis' biggest box office hit. The title phrase appears in "The Untold Want," a poem by Walt Whitman quoted by Davis' character in the film.
  19. CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945) was released in August and shot in Burbank, California. Arnold Schwarzenegger directed the 1992 TV remake.
  20. James Cagney, personally selected by George M. Cohan to bring his story to the screen, was 11 years older than his screen mother played by Rosemary DeCamp in WB's YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942).
  21. According to Guinness World Records, Bugs Bunny has appeared in more films than any other cartoon character.
  22. The current voice of Bugs Bunny is Jeff Allen Bergman, who also voices Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, George Jetson, Fred Flintstone, Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound.
  23. Novelist William Faulkner contributed to the screenplay of MILDRED PIERCE (1945), but his work – including a scene where Butterfly McQueen was to sing a gospel song – never reached the screen.
  24. Harry and Jack split over ideology during the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings of 1947, Jack currying favor with the committee by promising to dig out ideological "termites" while Harry refused to believe that any of his artists were a threat to America.
  25. The premiere of LIFE WITH FATHER (1947) was held at the Lakewood Theater in Skowhegan, Maine, where the long-running Broadway hit play upon which it was based was given its first try-out eight years earlier.
  26. The exterior shots of the hurricane in KEY LARGO (1948) were stock footage, also used in WB's NIGHT UNTO NIGHT with Ronald Reagan released a year later.
  27. Jane Wyman's Academy Award® acceptance speech for her role as a mute in WB's JOHNNY BELINDA (1948) was the shortest on record at the time: "I won this award by keeping my mouth shut, and I think I'll do it again."
  28. Selected angles from Robert Walker's death scene in WB'S STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951) were interpolated into Paramount's MY SON JOHN (1952), in which his character also died at the end. Walker had died of an allergic reaction to a drug before the second film had wrapped.
  29. Nine members of the original Broadway cast of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951) re-created their roles for the WB film. "Stella, hey Stella!" is the 45th top movie quote of all time on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes list.
  1. DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954) is #48 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills list of the most thrilling American movies and Alfred Hitchcock's only foray into 3-D filmmaking.
  2. EAST OF EDEN (1955), a story of sibling rivalry, was said to reflect the real-life relationship of Harry M. and Jack L. Warner. In fact, the three films that made James Dean a legend – EAST OF EDEN, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and GIANT – were all produced by Warner Bros.
  3. Warner Bros. launched a television unit in 1955, which was run by Jack L. Warner's son-in-law, William T. Orr. It produced the first one-hour television western, CHEYENNE, episodes of which were combined and released as motion pictures in Europe.
  4. In 1956, Jack persuaded his brothers to sell the studio to a syndicate of investors. They reluctantly agreed and, on the day after the deal was struck, Jack re-purchased the studio for himself. From that point on, the other brothers never spoke to him again, nor ever set foot on the studio lot.
  5. In the William March novel and Maxwell Anderson play of THE BAD SEED (1956), the mother dies at the end. However, in order to comply with the Hays office rule that crime must not pay, the film's ending was changed so that mom recovers and her evil daughter is struck by lightning.
  6. Novelist and WB screenwriter Ray Bradbury recounted his often tense collaboration with John Huston on MOBY DICK (1956) in his novel, "Green Shadows, White Whale" and his short story, "Banshee."
  7. The production of THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL (1957) with Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe provides the backdrop for the 2011 film MY WEEK WITH MARILYN.
  8. WB's NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS (1958) marked the first collaboration of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts. The pair later teamed on the television series, THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW and became lifelong friends.
  9. As Hollywood legend has it, Jack L. Warner, who was known for his outrageous sense of humor, was introduced to First Lady Madame Chiang Kai-shek of China and told her that he had forgotten his laundry ticket.
  10. Ernest Hemingway tried to catch a marlin off the coast of Peru massive enough to appear in THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA (1958). When he failed to land one worthy, a rubber fish was used.
  11. While most of Audrey Hepburn's songs were dubbed by Marni Nixon in MY FAIR LADY (1964), Hepburn did sing the first verse of "Just You Wait" herself since it was within her mezzo vocal range.
  12. The MPAA refused to allow Warner Bros. to keep the words "screw you" in the screenplay for Mike Nichols' production of WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (1966). "Hump the hostess" and "God damn you" were permitted.
  13. In BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967), the title characters go to the movies after a failed bank robbery and see GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933, another WB picture.
  14. Jack L. Warner judged movies by the number of times he had to get up and go to the bathroom during the screening. Once was okay, twice trouble, and he complained to Warren Beatty that he had to relieve himself three times during BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967).
  15. Jack L. Warner's last studio film was CAMELOT (1967), popularizing a title that was becoming synonymous with the presidency of John F. Kennedy.
  16. Jack L. Warner sold the studio to Seven Arts, Inc. for $32 million in 1967. Albert Warner died later that year at the age of 83.
  17. Steve Ross' Kinney National, which specialized in car rentals and office cleaning, purchased WB from Seven Arts in 1969 and named the new company Warner Communications, Inc.
  18. Harry Callahan, Clint Eastwood's character in DIRTY HARRY (1971), was based on David Toschi, the chief investigator of the Zodiac killer.
  19. WB scored a blockbuster with Mel Brooks' BLAZING SADDLES (1974) when the director ignored studio executives' notes to cut "offensive" material like the classic campfire scene.
  20. The identity of "Deep Throat," Bob Woodward's mysterious source in ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (1976) and the subject of national conjecture, was finally revealed to be Mark Felt, Associate Director of the FBI, in 2005.
  21. WB's landmark television mini-series ROOTS captured a 66% share of the national viewing audience when it first aired on ABC in 1977.
  22. In 1980, Warner Communications Inc. donated $2 million toward the purchase and renovation of the new AFI Campus on the former site of Immaculate Heart College in the hills of Hollywood, and the main campus building was named the Warner Communications Building. The building, which houses the administrative offices of AFI as well as screening rooms, AFI Conservatory classrooms and a soundstage, was re-dedicated in 2011 as the Warner Bros. Building in honor of Barry Meyer and Alan Horn's extraordinary 12 years of leadership at Warner Bros.
  23. The success of BEETLEJUICE (1988) earned director Tim Burton the green light to make BATMAN (1989) after three years of script development, ringing in the era of the superhero blockbuster.
  24. Football violence was highlighted in two WB films – KNUTE ROCKNE – ALL AMERICAN (1940) and Oliver Stone's ANY GIVEN SUNDAY (1999) – years before the University of Texas at Dallas published its findings about the effects of concussions on NFL players in January of this year.
  25. HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE (2001) stands as the highest grossing WB film of all time with worldwide box office of $973.6 million.
  26. Paradise Warner Cinema City, which opened in Shanghai in 2003, became the first movie theater in China to bear the brand name of an American company.
  27. Clint Eastwood became the oldest recipient of a Best Director Oscar® for WB's MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004).
  28. Today, the Warner Bros. film library is the world's largest cinematic treasury with 6,800 films, of which over 2,000 are available on DVD, including 22 Academy Award®-winning Best Pictures. The library includes the Metro, Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer Productions and M-G-M films made between 1915 and 1985, the RKO-Radio Pictures feature film library from 1929-1959 and part of the Monogram Pictures library.