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Warner Bros: The Making of an American Movie Studio

(Jewish Lives)

3.16  ·  Rating details ·  140 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Behind the scenes at the legendary Warner Brothers film studio, where four immigrant brothers transformed themselves into the moguls and masters of American fantasy

Warner Bros charts the rise of an unpromising film studio from its shaky beginnings in the early twentieth century through its ascent to the pinnacle of Hollywood influence and popularity. The Warner
Published August 8th 2017 by Yale University Press
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Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
A bit scattered as if I was reading a Hollywood gossip mag rather than a biography. Covers Warner Bros who ran the famous studio in the golden age of Hollywood in the thirties and forties. It does a lot of name dropping and movie highlighting but was a short narrative and too glitzy even for a book about studio moguls.
Oct 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I wanted this to be something it was not. It's not a linear narrative on the history of a studio but rather a series of critical essays. Worth knowing this before diving in. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Bette Davis.

My full review here:
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
The title of the book and the cover photograph of the four Warner brothers is misleading, as this is not a history of Warner Bros. Instead, it’s a movie critic’s reprise of the movies produced by Warners over the years and gossip and opinion about the actors and directors involved in them.

Many movie buffs may enjoy this series of film riffs, as at points author David Thomson has witty observations. For example, referring to Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep, he writes, “It does
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
It is too scattered as others have said. Is it a biography? Is it a history of movie making? Is it a series of movie reviews? I lost patience waiting to get to the parts about the brothers.
Nov 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
As others have pointed out, the book (which clocks in at a mere 180 pages of text), is an odd amalgam of biography, film history and Hollywood gossip. Rather than a linear narrative, the chapters each center around a key WB film and its impact on the studio and major stars. A bit disjointed to read, and I wanted more about the brothers themselves, but Thomson's style is always engaging and if the book doesn't actually make it to a four in my über-subjective and ever-changing ratings system, it's ...more
Cathy Biggers
Aug 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book may have more impact to someone growing up in the 20's and 30's but I found it difficult to get through. While I know Hollywood is VERY Democratic in its politics, it was still very revealing to see the author include Donald Trump's name negatively throughout several chapters in this book. Not sure what that has to do with the Warner Brothers story - but it still seemed rather far afield. There was definitely family history here, but other than detailing many of the Warner Brothers big ...more
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Is this a biography of four brothers (this is the Jewish lives series), the story of a great movie studio, or a work of film criticism that helps us understand what has defined the Warner brand throughout the years? David Thomson can't really make up his mind, and I guess that's why I liked this book so much. Thomson just writes about whatever he finds interesting and hopes we will too.

Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rather than a history of the four brothers Warner and the film studio bearing their name, this slim volume reads more like a valentine to a time (the 1930’s and 1940’s) and a place. It is quite entertaining and a quick read and is highly recommended.
Martin Kilkenny
Nov 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thomson is always interesting and has a lot of backstory here on the beginnings of the Warner Brothers studio. Interesting for anyone looking for Hollywood history.
Jana McBeth
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book as I knew nothing about the start of Warner Bros. I thought it had a lot of really interesting facts and was very worth reading.
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As both a movie fanatic and Burbank resident, I found this deep dive into the origins, beginnings and growing pains of Warner Bros., that "studio down the street and around the corner," to be absolutely fascinating, sweet catnip for someone like me. I went into this knowing nothing about the brothers behind the logo. I had no idea there were four of them, and that three of the four were born in Poland while the youngest, Jack, was Canadian born. David Thomson is a film critic and scholar whom ...more
Aug 04, 2019 rated it did not like it
Unfortunately, I was not a fan of Warner Bros: The Making of an American Movie Studio by David Thomson. First, Thomson did not introduce any of the brothers individually; he just jumped right in with talking about the studio. Second, he had to list everyone's ethnicity or nationality before saying anything else about them. Third, he spoiled the entire plot of movies (with no warning) that I had planned on seeing someday. Fourth, he did not go in chronological order - he jumped around from decade ...more
Aaron Ambrose
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is not quite what it says on the box, but it uses the concept of a family/studio biography as a chance to riff on families, studios, "the pictures," movie stars, movie stars who also happened to be actors, the messiness of collaboration, and the glorious messiness of the world that all these things try to distract us from. Thomson is a great movie fan, with a cheerful insolence about the thing he loves most. Reading this book was like having many stiff drinks with a smart, garrulous ...more
May 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
Although I was very interested in reading this book, as some of my favorite films/actors worked for the Warner Bros., I just could not read this book!

I barely finished reading the "Introduction," and only because I started to skim the pages; then, I started to skim the pages of the first chapter and finally gave up.

What could have been a very interesting story was completely ruined by the author's boring style of writing. He also must have had the option to include many more pictures of the
Bought based on NYT book review - which is hit and miss. This one was a miss. Some of the stories on Boggie and Bette were good. But too quick. And you didn’t even get to see a biography of the WARNER Bros. It was like someone said do a short summary of everything - which is what this was. Not a good read.
Nick Sanders
Jun 18, 2018 rated it did not like it
Stopped reading halfway through. More a literary experiment than a history of a studio, or the biography of four brothers starting a breakthrough film studio. I'm curious to know more about Hollywood, or movie moguls, or both. But this book isn't that.
Michele Mason
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating take on the Warner Bros studio, focussing on the key films it made over the years. Thomson’s discussion on these films and their stars was a refreshing change from the usual Hollywood “biographies”. I really enjoyed this book.
Barbara Phillips-Farley
The latest book in the Jewish Lives series, this short book skims through many years and many careers. At times the author waxes poetic, and at times he makes claims that seem somewhat outlandish. However, I did enjoy it. I wished for more photos.
Jack Laschenski
Aug 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Not really a biography.

It is a psychiatric examination of the Warner movies from 1920 to 1954b by a film critic.

Did the movies shape the American phyche or vice-versa.

Why do we love gangster movies???
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
more or less enlightening. pretty much entertaining. thomson’s not good at throughlines.
Dec 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Primarily a survey of the important stars and films of the Jack Warner era. Thomson has trod this ground before in various books but he is always a pleasure to read.
tim walsh
Okay not great

An okay history but a
Little boring. Not as in depth as it could have been. Maybe because I just read Her Again a fantastic book about Meryl streep!
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
David Thompson is always fun to read. Thanks to the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto for carrying this special edition, and thanks to my wonderful partner for buying it for me!
Oct 01, 2017 rated it liked it
A stimulating history of Warner Bros as a studio during the Golden Era, but not so great as a biography of the Warners themselves.
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
As always, Thomson is a pleasure to read on films. He is an idiosyncratic voice in Film criticism, but one I find myself agreeing with more often than not. I just finished reading Michael Curtiz’s biography and found it quite interesting that this book and that one covered essentially the same ground as the story of Warner Bros. was also the story of Michael Curtiz. But there were other great filmmakers and actors at Warner Bros. and Thomson covers so many in this short book. He champions some ...more
Henry Barcohana
rated it liked it
Oct 13, 2017
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Jan 13, 2019
Max Friedman
rated it really liked it
Jul 25, 2018
Sylvia Johnson
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Sep 25, 2017
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David Thomson, renowned as one of the great living authorities on the movies, is the author of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, now in its fifth edition. His books include a biography of Nicole Kidman and The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood. Thomson is also the author of the acclaimed "Have You Seen . . . ?": A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films. Born in London in 1941, he now ...more

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