Film critic to discuss what made Warner Bros. an influential movie studio

A renowned film critic and author will be in Burbank next week to talk about how Warner Bros., both the studio and the brothers themselves, shaped the movie industry.

David Thomson dives into the back story of how four Jewish brothers — through their rivalry — produced some of the greatest films in history in his latest book “Warner Bros: the Making of an American Movie Studio.”

Thomson will be talking about his book at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Buena Vista Branch Library, 300 N. Buena Vista St., and he will be joined by George Feltenstein, senior vice president of theatrical marketing for Warner Bros., and Mark Greenhalgh, the studio’s senior archivist.

“Warner Bros” is the latest installment in Yale University Press’ “Jewish Lives” series that delves into how various Jewish figures made an impact in such areas as literature, the arts and economics.

Thomson said in an interview that the dynamic between oldest brother Harry Warner and youngest brother Jack Warner made Warner Bros. one of the most interesting and innovative studios during its heyday.

Harry Warner was more reserved and expected to be treated with respect. He favored producing films that were safe and didn’t rock the boat. On the other hand, Jack Warner was more spirited, outgoing and a bit of show-off, which rubbed his oldest brother the wrong way, Thomson said.

“Jack was always out to make the studio modern and up-to-date and American,” Thomson said. “I think Jack really enjoyed personally the violence of the gangster films, the sexiness of the musicals. He was always going for racier products, where Harry, I think, would have tried to stick with safe, reassuring pictures.”

Jack Warner continually pushed toward producing movies about social issues, not for political reasons but because he felt it would put the studio at the forefront of moviemaking, Thomson said.

Though the youngest and oldest Warner brothers butted heads, Thomson said that Warner Bros. became one of the most influential studios of its time, creating the tough guy character that was also charming and wise-cracking, which Americans found appealing.

Thomson said he is looking forward to visiting Burbank and meeting a few current Warner Bros. officials.

“I think we’ll have a very good conversation, and I hope we get an audience who has lived in Burbank long enough to remember what the studio was and who probably knew people that were working there or have worked there themselves,” Thomson said.

anthonyclark.carpio@latimes.com

Twitter: @acocarpio

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