"It is not the challenge of dollars & dollars ... it is the challenge of ideals and ideas! If the producers of pictures, see only the dollar - then I believe those production efforts will fail." ~Harry Warner... 1948.."
It is with GREAT pride, preciseness, and prejudice I write on Harry Warner. He is among my favorite of all the Hollywood moguls!
Not only did he have imaginative, creativeness, and a 'no limit on production' to Warner Bros. success ... he managed to stay down to earth, a great family man, and good hearted!! With that said - Here is his story ..
Harry Eichelbaum was born December 12, 1881, in Poland to Benjamin, a shoemaker, and Pearl Leah Eichelbaum. Young Harry immigrated with his mother and sister to America via the steamship Hermann. Benjamin, Harry's father, had immigrated two years earlier to pursue his trade in shoes and shoe repair. Like many immigrants of the time - Benjamin had the family last name changed to Warner.
Harry was a calm, imaginative child with a strong will and helped his father in his shoe repair business... However the Warner family was growing, and Benjamin moved the family to Canada, inspired by a friend's advice that he could make an excellent living in fur exchange. It proved NOT to be as excellent as the friend had mentioned. After two years in Canada, the family relocated to Youngstown, Ohio - where Benjamin with Harry helping, started a shoe repair shop in the heart of the emerging industrial town. Harry would secure enough then to open a meat market, and grocery store.
By the time Harry was 19, he was living in a crowded household and longed for more than what he had.
In 1905 ... Harry was introduced to the Edison Kinetoscope Projector, by his brother Sam. Harry had found what he longed for. He joined his brother, and set out to tackle the film industry. Harry confinced dad Benjamin, to sell his business, and with that money... they purchased a building to screen the films they already had. They would use this building to establish their first theater, called The Cascade. Business was so good there, they purchased two more theaters in Pennsylvania, and 13 theaters would follow. Harry, Sam, and Albert then formed, The Duquesne Amusement Supply Company. It would be their first venture into film distribution...and short lived. Around that time Thomas Edison, father of motion pictures, established Thomas Edison's Motion Picture Patents Company (also known as the Edison Trust), which charged distributors outrageous fees. The brothers, unable to afford such prices, would sell their thriving business and join with then independent filmmaker Carl Laemmle (LOVE that man!) to actually MAKE indy films.
In 1912, the brothers earned a $1,500 profit with the film Dante's Inferno. They split with Laemmle and were able to make the film "My Four Years In Germany", in 1918 which turned out a HUGE success. With the funding from this film and other money the brothers had saved, they were able to establish and secure a studio near Hollywood, California which they named simply Warner Bros. Pictures.
Harry lived in this house, (that he himself had commissioned and built in 1923), in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. . He also co-founded Hollywood Park Racetrack. In 1907, he married his longtime girlfriend Rea Levinson. The couple had three children together and life was going great for Harry.
Under their newly formed company, Harry oversaw every aspect of the studio. From negotiations with banks, to turning lights off and even recycling old props into new ones. While Warner Bros. was a joint effort of all the brothers... It was Harry who ultimately green-lighted each film made by their studios and supervised each film to be shot and edited to the perfection of his motto..."to educate, entertain, and enlighten." It was by this principle the studio rose to greatness.
Into the 30's, and Harry was looking to enjoy the fruits of his labor a bit more. He sold his pad in Hancock Park, and moved to a bigger, more luxurious pad, here @ 1006 Rexford Drive. .. aaannd cloooser. (See a tour at bottom of Harry's story..) He was also in the market for a beach house. He had heard of the legendary "Gold Coast," running along the beaches of Santa Monica. Upon taking a visit to Santa Monica to 'look' at a few homes .. Harry fell in love with the place. Although he wanted to look at several homes there, Rea insisted on the first one they saw. Wife wins .. Harry bought it!! Doesn't it always work like that?? Wife always wins!! Anyhoo - the view was amazing, and the inside port of the home included an oasis. Could you resist?? I couldn't! I can't blame Harry for trusting Rea's persistent instinct.
By 1956, the brothers were ready to retire and they put their company on the market. Harry also wanted to retire & live at the beach home full time. A full-time banker part-time ASSHOLE, Serge Semenenko, made an offer to buy 90% in stock. The other brothers, took the offer, but Harry rejected Semenenko's offer to purchase his stock, but later accepted the offer after Semenenko increased his bid and agreed to make Simon Fabian - the head of Fabian Enterprises who had also become a friend of the Warners- the new Warner Bros. President.
After the brothers sold their stock, Jack-ASS (through an under-handed-under-the-table deal with Sememenko) joined Semenenko's syndicate and bought back all his stock, which consisted of 200,000 shares. The deal was completed in July 1956.. After which, Jack, who was now the company's largest stockholder, officially appointed himself as the new company President.
Harry had been stabbed in the back goood, by his younger brother...Harry and Jack never spoke again. In fact.. Albert, who'd retired to Florida.. Found out via newspaper about the sick underhandedness & called Jack basically telling him - "because you have done this unthinkable, unspeakable thing.. I will now turn my back on you, forever!!" Then hung the phone up in Jack's ear.. The fallout caused ripple repercussions that, to this day, have the family of Warner's, all but have disowned Jack.. Jack's own son said of his father.. "My father took glory, in being known as the top fly on Hollywood's shithill!!'
The INDUSTRY within ITSELF.. Always had a HUGE distrust of Jack..
At one Academy Awards ceremony.. Jack systematically, in TRUE Jack-ASS prick form, rose to accept EVERY OSCAR that was announced, if the winning film/actor/etc.. Had anything to do with a Warner Bros. film.. Leaving the announced recipient generally standing there dumbfounded & confused.. This prompted the AMPAS to refine the rules concerning the Oscars and how, & who, can accept awards at Oscar ceremonies..
When I interviewed Harry's granddaughter, Cass.. She said, "it was just always kinda known, NOT to even bring Jack's name up after he did that! He and the plague were one in the same to our family!!" After retirement, Harry could usually be found at his Palisades beach home - never far from his pride & joy.. Granddaughter Cass Warner..
On the tragic afternoon of July 27, 1958, Harry died on from a cerebral occlusion at his beach home. Some people close to Harry, however, believed he died of a broken heart; Harry's wife Rea even stated, at Harry's funeral, that "he didn't die natural, it was Jack who killed him!!"
A great man, who left a INCREDIBLE legacy to prove it! RIP Harry!! The industry you helped to create will ALWAYS be MAJORLY indebted to you!!
Harry is entombed at Home of Peace Cemetery..