The original version, the short version, was broadcast on PBS in 2008, and ran ninety minutes in one episode. The later version, the long version, was broadcast on PBS in 2012, and ran two hundred twenty-eight minutes in (four) fifty-seven minute episodes. See more »
This 3-part documentary covers the history of Warner Bros. in greater depth than the previous HERE'S LOOKING AT YOU, WARNER BROS., with dedicated film critic Richard Schickel providing a more highbrow tone. Somewhat light on studio politics and the personal lives of the mogul family, it nonetheless makes good use of classic film clips from the early silent features (My Four Years In Germany) to the Batman series. All of the important high-points are covered: the canine exploits of Rin Tin Tin, the Vitaphone "talkie" revolution, Al Jolson in THE JAZZ SINGER, the gangster roles of Robinson/Cagney/Bogart, the glossy star vehicles of Bette Davis and Errol Flynn, the company's role in World War II, the 1953 arrival of 3-D and CinemaScope, the belated move into television production the following year, the short career of James Dean, the "new cinema" of the sixties as represented by BONNIE AND CLYDE, the rise of independent directors like Scorsese and Kubrick, and the franchises of Superman, THE MATRIX and Harry Potter. The narration by Clint Eastwood fits in nicely, often maintaining a low-key tone amidst eventful and sometimes violent screen clips. Most of the interviews provide great fodder; I particularly liked Carroll Baker's comments on the troubled 1950s period and Molly Haskell's perspective on Doris Day.
The selection reflects the director's personal tastes. On the one hand, the inclusion of such off-beat pictures like STORM WARNING and THE BEAST OF 20,000 FATHOMS and interesting flops like NOAH'S ARK and THE SILVER CHALICE are a definite plus. On the other hand, Schickel's preference for monochrome in Part 1 gives the false impression that Warners did not shoot in Technicolor prior to THE ADVENTURES IN ROBIN HOOD, while the studio was, in fact, a major leader in that process starting in 1929. As expected, the emphasis is on features and not short subjects; although a few early Vitaphone shorts of the '20s, Joe McDoakes and Bugs Bunny do get some recognition. Praise must also be given to the restoration quality of the sequences, making one wish Warner Home Video would hurry up and get many of these great films on DVD as soon as possible.
The basic "problem", as indicated in previous reviews on this site, is the overemphasis on the studio's crime dramas. The Busby-Berkeley sequences are too short and, apart from the demanded inclusion of YANKEE DOODLE DANDY, there is little fun and music until the arrival of Doris Day in Part 2. Excluding A STAR IS BORN (a serious and depressing musical that would fit quite well with the many social commentaries that DID make the cut), we zip through the late '50s/'60s like lightning (obviously skipping MUSIC MAN) in order to focus more on the then-shocking scenes of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, DELIVERANCE and THE EXORCIST. There's little question that the 70s were more productive at Warner's than other studios (i.e. MGM), but the overall tone (as represented in these clips) is quite sadistic. The arrival of DRIVING MISS DAISY couldn't come soon enough.
It is wonderful that both the producers and PBS took on this subject. (The companion book is quite good.) Unfortunately, it could use some of the "fun factor" of previous anthologies like Hollywood THE GOLDEN YEARS (RKO), MGM: WHEN THE LION ROARS and 20TH CENTURY FOX: THE FIRST 50 YEARS & THE BLOCKBUSTER YEARS. I remember once thinking Patrick Stewart's coverage of MGM was a bit hammy and over-the-top. This series could certainly use him to lighten the load, as clarified when I re-watched that series on DVD last month.
4 of 6 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this