Wednesday, October 22, 2008

From: Santa Barbara Visitor's Bureau and Film Commission Newsletter

September 2008

After what could be considered the journey of a lifetime, local resident Cass Warner, the granddaughter of Harry Warner, one of the four brothers who founded the legendary Warner Brothers Studios, has cast a new light on her family's history. Her recently completed documentary, "The Brothers Warner" is an intimate portrait of a band of brothers that built an empire on a dream and revolutionized Hollywood. In Cass' words, "They did this with no education, a lot of chutzpah and the belief that if they were told they couldn't do something, they knew they were on the right track."

The story of the four Warner brothers is a classic immigrant tale. From opening their first storefront theater by hanging a sheet on the wall and borrowing chairs from a local funeral parlor to their willingness to embrace innovation when they became the first movie studio to release a "talkie", they were always ready to take a chance. This willingness to take risks served them well, as in the case of Al Jolson's "The Jazz Singer", the aforementioned talkie which was famously declared a "failed experiment" by Irving Thalberg on opening night and went on to become one of the top grossing films of all time.

Their legendary scrappy rise from nothing, their overcoming of personal tragedies, and their battles are all woven together by Cass' narration as well as family home movies and photos, news footage, and archival footage from the Warner vaults. This close-knit band of brothers proved in their pioneering efforts to be the first to use film to "educate, entertain and enlighten". (The original company motto.) Their films were often produced from stories ripped from news headlines and it was Harry's belief that, "Those who make a nation's entertainment have obligations above and beyond their primary commercial objective, which is the box office."

The development of "The Brothers Warner" has been literally a thirty-year process beginning with Cass' book formerly known as "Hollywood Be Thy Name: The Warner Brothers Story" now titled "The Brothers Warner." It's the completion of a promise made to herself and her grandfather Harry, to tell this inspirational tale. Shortly after Cass completed the documentary, it was acquired for domestic television broadcast to be aired as a one-hour by American Masters—a PBS series. "The Brothers Warner" is scheduled to begin airing on PBS via KCET at 9:00 p.m., on September 29th.

Warner Sisters, Cass' production company is proud to have this as its first presentation. For more information, please visit:

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