Monday, May 8, 2023

Review: 'Warner Bros.: 100 Years of Storytelling'

This year the studio behind such watershed pictures as The Jazz Singer, Gold Diggers of 1933, Casablanca, White Heat, Bonnie and ClydeA Clockwork Orange, Superman, and Malcolm X turns 100. Mark A. Vieira marks the event with an illustrated history of the studio called Warner Bros.: 100 Years of Storytelling

Each chapter runs through a decade of film production at Warners, starting with five or so pages of text before rolling out pages of film stills and promo shots illustrating some of the more notable flicks WB released during the given decade. 100 Years of Storytelling is at its most valuable in its first few chapters, as Vieira explains how a family of Polish emigres started one of the first and most enduring American film companies after hocking their one valuable item, a gold watch, to fund exhibitions. 

Vieira's own storytelling doesn't waste too much space or time, hitting the bullet points of how Warner Bros. came to be and noting such major events as how the studio spearheaded sound film when it produced The Jazz Singer and brought blood and guts to the yanks when it took up distribution of the UK's Hammer horrors. 

The tale hits a bit of wall once the studio is well established. At that point, the text mostly becomes a litany of single-sentence plot synopses with the occasional mention of a major development in the industry, like the dawn of the VCR or Internet. The author mostly skates over the fact that Jack Warner, the one American-born brother, was an infamous butthead, only dropping a clue when explaining the sneaky way he came to be the final Warner Bro at Warner Bros. So the photos do a lot of the heavy lifting, and you can't complain too much about that when the mugs of Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Carey Grant, Joan Crawford, Bruce Lee, Denzel Washington, and Porky Pig helped make the studio what it was.

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