Warner Brothers and Sound
Warner Brothers, name normally pertains to Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc., which is an American motion-picture production company, and was the first to use series of synchronized sound in a silent feature film. Four American brothers namely Harry Morris Warner, Albert Warner, Samuel Lewis Warner, and Jack Leonard Warner were the founders. (Warner Brothers: Encyclopedia Article from Encarta) Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack turned jointly to any commercial activities that came their way till they got into the nickelodeon business. Currently Jack is the only brother who is still regularly recognized with Warner's in its halcyon days. However the studio would have never attained the big position without Harry and Sam's unusual and paired talents. They did it by risking on a new technology: synchronized sound for motion pictures. Harry's cautious but enthused business management made the company in a position to benefit from Sam's big idea. (The Warner Sound: Film Scores Par Excellence) The brothers emerged from initial stages to tremendous richness and the growth of the Warner Brothers to a huge enterprise influenced the formation of the entertainment ideology of the people of the country. (Sperling, 3)
The three elder brothers were born in Poland and the youngest was born in Ontario in Canada. The Warner brothers depict their ancestry to Benjamin Warner who fled from Russia and came to America in the late 1800's. Warner's opened nickelodeon which was an early movie theatre in Newcastle, Pennsylvania by the year 1903. They started producing films in New York by 1912. In 1918, they started their own studio in Hollywood, California and after five years they established Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. The father of these 4 Warner brothers maintained that by should work collectively to progress and to flourish. They were united for many years, till the death of Sam and eventually by a wicked treachery. (Sperling, 3)
Now let us understand the contribution of the Warner brothers to Sound technology. The brothers bought the Vitagraph Company in the mid-1920s, which facilitated them to circulate their films straight to theatres. (Warner Brothers: Encyclopedia Article from Encarta) It was almost a decade before the movies confronted their own technological test: sound. Experiments were done for many years connecting sound to image and Thomas Edison had carried out some of them. But many studios were hesitant to destabilize, which by the mid-20 became a profitable and fast growing business. (Movies Meet New Technology: The Sequel to the Sequel) Initially, sound for a motion picture was recorded on disks, and then played again on a large gramophone that was synchronized with a film projector. The first studio to adopt this new technology was Warner Brothers and they called it "Vitaphone." (1926: Sound Motion Pictures)
The movie studios had the equipments to make talking films years before they made them. The main reason as to why they opposed the idea was that they did not want to take chance of losing their overseas market. Stars like Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford did not have any failure as their films were shown all over the world and had no language barricades. But the silent films had to tackle their biggest opposition from a new device called the radio in 1926. As movie audience decreased the studio heads closed their eyes and acted as though the radio was not there. The Warner's led by the motivated Sam, decided to drive the shroud and strived to safeguard their tumbling studio by testing with movie sound. (Tales of the Warner Brothers)
A technological upheaval of the kind that sped through the film industry with the onset of synchronized sound recording is essentially the result of cultural and economic factors and the conclusion of many experiments over an unlimited period of time. But there are three grounds to rejoice on Sam Warner's personal role to the arrival of talking pictures in Hollywood. First, there should be a position for recognizing the subject, almost unintentional factors which have an effect on history like personal passion or personal preference, chance elements which may give the push that fixes a historical drama in motion. Second, the best-known Warner sound vehicle, The Jazz Singer in the year 1927, symbolizes a key moment in the history of the U.S. entertainment industry and accounts for the tensions in U.S. popular culture at an intermediary moment. And third is the method the personal role Sam made to the emergence of synch sound was noticeably appreciated. (Sam Warner - Now you has jazz)
Sam was a visionary. He cast himself, in the words of a modern Warner Bros. technician as hook, line and sinker into sound cinema, taking accountability for making all the studio's early programs, ending in his determined control of the making of The Jazz Singer. But Harry had to set up a firm financial base for extension before Sam could inflect the Warner Bros. story. The U.S. economy was flourishing with high buoyancy in the mid of the 1920s, as the boom had been collecting energy since the Depression period of the 1890s. The film industry emerged with these conditions, was called Hollywood and had on the whole merged into an oligopoly of five major studios with straight integrated control of production, distribution and exhibition, whose products also conquered overseas markets. These studios had no intention of shaking up their flourishing industry by tricking around with new technologies and were against the idea of talking pictures. So it was the hungry strangers, the Warner brothers who were ready to take risk in the idea of breaching into the closed circle of the majors. (Sam Warner - Now you has jazz)
When Warner Brothers, who greatly wanted entrance to the strongly conserved world of the four majors: Paramount, Fox Film Corporation, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, RKO presented The Jazz Singer; they were an instant success story. (Sound in film) As it is the case with new technology, the only companies that had a chance in it were those that were not getting any advantage from the present system. At that time, Warner Brothers was a small studio, whose biggest stat was Rin tin. When compared to Warner Brothers, Fox Pictures was bigger and more flourishing but its chief, William Fox had aim on being the most influential industrialist of all and was hunting for an angle that would facilitate him to do so. Both studios got on concurrently on tactics to do movies with sound. (Movies Meet New Technology: The Sequel to the Sequel) All the majors tried to modernize their technology, both in the studio and cinema to follow Warner Brothers' sweeping success. (Sound in film)
In the early part of the year 1925, Warner Bros had no first-run theatres and no intended circulation, which are mainly essential for major profit and position. Harry, who was handling the finances for the brothers' from the time Sam got their first projector to show The Great Train Robbery in 1903, was searching for a large amount of external funds to support his extension plans. In unison Waddill Catchings, an investment banker with Goldman, Sachs, was searching for another appropriate business to start on into a major national venture. He was convinced of the way Harry managed Warner Bros. And contracted to create bank credit to fund a master plan of extension and to join the board of directors. Catchings' Wall Street trustworthiness unbolted the doors of banks that would never otherwise have thought about giving to the film industry. Warner Bros. bought the old Vitagraph Company, as well as its Brooklyn studio, its distribution structure and ten major theatres in 1925. (Sam Warner - Now you has jazz)
In this stage of the extension the question of sound never came, but sound was the base for what was to become the second stage. In spite the major studios satisfaction, it was certain that by the mid 20s that sound film would become realism. By the year 1924, the basic technology was in its place created in Bell Labs, the research wing of Western Electric and on the other hand, the entertainment industry was becoming ever more conquered by new sound technologies. Dancehalls and variety show were flourishing and radio and the record companies had opened up a bulk market for popular music. This was the jazz age and the movies were pushed back out of synch with the music-filled ambiance of the times. As part of its first expansion tactics Warner Brothers bought a radio station, the first Hollywood studio to do so. The switch to second stage was marked by KWBC. Sam, who was controlling the station, had a chance to widen his interest in electronics.
Sam became a special friend to the Western Electric representative in Los Angeles, Nathan Levinson, who called him for an exhibition in New York of the results of the company's research and development into sound synchronization for film. Sam saw instantly that sound could give an aggressive edge that would take Warner Bros. beyond Harry's safe…[continue]
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