Sam Warner

Sam Warner

Samuel Warner (August 10, 1887 – October 5, 1927, aged 40) was a co-founder and chief executive officer of Warner Bros. Studios. He established the studio along with his brothers Harry, Albert, and Jack Warner. Sam Warner is credited with procuring the technology that enabled Warner Bros. to produce the film industry's first feature-length talking picture, "The Jazz Singer".Thomas (1990), pp. 52–62.] He died in 1927, the day before the film's enormously successful premiere.cite news
title = Warner, Movie Magnate, Dies: Sam Warner, Former Youngstown Man, Rose from Obscurity to Leader in Field
work = The Youngstown Daily Vindicator
date = October 5, 1927
]

Early years

Samuel Warner was born in Baltimore, Maryland, into a Yiddish-speaking family of Polish Jewish immigrants.Thomas (1990), p. 9.] Along with Albert Warner, Sam was one of the two founders of Warner Bros. Studios who were born in the United States.Warner and Jennings (1964), p. 20.] He was the fourth surviving son of Benjamin Warner (whose original last name is not known but may have been Wonskolaser), [www.adherents.com/people/pw/Jack_Warner.html] a cobbler from Krasnosielc, Poland, and his wife, the former Pearl Leah Eichelbaum. Following their marriage in 1876, the couple had three children in Poland, one of whom died at a young age.Thomas (1990), p. 10.] In search of a better future for his family and himself, in 1883 Benjamin made his way to Hamburg, Germany, and then took a ship to America;Warner and Jennings (1964), p. 18.] upon arriving in America, Benjamin introduced himself as "Benjamin Warner,"Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 20] and the name "Warner" would remain with the family for the rest of their lives. Pearl Warner and the two surviving children, including Hirsch (later Harry), joined him in Baltimore, Maryland less than a year later. In Baltimore, five more children were born to the family, including Sam and his brother, Abraham (later known as Albert).

In Baltimore, Benjamin Warner struggled to make enough money to provide for his growing family.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=11|isbn=0-070-64259-1] Following the advice of a friend, Benjamin relocated the family to Canada, where he attempted to make a living by bartering tin wares to trappers in exchange for furs. In Canada, two more Warner children arrived, including Jacob (later Jack) was born in London, Ontario.Thomas (1990), p. 11.] After two arduous years in Canada, Benjamin Warner and his family returned to Baltimore.Warner and Jennings (1964), pp. 23–24.] In 1896, the family relocated to Youngstown, Ohio, following the lead of Harry Warner, who established a shoe repair shop in the heart of the emerging industrial town.Warner and Jennings (1964), pp. 24–25.] Benjamin Warner worked with his son, Harry, in the shoe repair shop, until he secured a loan to open a meat counter and grocery store in the city's downtown area.Thomas (1990), pp. 12–13.] In Youngstown, two more children were added to the crowded household.Thomas (1990), p. 12.] As a kid, Sam found himself trying to find work through a range of various odd jobs.Thomas (1990), pp. 15–16.]

Early business ventures

Sam Warner was the first member of his family to move into the entertainment industry. In the early 1900s, he formed a business partnership with another Youngstown resident and "took over" the city's Old Grand Opera House, which he used as a venue for "cheap vaudeville and photoplays".cite news
title = Heard on the Corner: How the Warner Brothers, Movie Producers, Got Their Start
work = The Youngstown Daily Vindicator
date = December 30, 1923
] The venture failed after one summer. Next, Sam secured a job as a projectionist at Idora Park, a local amusement park.Warner and Jennings (1964), p. 49.] He persuaded the family of the new medium's possibilities and negotiated the purchase of a Model B Kinetoscope from a projectionist who was "down on his luck".Warner and Jennings (1964), p. 50.] The purchase price was $1,000.cite news
first = Bob
last = Trebilcock
title = A Warner Brothers Production: They parlayed Youngstown nickelodeon into a Hollywood empire
work = Ohio Magazine
date = March 1985
pages = 24–25
] Sam's interest in film came after seeing Thomas Edison's "The Great Train Robbery" while working as an employee at Cedar Point Pleasure Resort in Sandusky, Ohio. During this time, Albert agreed to join Sam and together, the two displayed showings of The Great Train Robbery at carnivals throughout the states of Ohio and Pennsylvania;Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 32.] Sam would run the film projector and Albert would sell tickets. In 1905, Harry agreed to join his two brothers and sold his Youngstown bicycle shop.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 33.] Through the money Harry made by selling the bicycle shop, the three brothers were now able to purchased a building in New Castle, Pennsylvania;Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 34.] The brothers named their new theater The Cascade Movie Palace. [Warner and Jennings (1964), pp. 54–55. ] The Cascade Movie was so successful, that the brothers were able to purchase a second theater in New Castle as well.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=22|isbn=0-070-64259-1] This makeshift theatre, called the Bijou, was furnished with chairs borrowed from a local undertaker.cite news
title = Jack L. Warner's Death Closes Out Pioneer Clan of 'Talkies'
work = Variety
date = September 13, 1978
page = 2
] They maintained the theater until moving into film distribution in 1907.Warner and Jennings (1964), pp. 55–57.] That year, the Warner brothers established the Pittsburgh-based Duquesne Amusement Company, and the three brothers rented an office in the Bakewell building in downtown Pittsburgh. Harry then sent Sam to New York to purchase, and ship, films for their Pittsburgh exchange company, while he and Albert remained in Pittsburgh to run the business.

Their business, however, proved lucrative until the advent of Thomas Edison's Motion Picture Patents Company (also known as the Edison Trust), which charged distributors exorbitant fees.Warner and Jennings (1964), pp. 65–66.] In 1909, the brothers sold the Cascade Theater for $40,000, and decided to open a second film exchange in Norfolk, Virginia;Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 42] through this Norfolk company, younger brother Jack, following Sam's advice,cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=18|isbn=0-070-64259-1] officially joined his three brothers' business and was sent to Norfolk, by older Harry, to serve as Sam's assistant; In 1910, the Warners would sell the family business, to the General Film Company, for "$10,000 in cash, $12,000 in preferred stock, and payments over a four-year period for a total of $52,000".Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 45-46]

Formation of Warner Bros.

In 1910, the Warner brothers pooled their resources and moved into film production.Warner and Jennings (1964), p. 73.] After they sold their business,Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 46] the brothers lent their support to filmmaker Carl Laemmle's Independent Motion Picture Company, which challenged the monopolistic control of the Edison Trust;Thomas (1990), p. 29.] the brothers served as distributors for Laemmle's films in Pittsburgh.for Carl Laemmle's Independent Fillm Company. In 1912, Sam would help the brothers earn a $1,500 profit with his film Dante's InternoSperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 47-48] In the wake of this success, Harry Warner-seeing Edison's monopoly threat grow- decided to break with Laemmle. and have the brothers start their own film producion company, Warner Features.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 51] After this occurred Harry Warner-who now had an office in New York with brother Albert-Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 54] sent Sam and Jack to establish film exchanges in Los Angeles and San Francisco; Sam would run the company's Los Angeles division while Jack ran the company's San Francisco division. The brothers were soon poised to exploit the expanding California movie market. Their first opportunity to produce a major film came in 1918, when they purchased the film rights for "My Four Years in Germany", a bestselling novel that condemned German wartime atrocities.Thomas (1990), pp. 34–35.] In the wake of the successful profits "My Four Years in Germany" gave the Warners', the four brothers were now able to establish a studio in the area near Hollywood, California.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 66] In the new Hollywood studio, Sam became co-head of production along with his younger brother, Jack.Warner and Jennings (1964), pp. 100–101.] In this capacity, the two brothers secured new scripts and story lines, managed film production, and looked for ways to reduce production costs.

Between the years 1919 and 1920, unfortunately, the studio was not able to garnish any profits.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 71 ] During this time, banker Motley Flint-who was, unlike most bankers at the time, not antisemitic-.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 72 ] helped the Warners pay off their debts. The brothers then decided to relocate their production studio from Culver City to Sunset Boulevard.Thomas (1990), pp. 38.] The studio would also rebound in 1921, after the success of the studio's film "Why Girls Leave Home".Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 73 ] As a result of the film's success, director Harry Rapf was appointed the studio's new head producer.Thomas (1990), p. 38.] On April 4, 1923, following the studio's successful film The Gold Diggers,Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 76] Warner Brothers, Inc. was officially established.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 77 ]

One of the new company's first big stars would be the dog Rin Tin Tin.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 81] By directing Rin Tin Tin, newcomer director Daryl Zanuck's career would be greatly pushed forward too.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=45|isbn=0-070-64259-1] In addition to Rin Tin Tin, the studio was also able to gain more success with German film director Lubitsch, who's first film with the studio-The Marriage Circle- reached the New York Times Ten Best List for the 1924;Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 83] the film was also the studio's most successful film of the year, and it helped establish Lubitsch as the studio's top director at this point in time.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 82 ] The Warners were also able to add another film to New York Times Top Ten Films of The Year 1924 List with "Beau Brummell" as well.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 84 ] Despite success the studio had, the Warners were unable to compete with the Big Three Studios (Paramount, Unversal, First National) at the time,cite newspaper|title="Theatre Owners Open War on Hays"|publisher=New York Times|pages=14|date=May 12, 1925] and were soon threatened to be bought out by the end of 1924.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), "Hollywood Be Thy Name" p. 84-85, Prima Publishing, ISN:1559583436 ]

During this time, Harry would add more relief for the studio after he was able purchase Brooklyn's "Vitagraph" theater company.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), "Hollywood Be Thy Name" p. 86, Prima Publishing, ISN:1559583436 ] In 1925, Sam Warner had also acquired a radio station, KWBC,Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 89.] After acquiring his radio station, Sam decided to make an attempt to use synchronized sound in future Warner Bros. Pictures.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 90.] After a visit to Western Electric's Bell Labritories headquarters,Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 92.] Sam urged his brother, Harry, to sign an agreement with Western Electric to develop a series of "talking" shorts using the newly-upgraded Sound-on-film technology, a sound-on-disc system for motion pictures.Thomas (1990), 52–55;] Harry, however, did not want to use synchronized sound in the studio's films.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 94.]

By February of 1926, the studio had suffered a reported net loss of $333,413.00.cite book|last=Freedland|first=Michael|title=The Warner Brothers|publisher=St. Martin's Press|pages=119|isbn=0-312-85620-2] Harry, after a long peroid of refusing to accept Sam's demands, then agreed to use synchronized sound in Warner Bros. shorts, as long as it just for usage of background music, [cite book|last=Warner-Sperling|first=Cass |coauthors=Millner, Cork; Warner, Jack; Warner, Jack Jr.|title=Hollywood Be Thy Name: The Warner Brothers Story|publisher=University Press of Kentucky|pages=94|isbn=0-813-10958-2] Harry then made a visit to Western Electric's Bell Laboratories in New York,cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=54|isbn=0-070-64259-1] and was impressed. on problem that occurred for the Warners though was the fact that the high-ups at Western Electric were anti-Semitic. Sam, though, was able to convince the high-ups to sign with the studio after his wife Lina wore a gold cross at a dinner he attended with the Western Electric. After which, Harry signed a partnership agreement with Western Electric to use Bell Laboratories to test the sound-on-film process. [cite book|last=Warner-Sperling|first=Cass |coauthors=Millner, Cork; Warner, Jack; Warner, Jack Jr.|title=Hollywood Be Thy Name: The Warner Brothers Story|publisher=University Press of Kentucky|pages=94-95|isbn=0-813-10958-2] Sam and younger brother Jack then decided to take a big step forward make Don Juan. [cite book|last=Warner-Sperling|first=Cass |coauthors=Millner, Cork; Warner, Jack; Warner, Jack Jr.|title=Hollywood Be Thy Name: The Warner Brothers Story|publisher=University Press of Kentucky|pages=102|isbn=0-813-10958-2]

In May of 1926, [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,731079,00.html TIME ] ] through the company's partnership with Western Electric, Sam formed a subsidiary known as Vitaphone,Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 95.] Through Vitaphone, the studio released a series of musical shorts and the feature-length "Don Juan" (which had a synchronized music track); upon establishing Vitaphone, Sam was also made Vice President of Warner Bros. as well. Despite the money Don Juan was able to draw at the box office, it still could not match the expensive budget the brothers put into the film's production. [cite book|last=Warner-Sperling|first=Cass |coauthors=Millner, Cork; Warner, Jack; Warner, Jack Jr.|title=Hollywood Be Thy Name: The Warner Brothers Story|publisher=University Press of Kentucky|pages=113|isbn=0-813-10958-2] These vehicles received further tepid responses, and Harry grew increasingly opposed to the venture.

Around this time, Paramount head Adolph Zukor offered Sam a deal as an executive producer for his studio if he brought Vitaphone with him;Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 114.] during the year, Harry had also become the company president.cite news|url=http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,863684-1,00.html|title=Milestones|date=1958-08-04|publisher="Time"|pages=2] Sam, not wanting to take any more of brother Harry's refusal to move forward with using sound in future Warner films, agreed to accept Zukor's offer, but the deal died after Paramount lost money in the wake of Rudolph Valentino's death. By April of 1927, the Big Five studios (First National, Paramount, MGM, Universal, and Producers Distributing) had put the Warners in financial ruin,Thomas (1990), p. 59.] and Western Electric renewed the Warner's Vitaphone contract with terms that it was no longer exclusive and that other film company's could test sound with Western Electric as well. Harry eventually agreed to accept Sam's demands,Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 116.] and Sam pushed ahead with a new Vitaphone feature, based on a Broadway play and starring Al Jolson. "The Jazz Singer" broke box-office records, established Warner Bros. as a major player in Hollywood, and single-handedly launched the talkie revolution.

Death

Sam died the day before "The Jazz Singer" made its debut in New York City, which he planned to attend.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 132.] At age 40, he succumbed to complications from a sinus infection; According to "Hollywood Be Thy Name", the 1993 memoir of Jack Warner, Jr., and Cass Warner Sperling, late character actor William Demarest claimed Sam Warner was murdered by his own brothers.cite news
title = Warner brothers book covers Valley roots, Hollywood highs
work = The Vindicator
date = October 24, 1993
] This allegation, leveled in 1977, was never corroborated, and Demarest's reliability was questioned because of his long dependence on alcohol; the last time Sam would meet with his entire family was at his parent's wedding anniversary in 1926.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 112.] In September, Jack-who was working nonstop with Sam on production of "The Jazz Singer"- noticed Sam started having severe headaches and nosebleeds. By the end of the month, Sam was unable to walk straight. Sam was then hospitalized and was diagnosed with a sinus infection.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 133.] Unfortunately, the sinus infection soon developed into an acute mastoid infection. Sam's body had now become largely infected and doctors were unable to successfully remove all of the infected cells from Sam's body.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 134.] Sam's infection soon developed into pneumonia, and on October 5, 1927, Sam died from a cerebral hemorrhage as doctors were trying to remove infected cells from his brain.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 135.]

As the family grieved over Sam's sudden passing, the success of "The Jazz Singer" helped establish Warner Bros. as a major studio. While Warner Bros. invested only $500,000 in the film, the studio reaped $3 million in profits.Thomas (1990), p. 63.] Hollywood's five major studios, which controlled most of the nation's movie theaters, initially attempted to block the growth of "talking pictures". In the face of such organized opposition, Warner Bros. produced 12 "talkies" in 1928 alone. The following year, the newly formed Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences recognized Warner Bros. for "revolutionizing the industry with sound".Thomas (1990), p. 66.]

Personal life

In 1925, after years of remaining a committed bachelor,Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 33-98.] Sam met eighteen-year-old Ziegfeld Follies actress Lina Basquette while spending time in New York visiting the Bell Laboratories Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 97.] and began a committed love affair with her. On July 4, 1925, the two were married.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 98.] While Sam's younger brother Jack didn't find it appalling that Lina was Catholic, the rest of the Warner family did.cite book|last=Thomas|first=Bob|title=Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner|publisher=McGraw-Hill|date=1990|pages=48, 49|isbn=0-070-64259-1] They refused to have any part in Lina's life, and did not acknowledge her as a member of the Warner clan. On October 6, 1926, the couple's only child, daughter Lita, would be born.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 115.] In 1930, Lina would also go broke, and lost custody of Lita to Sam's older brother Harry shortly afterwards.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 163.]

Legacy

For all Sam Warner's reputation as pioneer, it should be noted that he envisioned sound in movies not for dialogue but for music and effects only, in order to cut the costs of having live musicians in Warner theatres. And within a few years his Vitaphone was replaced by the technically superior Movietone (sound-on-film) system, which became the industry standard. Nevertheless, his determination forever changed the way motion pictures are made.

Crowds of movie stars gathered at the Bresse Brothers funeral parlor to pay homage to Sam.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 136.] A private memorial service was then held in the Warner Bros. studio on October 9, 1927.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 137.] He is interred in the Warner family mausoleum the Home of Peace Cemetery in East Los Angeles, California.Sperling, Millner, and Warner (1998), p. 137.] His tombstone [ [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pif&GRid=4639&PIgrid=4639&PIcrid=8044&pt=Samuel+Warner&ShowCemPhotos=Y& Find A Grave - Millions of Cemetery Records and Online Memorials ] at www.findagrave.com] shows his birth year to be 1885. For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Sam Warner has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6201 Hollywood Boulevard.

Notes

References

* Thomas, Bob (1990). "Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner". New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company. ISBN 0070642591
* Warner, Jack; Jennings, Dean (1964). "My First Hundred Years in Hollywood". New York: Random Books.


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