1001 W 75TH ST. WOODRIDGE, IL 630-427-1880

Hollywood Memorial

Jack Warner

Co-founder of Warner Bros., with siblings Harry, Sam, and Albert Warner. Their father was an itinerant peddler who pursued get-rich-quick schemes throughout the northeastern US. In 1903 the family pooled their resources and bought a fleapit Nickelodeon in Newcastle, Pennsylvania. Business brain Harry handled the receipts while young Jack, an aspiring musical comedy star, entertained the audience during intermission. Their attempts to build a film distribution exchange were crushed by the powerful Edison Trust in 1910, but they carried on and began producing one-reelers in 1912. They scored their first blockbuster with the World War I propaganda feature ‘My Four Years in Germany’ and with the profits built a handsome studio on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Their first star and main breadwinner was the canine hero Rin-Tin-Tin. In 1923 Warner Bros. went public as a corporation with Harry as president, Sam the CEO, Albert the treasurer, and Jack the production chief. They launched an ambitious expansion campaign by acquiring the Vitagraph Company, Burbank-based First National Pictures (where they set up new headquarters), and a nationwide chain of theatres, but by 1927 the organization was financially stretched to the breaking point. Salvation arrived with the Warner’s’ experiments with talking pictures, initiated by Sam Warner before his early death. The phenomenal success of ‘The Jazz Singer’ touched off the ‘talkie’ revolution and firmly established Warner Bros. as one of the giants of the American film industry. While Harry and Albert handled the corporate end in New York, Jack ran the studio with an iron fist and a production philosophy of maximum economy consistent with quality. He held his stars to unfavorable contracts they had signed as unknowns and was famously sued by James Cagney, Bette Davis, and Olivia de Havilland over his draconian policies. Even the family was not spared from his ruthless behavior. In 1956, the three surviving brothers agreed to sell most of their shares in the company. Jack held onto his instead, gaining total control of the studio while watching the stock triple in value. Harry never spoke to him again and the episode made Jack persona non grata with the rest of the Warner clan. (This may explain why he is buried not in the Warner Family Mausoleums but in a private garden nearby). Throughout it all he kept a sense of humor, which he usually indulged without tact and at the least opportune moments; Jack Benny said of him, ‘He would rather tell a bad joke than make a good movie.’ (Example: On being introduced to Mme. Chiang Kai-Shek, he muttered that he had forgotten his laundry). In 1967 he finally sold his interest in Warner Bros. to Seven Arts, maintaining a position as an independent producer until his retirement at 80. In a grave at the Home of Piece Memorial Park in East Los Angeles, not far from the family mausoleum from which he was excluded. He probably had a lot of explaining to do.