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Glimpse of rich history at Warner Bros.

September 07, 2010|By James Petrillo
(Arcadia Publishing )

The most iconic images of Hollywood in the minds of people around the world aren't always that sign on the other side of the hill or Mann’s Chinese Theatre. The rounded soundstage roofs of Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank are just as evocative an image. These simple but imposing studio grounds have engaged show business imaginations as a birthplace of movie magic for nearly 100 years.

The nostalgia-fueled new book “Early Warner Bros. Studios” by E.J. Stephens and Marc Wanamaker uses more than 200 vintage photographs to give solid historical context to the rolling grounds south of the 134 freeway we’re so familiar with today. It’s so beloved a location that some people even call it home. Clint Eastwood has had his office for Malpaso Productions on the actual lot for decades.

The “Images of America” series celebrates historic places across the country with exquisitely reproduced archival pictures that tend to evoke a strong emotional response in the reader. Each image in the recently published “Early Warner Bros. Studios” is accompanied by richly detailed captions that answer simple questions but sometimes raise more complex ones.

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Many of the photographs concentrate on the Warner family legacy during the first half of the 20th century, when timeless classics like “Casablanca” and “East of Eden” were produced. The rest of this volume traces the rich history behind the scenes at the famous studio from its early homes in Hollywood through its ever-expanding lot near Barham Boulevard and Olive Avenue.

We see the marriage of sound and film in “The Jazz Singer” as well as the birth of “Looney Tunes” and “Merry Melodies” cartoons at the Termite Terrace. Well, we hear about the “laugh factory” that came up with Daffy, Tweety and the like, but evidence is sparse on this particular subject only.

Instead, we get the prickly family history of the actual Warner brothers on full embarrassing display. Jack Warner hated oldest brother Harry. Sam Warner suffered an untimely death. Unfortunately, Sam’s passing happened before he could witness the fruits of his labor to bring “talkies” to the masses.

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