INSIDE WARNER BROTHERS

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INSIDE WARNER BROTHERS is a 1985 book by RUDY BEHLMER and gives a wonderful insight into how one of the big Hollywood studios was run,thanks to a selection of the many memos between studio staff – thankfully, these records were kept.
I wish we had access to similar records for MGM and Columbia.

Here is a selection from this wonderful book.

Jack Warner

Jack Warner

JACK WARNER to HAL WALLIS(Warner’s second in command)March 1934: “I am now looking at “It Happened One Night” with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. In seeing Clark Gable tonight,I think we should definitely have Lyle Talbot grow a moustache just like his. It gives him a sort of flash and good looks.”

Hal Wallis to Mervyn LeRoy, June 1935:
“I would like to have a couple of very good tests made of George Brent and Errol Flynn for the part of Captain Blood.”

T.C.Wright (studio production manager) to Hal Wallis March 1937:
(Director) Joe May did the most damn foolish thing I have ever heard of in pictures – he took Basil Rathbone,at 5 Grand a week,when we had a perfectly good double on the set, and insisted on Rathbone doing the fall down the stairs….. So he had Rathbone roll down the stairs not once for the long shot,but 10 times.”

Hal Wallis to Henry Blanke(producer) November 1937 re JEZEBEL:
Do you think Wyler is mad at Fonda or something because of their past? It seems he is not content to okay anything with Fonda until it has been done 10 or 11 takes. After all, they have both been divorced from the same girl (Margaret Sullavan) and bygones should be bygones…”

Steve Trilling (casting director) to Warner and Wallis,April 1939:
David O.Selznick would like to borrow Ann Sheridan for the part of Belle Watling in GONE WITH THE WIND…..

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Hal Wallis to Steve Trilling, February 1939:
“We will use Humphrey Bogart for the part of Clem Spender in THE OLD MAID.”

Wallis to Trilling,May 1941:
“If we do not get an okay from Geraldine Fitzgerald on THE MALTESE FALCON,we will use Mary Astor.”

George Raft to Jack Warner,June 1941:
….”As you know, I feel strongly that THE MALTESE FALCON ,which you want me to do,is not an important picture…..you promised me that you would not require me to perform in anything but important pictures…”
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Sam Jaffe (agent) to Steve Trilling,August 1941:
“I talked to Bogart last night and everything is pleasant and he started ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT this morning.
However,he is unhappy about the idea of doing a role only because George Raft refused to do it.
……I think you should bring this matter to the attention of Jack Warner and point out that a story should be prepared for which they have Bogart in mind and no other actor. Because it seems that for the past year he’s practically pinch-hitted for Raft and been kicked around from pillar to post…”

Wallis to Trilling,December 1941:
“Two or three weeks ago,I gave copies of the book NOW VOYAGER to (agent) Charles Feldman and requested he submit them to Irene Dunne and Norma Shearer…..I wish you would go after him for a decision . In the meantime,will you send a copy of the book to (agent) Leland Hayward for Ginger Rogers.”

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Hal Wallis

The historic memo to All Depts. from Hal Wallis,December 1941:
“The story that we recently purchased entitled EVERYBODY COMES TO RICK’S will hereafter be known as CASABLANCA.”

Wallis to Trilling,Feb.1942:
“Will you please figure on Humphrey Bogart and Ann Sheridan for CASABLANCA which is scheduled to start latter part of April.”

Jack Warner to Hal Wallis,April 1942:
“What do you think of using Raft in CASABLANCA. He knows we are going to make this and is starting a campaign for it.”
Wallis to Warner: “Bogart is ideal for it and it is being written for him, and I think we should forget Raft for this property.”

One of the most incredible things I read in this book is the transcription of an half hour phone conversation between Jack Warner and Humphrey Bogart. Little did Bogart know that his ‘good friend’ Warner was taping the conversation. The conversation says a lot about both Warner and Bogart. I have highlighted part of it.:
Bogart:“…I am more serious that I have ever been in my life and I just don’t want to do CONFLICT.I am very sorry I gave my word to do it.”
Warner:
“Well, we have everything all set, so come on and come to work tomorrow.”

Bogart:”I’m sorry,Jack….my stomach will not let me….”
Bogart:” I work for Warner Bros. and am willing to die for Warner Bros. I will do anything,but I cannot do this picture.”
Warner: “…we will have to suspend you….”
Bogart:”I don’t want to get in a fight with you…why don’t you give it to Garfield…I know what I can do….
Turn your dogs on me….
Why don’t you burn the script and forget about it.
Warner:”…I know you can do a great job in this picture.”
Bogart: “Well,I am sorry,Jack but I can’t do it.”
Warner:”well I have said everything I can. Goodbye and good luck.”
Bogart:”Goodbye Jack.”

Of course, Bogart did CONFLICT but it wasn’t a big success.

Lyle Talbot

Lyle Talbot

5 responses »

  1. Wow, those memos are fascinating – I now really want to read this book and also to see ‘Conflict’, one of the Bogart movies I haven’t got to yet. You can really see how they treated Bogart from those memos and phone calls – thank goodness Wallis slapped down Warner’s suggestion of giving Casablanca to George Raft!

  2. Oh my, I almost forgot about this book! I was just writing up a post about Captain Horatio Hornblower for my blog ( Silver Scenes ) and remembered that this book had passages explaining why the production was held up during the 1940s and why Flynn wasn’t able to make the film. I forgot what exactly that story was about, so it looks like I’ll have to scrounger up a copy now! It’s a shame that good books sometimes get lost in oblivion over time…and this one is not even thirty years old!

  3. Memo to Hal Wallis on July 1940 suggesting William Wyler as director of Hornblower and Olivier and Leigh as stars. ( it was postponed till after the war).
    Memo from Warner to Wallis, March 1941 asks if Wallis has any thought of using Flynn in Hornblower.No reply in book.

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