Not only do we learn about this studio’s humble beginnings through the eyes of many performers and filmmakers, but also discover what brothers Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack’s goals were. Not all of them had a true love for cinema versus wanting to be the king in a place formerly known as Hollywood Hills. To set up shop there meant knowing what America likes to see at the Nickelodeons and having access to talents who will no doubt put them in the public eye, like Errol Flynn.
In the early part of the 20th century, the Hollywood studio system reigned supreme. Not every idea was green-lit. As a result, some talents left. They worked for the competition because what they wanted didn’t represent the brother’s vision. Unlike what Sam Spade best said in The Maltese Falcon, some hopes got crushed. It’s doubtful all of today’s WB movies are “The stuff that dreams are made of.” It really didn’t hold if we are to consider what these studios’ insiders thought of Zack Snyder’s comic book films.
As for other works distributed by Warner Bros., each of them has their separate story. So far, we still don’t have a lot of detail regarding when Spielberg was truly working for them or under his own company, Amblin Entertainment. For example, everyone knows Paramount Pictures handles Indiana Jones while Warner manages The Goonies property. I love the fact they are giving Ke Huy Quan the love he never got when he was a child actor. His lengthy involvement in this documentary is key to why it has my thumbs up.
As for Legendary Pictures, who have more of a role in developing the Monsterverse, we see Kong as King than Godzilla. However, to look at how this studio survived prior to 1970 and the Kaiju revolution is more telling. What I learned from 100 Years of Warner Bros. is the equivalent of a week’s worth of lectures from a film studies class. Although nothing new is offered when considering how actively I followed this studio from the 80s onwards, there were a few revelations made.
As for when DC Comics became part of the same empire, the answer can be found on Quora. The companies involved really made no deal. As a result, “It was gained by Kinney National Company, which later purchased Warner Bros.-Seven Arts and became Warner Communications.” (circa 1969)
This detail partially explains why Shazam joined the Warner family. It feels more like a grandfathered transition; but to understand what happened between DC Comics and Fawcett (which created the character) means examining all the details, along with the mess they faced with Marvel Comics. All a casual fan needs to know is that Warner Bros. was the first to bring these heroes to cinema and the small screen. They beat out the others by having three iconic creations versus Marvel’s one; back then, Spider-Man (1967) was fully Marvel owned and had more works out than Captain America in two direct to television films. The Incredible Hulk was nothing like its comic book counterpart and as for other heroes, this studio really led the charge.
As a result, I’m glad their animation department isn’t ignored. Key to Warner Studios’ success in these markets included the role Bugs Bunny played in the early days to all the comic book heroes getting their outings well represented throughout each decade. From their status as propaganda figures in the 30s to the present what’s changed is reasonably explored. What isn’t discussed is how they acquired other fond properties like Tom & Jerry and Hanna Barbera’s lineup.
Sadly, not enough love is given to Bruce Lee. In episode two of 100 Years of Warner Bros, the narrative implies the martial arts genre he helped introduce to America began and ended with him. In reality, a lot more was made outside of Hollywood. Sadly, the leaders back then didn’t care. If they couldn’t find a leading man, nothing would get created State-side. And it wouldn’t be until decades later where they decided representation matters. Something had to be done for non-genre works. Whether that be with African-Americans in The Learning Tree or Asian in Crazy Rich Asians, the lessons learned is that Warner better adapt with times! While the big bosses didn’t understand why, others did!
Thankfully, this studio always gave producers a chance to craft their ideas. This series often falls back on referencing Stanley Kubrick‘s early films as a milestone. From A Clockwork Orange to Eyes Wide Shut, they gave him a wide latitude and perhaps that’s why he’s loyal to this studio. Regarding other filmmakers, and last year’s news about James Gunn and Peter Safran to revamp the DC Comics film universe, this documentary isn’t as up to date.
While 100 Years Of Warner Bros isn’t heavy on the study, what’s offered is still a terrific highlight reel to make a checklist from. Ultimately, I feel they made this visual companion to be a supplement of the book, Warner Bros. 100 Years of Storytelling (Amazon link). While the contents are quite similar, I’m hoping a special edition (all the publisher has to do is change the cover binding to accommodate a DVD/Blu-ray) will include both to make fans of this studio have a true keepsake.
100 Years of Warner Bros. Broadcast Guide:
Episode 1 – The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
Premieres Sunday, August 6 at 8pm ET
Four brothers set out to build a movie studio from the ground up–while making a giant leap from silent films to “talkies.” As the Warners stand up to WWII Nazism, personal ambitions lead to family betrayal.
Followed by: Rebel Without A Cause (1955) and Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Episode 2 – Clint, Kubrick and Kryptonite
Premieres Sunday, August 13 at 8pm ET
After a historic sale, Warner Bros. navigates the upheavals of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Under a new strategist CEO, the company enters an era of unmatched storytelling with groundbreaking projects.
Followed by: Mean Streets (1973) and Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Episode 3 – Heroes, Villains and Friends
Premieres Sunday, August 20 at 8pm ET
In the ‘80s, a new generation helped crown Warner Bros. as a forerunner in Hollywood’s blockbuster age. After a historic merger, the company became one of the biggest entertainment giants in the world.
Followed by: The Exorcist (1973), Batman (1989), Goodfellas (1990),
Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and Ocean’s Twelve (2004).
Episode 4 – Wizarding World and The Big Bang
Premieres Sunday, August 27 at 8pm ET
As the millennium brings a new era of business partnerships bookended by mergers, Warner Bros. continues to champion authentic voices while harnessing the latest technologies of the digital age.
Followed by: Inception (2010).