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Harry, Albert, Sam & Jack Warner

The Warner family were pioneers of the motion picture industry and founders of Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. The Warners date their entrance into the industry from 1903, when they rented a vacant store in New Castle, Pennsylvania. There were nine children in this Polish immigrant family, but only four were active in the business: Harry, the eldest (1881–1958), born in Poland; Albert (1883–1967), born in Baltimore; Sam (1884–1927), and Jack, born in London, Ontario (1892–1978). As their enterprise prospered, the brothers opened more theaters. In 1912, they decided to produce films themselves. Sam became technical chief of the studio, Albert handled distribution, Harry was business head, and Jack, the showman, was in charge of production.

In 1917 they scored a coup by filming My Four Years in Germany, from the book by U.S. Ambassador James W. Gerard, who had been ordered home from Berlin. It was at that time one of the most significant pictures yet made.

In 1923 they became incorporated as Warner Brothers Pictures, Inc. By 1925 the company was a leader in the silent film business. That year they bought the Vitagraph Company, which owned an invention that synchronized sound with action, called Vitaphone. In 1927 Warner Brothers issued The Jazz Singer, thus marking the official debut of talking pictures and revolutionizing the industry.

During the 1930s the Warners acquired the Stanley Company of America, which controlled 250 cinema buildings. This guaranteed them an outlet for all their films. They set the scale for film musicals with the lavish Gold Diggers series and films built around "headline" news, such as G-Men (1935) and China Clipper (1936), and spectacles such as A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). They also used the screen for presenting social issues such as The Life of Emile Zola (1937) and The Black Legion (1937), which involved racial and religious bigotry.

In 1951 the company was forced to divest itself of its theaters after the film industry lost a 13-year suit brought by the U.S. Government on anti-trust charges. The Warner studios continued to be one of the leaders in Hollywood through the 1960s. Branching out into television, Warner has produced a wide variety of sitcoms and action series, such as Maverick; Murphy Brown; and Lois and Clark. By 1993 Warner Bros. was ranked as Hollywood's largest supplier of television programs. In 1995 Warner and the Tribune Company launched the WB television network, targeting the teenage viewing audience with such weekly series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawson's Creek. In the late 1990s Warner obtained the rights to the immensely popular Harry Potter novels and released four film adaptations between 2001 and 2005.

Acquisitions held by Warner include the television cartoons of Hanna-Barbera Productions; the TV and film holdings of Lorimar; and rights to the majority of the film library of Castle Rock Productions.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

>A.W. Pearce, The Future Out of the Past: An Illustrated History of the Warner Brothers Company (1964); J.L. Warner, My First Hundred Years in Hollywood (1965). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: C. Higham, Warner Brothers: A History of the Studio (1975); J. Silke, Here's Looking at You, Kid: 50 Years of Fighting, Working, and Dreaming at Warner Brothers (1976); C. Hirschorn, The Warner Bros. Story (1982); R. Behlmer, Inside Warner Bros. (1987).