David Thomson’s Warner Bros is part of Yale’s Jewish Lives series. The four Warner brothers, Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack, were born Jewish – their parents were Polish Jews who emigrated to North America in the late 1880s – and all except Jack remained more or less conventionally Jewish, and, indeed, dull. Jack, the protagonist in this drama of sibling rivalry, was different though: not exactly an apostate, but a convert to the secular religion of Americanism. Indeed, Jack’s was more of an American life than a Jewish life.
Thomson gives a reasonable account of the family dynamics and of Jack’s appalling character. Jack was a monster who resented Harry and also his own son, Jack Jr. In 1956 he engineered a bogus sale of his stock in the studio to a banking chum and persuaded his brothers to