< Return to Adherents.com's Guide to Movies
< Return to Famous Jews
The Religious Affiliation of Movie Producer
From: Lynn Haney, Gregory Peck: A Charmed Life, Carroll & Graf Publishers: New York, NY (2003), page 148:
Darryl Zanuck harbored a burning desire to make a breakthrough film. In the case of a movie about anti-Semitism, he had a personal reason to hand over $75,000 for the rights to Laura Z Hobson's best-selling novel on which the film was based. Although one of the few movie moguls who was not Jewish (insiders referred to Fox as the goy studio), he had an experience as a young man starting out in Hollywood in which he was the target of just the kind of anti-Semitism portrayed in the novel [that Zanuck made into the movie A Gentleman's Agreement].
From: Luke Ford, "Hollywood Jews", on LukeFord.net website (http://www.lukeford.net/essays/contents/Hollywood_Jews.htm; viewed 8 September 2005):
When one works in the film industry, assumptions are made. How could Zanuck be in the same business as Zukor, Mayer, Cohn and Warner and not be Jewish? Yet, he clearly wasn't.
Jews invented Hollywood. While Thomas Edison invented the motion picture camera, immigrant Jewish entrepreneurs (like Sam Goldwyn, Jack and Harry Warner, Louis B. Mayer) created Hollywood.
From: Bob Thomas, Clown Prince of Hollywood: The Antic Life and Times of Jack L. Warner, McGraw-Hill Publishing Company: New York (1990), pages 3-4:
Back on the Finian's Rainbow set, [George] Lucas spoke with the second assistant director, Howard Kazanjian... Another set worker approached and remarked, "You know what today is? It's Jack Warner's last day as boss of the studio. Think of that!"
Thomas, page 208:
"Who would ever have thought," said Jack Warner with a wide smile, "that a butcher boy from Youngstwon, Ohio, would end up with twenty-four million smackers in his pocket?".. Jack Warner had sold his holdings eight months before, and he figured he would collect $24 million after capital gains taxes...
"Well, Colonel," said [Richard] Gully, "at least you got a good price for it."
"Yeah," Warner said reflectively. "But today I'm Jack L. Warner. Tomorrow I'll just be another rich Jew."
Was Jack Warner a good Jew? In terms of attending temple and observing the High Holidays, no. But he was a fierce defender of Israel and a staunch contributor to its needs. When Israel was embroiled in the Six Day War, Warner summoned the studio's workers to a meeting on a sound stage. He implored all of them, Jew and gentile, to contribute in Israel's time of need.
Thomas, pages 9-11:
More than once, Warner summoned Hollywood's Jewish officialdom to Angelo Drive. Many of them came resentfully, having never been entertained socially by Jack Warner. He cited Israel's constant peril from hostile neighbors and implored, cajoled and arm-twisted his listeners into contributions. On one occasion he rashly declared, "Whoever gives the highest amount, I'll double it." To his astonishment, Herb Alpert, leader of the Tijuana Brass and cofounder of A&M Records, offered $250,000. Warner gulped and committed himself to a half-million.
...Jack Warner... was born in London, Ontario, in 1892... The family originated in czarist Poland, near the border of Germany. In 1857 in the village of Krasnashiltz, Benjamin Warner [Jack Warner's father] (the original family name has remained obscure) was born into a hostile world. The night-riding cossacks, the burning of houses, the raping of women were part of life's burdens for the Jews of the stetl. They were now allowed education, so their learning came in secret from the village rabbi... Benjamin... chose Pearl Eichelbaum [as a wife]... Ben and Pearl were both nineteen years old when they married in 1876. Their first child, Cecilia, died when she was four. Anna was born in 1979, and Hirsch (later Harry) in 1881... Ben... left his young family and departed for America in 1883... The family grew, babies arriving at regular two-year intervals: Abraham in 1884, followed by Henry, Samuel, Rose and Fannie.
The Warner family, while the boys were still young, moved from Canada to Youngstown, Ohio. Thomas, pages 13-14:
[page 11] The next escape from shoe repair sent Ben Warner to Canada... He found a large, run-down house in London, Ontario, and sent for Pearl and the children... The only Jews in a strange city, they had never felt more isolated... Another son was born in London, and he was named Jacob. Later he would call himself Jack L. Warner; the L stood for Leonard, he explained, but it appears to have been invented... A fifth Warner son, David, arrived in Hamilton, Ontario, the following year.
There was a small Jewish community in Youngstown, and the Warners joined the temple but were not notably devout. Ben [Jack Warner's father] maintained a kosher section of his meat counter, though he recognized that his main customers were goyim. He observed the High holidays and enrolled his sons in Hebrew school.
The Warner Brothers start their famed business empire. Thomas, page 23:
Jack was a poor student. He enjoyed recounting the story of how the long-bearded rabbi repeatedly berated him for failing to understand Hebrew. Whenever the boy made an error, he received a jab in the leg with a hat pin.
"You are stupid," the rabbi ranted. "If I give you the pin enough, perhaps you won't be so stupid. Your brother Harry speaks Hebrew like English, and he does not need the pin."
Jack continued making mistakes and getting jabbed in the leg. Finally, he wrned that he would yank the rabbis' beard if the jabbing didn't stop. The rabbi jabbed; Jack yanked. It was the end of Jack's Hebrew studies...
With the grocery store thriving and the older boys contributing to their earnings... to the family coffers, the Warners at last could celebrate their emergence from poverty. The occasion was the marriage of Anna [Jack Warner's sister] to a local boy, Dave Robbins... It as the event of the year in Polish-Jewish society.
Now the four brothers were joined in their lifelong partnership. Harry was unquestionably the leader, not merely by primogeniture but by his self-assumed role as the keeper of family morality. He remained a steadfast Jew, while his three brothers [including Jack Warner] edged into the goyim world. A business enterprise, even one so freewheeling as the movies, Harry believed, could still be conducted without abusing the tenets of the Torah. With his lean, ascetic face, tight lips and severe nose, harry looked the part of the God-fearing patriarch.
Thomas, pages 29-30:
Despite the ready access of the San Francisco ladies, Jack decided at age twenty-three that it was time to marry. The girl he chose was Irma Solomons,the lively teenage daughter of one of San Francisco's pioneer Jewish families. Her parents were unimpressed by the smart-talking young man whose business was sellling motion pictures. But Jack and Irma were desperately in love, and their wedding took place on October 14, 1914.
Thomas, pages 35-36:
...On March 27, 1916, Irma Warner gave birth to a son, who was named after his father. This was in defiance of Jewish custom, which required a boy to be named after a deceased relative. Jack M. Warner has been called Junior all his life, even though his father bore a different middle initial.
Gerard sat in a theater box at the New York premiere on March 21, 1918, and accepted the thunderous applause at the conclusion. My Four Years in Germany inflamed audiences wherever it played, contributing immeasurably to the war fever... For the Warner brothers, the triumph meant more than money. They had made a significant, patriotic contribution to their country, which they revered. For the rest of their lives and careers, they would make similar contributions, more so than any other film company. Americanism to the Warners, and especially to the foreign-born Harry and Jack, became a religion, something to be duly honored and devoutly proclaimed.
Thomas, page 40:
...Harry [Warner] continued to preach the unlimited future of the motion picture business... He strove to ingratiate himself to the moneymen who were willing to take chances on movie ventures--at a handsome rate of interest, of course. The major banking houses were closed to him; they were operated by conservative gentiles who held the immigrant, movie-making Jews in low regard.
Financing for the new corporation came from Motley Flint in California as well as from the Bank of Italy run by the Giannini brothers... Flint also introduced Harry to his Wall Street friends, the most important being Waddill Catchings of the Jewish firm of Goldman, Sachs.
Thomas, page 48:
...Lena Baskette... and Sam [Warner] were married in 1925 at the home of Dr. Nathan Krass, rabbi of the Reform Temple Emanu-El in New York.
Thomas, page 54:
...Pearl and Ben [Jack Warner and Sam Warner's parents] were desolated by the marriage. The fact that the wedding had been solemnized by a rabbi did not erase the shame that a Warner had married a non-Jew. Harry and Albert sided with their parents, and the two brothers and their wives would have nothing to do with Sam's shiksa child bride. Jack was more tolerant. Religion meant little to him; besides, he believed Sam could do no wrong.
Waddill Catchings, who was more enthused than Harry, agreed to seek financing for the venture into sound. The next step was to reach an agreement with Western Electric. That was not easy, because the higher-ups in the corporation were anti-Semitic.
Thomas, page 71:
Lina Basquette recalled accommpanying [her husband] Sam [Warner] to a dinner with Western Electric executives at the old-line Manhattan club which banned Jews from the premises. Sam asked her to wear a gold cross so that they would be acceptable. That night an agreement was reached between Western Electric, which was a subsidiary of AT & T, and Warner Bros.
Harry [Warner]'s spies in California soon reported to him about Jack [Warner]'s affair with Marilyn Miller. Harry responded with Old Testament fury. He castigated his brother for violating his marital vows. Further, if the affair became public knowledge, as was certain in a place like Hollywood, it would be ruinous for the family honor and the very foundation of the company.
Thomas, pages 72-73:
Jack responded in his usual lighthearted manner. Boys will be boys, he said. The time when his eldest brother could lecure him about his behavior was long gone.
Among the few things that brought joy to Harry's life was watching his son Lewis grow up into a stalwart, intelligent man... On a vacation to Havana in 1931, the twenty-three-year-old Lewis had fallen ill with infected gums. The infection poisoned his blood... On April 5, Lews died of septicemia and double pneumonia.
Thomas, pages 94-95:
Harry was inconsolable. He railed against God for robbing him of his greatest treasure. All his dreams of Lewis leading a second generation of Warners into a new era were shattered forever. Harry and his wife Rea still had two daughters, Doris Ruth and Betty May, but daughters were not the same as sons.
Actually the Warners had three daughters. The third was Lita Basquette Warner, their adopted daughter and niece. The adoption was a curious aftermath of the death of Sam Warner.
Harry made no effort to conceal his distaste for the Ziegfeld dancer Sam [Warner] had married, despite Sam's obvious love for Lina and his delight in their daughter Lita. Immediately after Sam's death, Harry moved swiftly to wrest the girl from Lina, then twenty and in Harry's eyes too wild to be a fit mother. Sam and Lina had agreed that if they had a son, he would be circumcised and raised a Jew; a daughter would be baptized and become a Catholic, Lita's faith. Harry could not countenance Sam's daughter as a Christian.
The wrangling began soon after the funeral. Harry was backed by Albert in arguing that Lita deserved a more stable upbringing than Lina could provide. Sam had left a $100,000 trust fund for the baby, but it provided an income of only $85 a week. Harry and Albert offered a $300,000 trust fund if Lina would give up custody of Lita.
Lina was confused and grief-stricken. Because of legal maneuverings, she had been denied her share of Sam's estate, now worth millions. She would need towork, and indeed, she wanted to continue performing. That meant Broadway and Hollywood and on the road in vaudeville--not the best circumstances to raise a young daughter. The Warner's proposal would assure Lita's future. With heavy heart, Lina agreed.
The marriage of Jack and Irma Warner had withered into a charade of formality and custom. After Harry's outrage over the Marilyn Miller affair, Jack became more discreet about his liaisons. Unlike Louis Mayer, Harry Cohn, Darryl Zanuck and other libidinous studio bosses, he no longer demanded sex from actresses under contract. It was bad studio policy, he concluded, and impossible to keep secret.
Thomas, page 102:
Irma was resigned to the traditional role of the Jewish wife. She maintained the home, cared for young Jack [Jack L. Warner and Irma's son], did work for her favorite charities--and waited for her husband to return. Those times were rare in the 1930s. Jack Warner had tremendous responsiblities as studio head and community leader, and his limited leisure did not include Irma.
Jack found a convenient way to hide his romantic adventures. Sam and Pearl Warner regularly invited the family to share the Sabbath on Friday evenings. Irma didn't attend because she'd never felt welcome by Jack's mother and father. Jack went reluctantly--he had never showed his parents' devoutness. He discovered that he could sneak out after dinner and call on one of his mistresses. "Cover forme," he instructed Milton Sperling, a junior studio executive who had married Harry's daughter, Betty.
At last Jack's roving eye landed on someone who beguiled him. She was Ann Page, a ravishingly beautiful brunet who had appeared in a few movies. With her raven hair and slender figure, she had the bearing of an Egyptian princess. She had come from New Orleans, where she'd had a Catholic upbringing and had been, according to publicity, a "society belle." To Jack's inconvenience, she had a husband...
Jack was determined to possess Ann despite their two marriages. Harry [Warner] learned of the infatuation and preached against it. Jack would not be dissuaded. Unwilling to wait the year between divorce and final decree in California, he persuaded Ann in 1932 to divorce [her husband] Don in Chihuahua, Mexico, where the decree woul be immediate and the ground secret. On September 15, 1933, he separated from Irma. Everyone at the studio was aware that Warner and Ann were living under the same roof.
Jack Warner's separation from Irma and his liaison with Don Alvarado's wife had been topics of Hollywood gossip since the Warners parted in 1933. Finally in January 1935, Irma sued for divorce, charging desertion. She testified that her husband had left home and refused to live with her. A property settlement was agreed on, with Irma to retain custody of Jack Jr., who was eighteen... Mrs. Warner was granted an interim decree, under which neither party could remarry for a year...
Thomas, page 193:
Exactly a year after Warner's divorce, he and Ann were married by a rabbi in the village of Armonk, New York... Significantly, Jack's brothers and their familes were not present. "Thank God our mother didn't live to see this," exclaimed Harry... The family sided with Irma and refused to countenance Ann as a member of the family. That put Jack Jr. on their side, and the rift between father and son grew. Warner was smitten with Ann and was proud of her regal presence at their parties... Jack Warner... now possessed a consort befitting his position as a prince of Hollywood.
They had met, though [Jack] Warner didn't remember it, when Stevens was underneath a table. Warner had come to New York for one of his favorite missions: to receive an award. The National Conference of Christians and Jews was scheduled to present him with a citation in Albert Warner's office.
Thomas, page 207:
In the motion picture milieu, Jack Warner feared no man. His confidence could melt when he was confronted with powerful figures from other spheres of influence. Being a prominent supporter of Republican candidates, Warner was sometimes visited by party activists. Justin Dart, Holmes Tuttle, Henry Salvatori and other backers of Richard Nixon came to lunch at the studio to seek Warner's contributions for a Nixon campaign.
Thomas, page 221:
These were the leaders of the Los Angeles Establishment which had scorened the Warners and other Jewish movie people when they invaded the city. Now they sought Warner's help. Instead of vindication, Jack felt inferiority... he donated liberally to the Nixon campaign. Warner was in awe of Richard Nixon himself...
A new breed of directors trained in the robust world of live television drama was being drawn to the film studios in the fifties. Sidney Lumet was one of the promising candidates. Jack Warner had been persuaded to seek out Lumet as director of Marjorie Morningstar, based onHerman Wouk's novel about the coming of age of a New York Jewish girl.
Thomas, pages 298-299:
Lumet admired the novel and knew the milieu firsthand. He agreed to fly from New York to Los Angeles for a conference with Jack Warner...
"Glad to see ya," Warner beamed. He told a few jokes and then got down to the business of Marjorie Morningstar. "I want to make it a universal picture, one that will appeal to audiences everywhere," he said.
"Does that mean that you are not going to hire any Jewish actor?" Lumet asked.
The temperature of the room dropped noticeably. The interview soon ended with no mention of lunch. Lumet was on the two o'clock plane back to New York. Marjorie Morningstar starred Natalie Wood [a Russian Orthodox actress] and Gene Kelly [a Catholic actor].
When it came time to preview 1776, Hunt favored San Francisco. Warner said no. "Why not?" the director asked. Warner replied, "Because there are too many Jews and too many gentiles." Like many Warner statements, it made no sense. But Hunt had learned to search for the instinctive meaning behind Warner's non sequiturs. He seemed to be saying: "San Francisco has too many experts." Phoenix was chosen, and the audience reacted enthusiastically. Warner and the Columbia executives were ecstatic, and Peter Hunt went off to Paris on a belated honeymoon.
Thomas, pages 302-303:
When the director returned, he was devastated to find that Jack Warner had reedited 1776. All the liberal references, so carefully paper-clipped in Warner's script, had been excised.
On December 14, 1972, Warner gave his only television interview, appearing on The Merv Griffin Show with his one-time contract player...
Thomas, page 306:
The interview continued in a lighthearted vein until Griffin [the interviewer, an old friend of Jack Warner's] asked about the new permissiveness of film content. That ignited a Queegian outburst [from Jack Warner]:
"Oh, that is uncalled for to a great degree. Sometimes yes, most of the time no. If this sounds like a rther pious fellow, well I am. I am a great believer in God (applause)--and I believe in my country and the American flag. . . .
"I went to a certain show; they had a flag made on the suit of a guy, and they were shooting water on him all the time, he finally ended in the aisle of the theater. I won't mention the name, you probably know what it was. Desecreating the flag is hat it was, walking on it, stepping on it. These are all pinko communists in the show. These are now Americans. These are not the Americans we know. I know that. I don't know you people and many of you never saw me, but actually there are two kinds of Americans: people who are for this country, who wave the flag, and those who turn it upside down. . . ."
The tirade continued for several minutes and ended with hearty applause from the studio audience. Jack Warner did no more television interviews.
The funeral [was] at Edgar Magnin's Wilshire Temple [a Jewish synagogue], where Jack Warner had been a member for fifty years though he never attended services. Among those invited were Barbara Warner and Cy Howard, Bill and Joy Orr, Bill Schaefer and his wife, Don Johnson and others from the office... Rabbi Magnin, who had scant regard for Jack Warner, looked at the small gathering in the huge temple and suggested transferring the service to a chapel upstairs.
Webpage created 1 June 2005. Last modified 8 September 2005.
We are always striving to increase the accuracy and usefulness of our website. We are happy to hear from you. Please submit questions, suggestions, comments, corrections, etc. to: firstname.lastname@example.org.