“Warner Bros: The Making of an American Movie Studio” by David Thompson— Moguls and Masters

Thompson, David. “Warner Bros: The Making of an American Movie Studio”, (Jewish Lives), Yale University Press. 2017.

Moguls and Masters

Amos Lassen

In “Warner Bros: The Making of an American Movie Studio”, David Thompson takes us behind the scenes of the Warner Brothers film studio, where “four immigrant brothers transformed themselves into the moguls and masters of American fantasy”.

We read about the rise of an unpromising film studio which began on shaky ground in the early twentieth century through its rise to the top of Hollywood influence and popularity. The four Warner Brothers, Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack, came here as unschooled Jewish immigrants, yet they were still able to found a studio that became what was considered to be the smartest, toughest, and most radical Hollywood.

Thompson takes us back to the first “talkie”, “The Jazz Singer” to the early black and white musicals and the wonderful romances and dramas such as  “Casablanca”, “East of Eden”, and “Bonnie and Clyde”. Then there are the stars—Al Jolson, James Cagney, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean and Doris Day to name a few.

David Thompson states that the influence and cultural impact of the Warner brothers’ “helped us see there might be an American dream out there.” I cannot imagine anyone better suited to write this book than Thompson. Not only is he a fine writer but he knows film and when these two come together, we reap the benefits. His wit and knowledge are perfect for this kind of book.

From the beginning, there were East/West conflicts of various kinds in which Harry and Jack were the principal antagonists. We get the chance here to explore a major film community that influenced everything we did for some 40 years.

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