Book Review of You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, October 03, 2008
The back cover reads, “The History of Warner Bros. is the History of Hollywood.” It’s not an idle boast but fact. Warner Brothers is America’s third oldest movie studio behind only Paramount and Universal. Founded in 1918 by four Polish Jewish Brothers, Warner Brothers, now under the Time Warner banner, has grown to become one of the world’s foremost producers of film and television shows. The history of the Warner Bros. Studio is told in this new book from Running Press. At nearly 500 pages, the book is filled with hundreds of vintage photos and illustrations from Warner’s exhaustive film library. The book is a companion to the mini-series of the same name, written and directed by Richard Schickel.
The Hollywood elite worked for Warner Bros.: Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood to name just a few. But it’s first major star walked on four feet. Rin Tin Tin was Warner’s top star in the early 1920s, pulling down a salary of $1000 a week! Warner Bros. also released the first major “talkie” film, 1927’s “The Jazz Singer”.
Schickel and Perry guide movie fans on a year-by-year tour of the Warner Bros. studio including looks at the major film releases and stars of each year. Along the way there are fabulous photos, including publicity stills, shots from the films, behind-the-scenes glimpses, as well as movie poster art.
No studio was more in tune with the years of the Second World War. Here, films like “Casablanca”, “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, “Arsenic and Old Lace”, and “Destination Tokyo” helped Americans take their minds off the war, for a little while, anyway. Besides being the home of some of Hollywood’s greatest films, Warner Bros. was also home to brilliant animation. The Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies animated shorts presented an acerbic, cutting edge humor contrast to Disney’s shorts, which were aimed more at children.
Schickel and Perry also present some great stories and anecdotes behind some of these famed movies. Director Stanley Kubrick was so appalled when the British Film censors banned his film “A Clockwork Orange” that he demanded they NEVER show the film there until after he died!
Warner Bros. wasn’t generally known for genre films early on. Horror and Sci-Fi films were considered “B” entertainment and generally relegated to smaller studios. However, even Warner’s could not ignore where movie-goers were spending their money. In the 70s, Warner Bros. produced some of the top genre films of the decade including “The Exorcist”, “Superman”, and “Capricorn One”. And of course in recent years Warners has produced mega-hits such as the Harry Potter, Batman, and Matrix films.
You can, and will spend hours pouring through the pages. It’s like a guided tour through the Warner Bros. museum. The only drawback to the book is that so much of the content is focused on the era of the 1920s through the 1950s. It gives the short end of the stick to the films of the last few decades. That aside, this is a book that movie fans will love and with the holidays fast approaching, it will make a great gift.
Mania Grade: B+
Book: You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story
Authors: Richard Schickel, George Perry
Publisher: Running Press