The Warner Brothers
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Imprint: The University Press of Kentucky
Sales Date: 09/05/2023
One of the oldest and most recognizable studios in Hollywood, Warner Bros. is considered a juggernaut of the entertainment industry. Since its formation in the early twentieth century, the studio has been a constant presence in cinema history, responsible for the creation of acclaimed films, blockbuster brands, and iconic superstars.
These days, the studio is best known as a media conglomerate with a broad range of intellectual property, spanning movies, TV shows, and streaming content. Despite popular interest in the origins of this empire, the core of the Warner Bros. saga cannot be found in its commercial successes. It is the story of four brothers—Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack—whose vision for Hollywood helped shape the world of entertainment as we know it.
In The Warner Brothers, Chris Yogerst follows the siblings from their family's humble origins in Poland, through their young adulthood in the American Midwest, to the height of fame and fortune in Hollywood. With unwavering resolve, the brothers soldiered on against the backdrop of an America reeling from the aftereffects of domestic and global conflict. The Great Depression would not sink the brothers, who churned out competitive films that engaged audiences and kept their operations afloat—and even expanding. During World War II, they used their platform to push beyond the limits of the Production Code and create important films about real-world issues, openly criticizing radicalism and the evils of the Nazi regime. At every major cultural turning point in their lifetime, the Warners held a front-row seat.
Paying close attention to the brothers' identities as cultural and economic outsiders, Yogerst chronicles how the Warners built a global filmmaking powerhouse. Equal parts family history and cinematic journey, The Warner Brothers is an empowering story of the American dream and the legacy four brothers left behind for generations of filmmakers and film lovers to come.
Prologue: Put Up or Shut Up
1. Manifest Destiny: Origins to 1923
2. Incorporation, Innovation, Triumph, and Tragedy: 1923 - 1929
3. Battling Depression, Censors, and Stars: 1930-1936
4. Fighting Fascism, America Firsters, and the US Senate: 1937-1941
5. The War Years: 1942-1945
6. Postwar Politics, HUAC, and the Blacklist: 1946-1947
7. Last Gasp of Old Hollywood: 1948-1955
8. End of the Studio, End of the Family: 1956-1959
9. A New Hollywood Rises: 1960-1978
10. Coda: As Time Goes By
The Warner Brothers sets out to be an epic, and it succeeds.~Kevin Brownlow, film historian
The story of Harry, Jack, Sam and Albert Warner involves politics, idealism, empire building, superb filmmaking and, ultimately, fratricide. Chris Yogerst's marvelous book comprehensively narrates the story of a crucial component of Hollywood's empire.~Scott Eyman, New York Times bestselling biographer
Chris Yogerst provides a wonderfully detailed, scrupulously researched, and compulsively readable account of the Warner brothers, reanimating their endlessly fascinating and instructive family story, widening the scope of previous scholarship, and securing for good their rightful place in the pantheon of motion-picture history.~Noah Isenberg, author of We'll Always Have 'Casablanca': The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood's Most Beloved Movie
Christ Yogerst gets it right! This lively biography of the brothers Warner - Jack, Harry, Samuel and Albert - gives us the inside narrative: the brothers never tried to assimilate or erase their ethnicity. Instead, they made haste with what it gave them, chutzpah, seichel (meaning a head for business) and, culled from their long-standing Jewish heritage, a great respect for the written word. The Warners wooed the best writers and got the great scripts. They knew that life is a one-two punch and they brazenly put that up on the big screen: Yogerst's knowing bio seals the deal: it was chutzpah what made the movies!~Marilyn Ann Moss, author of Raoul Walsh: The True Adventures of Hollywood's Legendary Director and The Farrows of Hollywood: Their Dark Side of Paradise
A fascinating, up-close portrait of the Warner brothers, whose passionate commitment to film made their namesake studio one of the great cultural, social, and political forces during Hollywood's dazzling Golden Age. Surveying Warner Bros.' vast range of genres—from hard-bitten realism to uplifting entertainment to film noir to heart-wrenching romance—Yogerst unveils the behind-the-scenes drama of this tight-knit yet often combative family and spotlights the brothers' extraordinary sense of responsibility to reinforcing and repairing America's social fabric. The Warner Brothers explores weakness along with strength: the very human frailties that emerged especially when history turned against their generation of studio heads following World War II. Thoroughly researched, written in a lively and compelling style, this book adds a vital new dimension to film history.~Vanda Kreeft, author of The Man Who Made the Movies: The Meteoric Rise and Tragic Fall of William Fox
In his magisterial biography of a brotherhood, Chris Yogerst makes the case that the Warner Brothers were not merely shrewd businessmen or talented showmen, but essential sculptors of American myth. By examining the private lives of Harry, Jack, Sam, and Albert, Yogerst uncovers how personal experience, cultural identity, and family history shaped the values, anxieties, and dreams the Warner Brothers etched into the national psyche. This is a brilliant, revelatory book.~Anthony Marra, New York Times bestselling author of Mercury Pictures Presents
Once upon a time, Warner Bros. was under the firm control of the eponymous brothers—Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack—whose commitment to making taut, timely and terrifically entertaining motion pictures is recounted in Chris Yogerst's The Warner Brothers. Yogerst... is attentive to the brothers' backgrounds, their business acumen and, above all, the very specific style they imposed on the movies made under their watch. Yogerst makes the Warners' role in early Hollywood history fresh and surprising.~Wall Street Journal
In this multigenerational, multi-media tour of the twentieth century, Chris Yogerst takes on not just the interwoven biographies of four remarkable siblings—Harry the shrewd businessman, Albert the loyal workhorse, Sam the too-soon-departed visionary, and Jack the inveterate showman—but the story of a studio that has shaped the entertainment industry for nine decades and counting. No film-history shelf should be without this meticulously researched and vividly written book.~Dana Stevens, Slate film critic and author of Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century
Chris Yogerst has a virtually Dostoevskyan story to tell: Whatever their differences in personality and outlook, the movie-making brothers remained dedicated to social progress and moral uplift.~New York Sun
Yogerst does a fine job detailing how the (Warner) brothers' perspectives shaped the movie studio that bore their name, from hardscrabble beginnings to hobnobbing with presidents (a decision that got the studio in trouble when the Red Scare hit Hollywood). As a portrait of the men behind one of the most important brands to shape American culture over the past century, it's a worthy addition to the centennial celebration.~Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The Warner Brothers is a key text for anyone interested in the lives of Hollywood's most significant families. While the book offers a compelling narrative of the family, it also represents changes in the film and entertainment industry and shows how one studio responded to those economic and historical forces. Yogerst's talent as a scholar and storyteller come into strong relief, and his enthusiasm for his subject makes the experience that much more pleasing.~Videoage
(A) wonderful book (that) reflects the history of the founders from a personal point of view. What differentiates the book from others is that it is far more personal to the story of these four men, and the perspective Chris has brought is unprecedented in a wonderful way.~George Feltenstein, Warner Brothers Discovery Librarian, Burbank Public Library