Warner Brothers Studio and its namesake siblings have been the subjects of many documentaries and books over the years, all of which vary in terms of quality and objectivity. This 1993 biographical documentary focuses squarely on Jack, arguably the most prominent of the brothers because he was creatively involved with the studio’s daily operations.
Directed by step-grandson Gregory Orr, Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul chronicles his life and career from childhood to his death in 1978. The Warners’ rags-to-riches tale has been told before, but since Jack was always the most boisterous and brash, there’s a lot more to chew on here than simply highlighting his career. Featuring interviews by many relatives and associates who knew him personally - not all of whom are filled with praise - we get more of a warts-and-all portrait than one might expect.
Jack is painted as congenial and ruthless in equal measures, in both life and his position as a studio head, which he held long after most other moguls succumbed to changing times and a business model which transferred most of the Hollywood power to artists and agents. His personal life was tumultuous, especially the combative relationship with older brother Harry and his estrangement from his own son, whom he more-or-less disowned. And yes, Jack M. Warner discusses his father, who seems remorseful they never reconciled.
|Jack prepares for his meeting with Bette Davis (though he's still outgunned).
Originally produced 30 years ago, director Gregory Orr - who also figures into the story - has updated and re-edited his film with additional photos and visual enhancements to coincide with Warner Bros’ 100th Anniversary. Such accouterments don't make Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul any more definitive than other books or movies on the subject, but film history buffs will certainly enjoy it.
JACK L. WARNER TESTIFIES BEFORE THE HUAC - Vintage footage (from 1947) of his testimony.
INTERVIEW - Warner Brothers biographer interviews director Gregory Orr, who also discusses updating the film.
LAUNCH OF SS BENJAMIN WARNER