Review: ‘Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul’

The man Jack Benny said would rather tell a bad joke than make a good movie gets a warm, personal appreciation from his grandson, Gregory Orr, in "Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul." OK vid item looks a good bet for tube playoff.

The man Jack Benny said would rather tell a bad joke than make a good movie gets a warm, personal appreciation from his grandson, Gregory Orr, in “Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul.” OK vid item looks a good bet for tube playoff.

Film is partly structured as a personal odyssey by Orr, 39, to come to terms with the memory of a man whose vast estate he would visit as a kid –“a little like visiting royalty.” Orr’s ingenuous, look-at-me approach (which gets in the way after a while) yields high-chutzpah scenes of him driving to the Warner manse and even talking like an interviewee on camera.

Most interesting material is in the first half, where Orr draws on fascinating family photos and other material to show how Jack, the “rebellious,” problem child of the four Warner brothers (the children of first-generation Polish Jewish immigrants), rose to head the studio almost by accident.

The film doesn’t gloss over Warner’s weaknesses — his womanizing, capitulation to the House Un-American Activities Committee and betrayal of brother Harry to become sole head of WB in the 1950s. But with the passage of time, there’s a romantic affection for Warner’s love of playing the mogul, his swashbuckling qualities and sad self-realization after being eased out in 1969 that, without a studio, he was just another nobody in town.

Even WB’s reputation for “squeezing pennies till they shouted” is viewed almost wistfully, with the caveat that it was a cut-price but not a cut-rate studio. As veteran director Vincent Sherman notes, “If you could make a picture at Warner Bros., you could make it anywhere.”

Not much time is spent on individual titles, save those that had a key historical/political place in WB’s development (“The Jazz Singer,””Confessions of a Nazi Spy,””Mission to Moscow”). Best clips are from Warner’s home movies (in color), showing Jack L. relaxing with his family or at play. Tech credits are OK.

Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul

(DOCU VIDEO)

Production

A Gregory Orr production. (Intl. sales: Gregory Orr Prods., Beverly Hills.) Produced, directed, written by Gregory Orr.

Crew

Camera (color), various; editor, Don Priess; music, Herman Beeftink; narrator, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. Reviewed at London Film Festival, Nov. 15, 1993. Running time: 104 MIN.

With

With: Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Shirley Jones, Debbie Reynolds, Jack Warner Jr., Neal Gabler, Rudy Behlmer.
Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety

Loading