RARA-AVIS: Warner Brothers' "Tough Guys"

From: William Harker ( wharker@verizon.net)
Date: 14 Nov 2006

I am in the process of collecting material for a potential book, at the least a series of articles, on the Warner Brothers et al v. CBS, Dashiell Hammett, et al copyright infringement trial (concerning The Maltese Falcon and The Adventures of Sam Spade radio show that grew out of it) in the early 1950s.

I have spent time collecting material concerning the history of Warner Brothers Pictures. Today, I read the chapter in Ethan Mordden's _The Hollywood Studios: House Style in the Golden Age of Movies_. At one point (page 241), Mordden says, "Warners was a man's place, perhaps the only studio in which Marline Dietrich could get lost between Edward G. Robinson and George Raft, in "Manpower
(1941)...We're talking major Tough Guys here, charged with bringing every film off with the efficient fury of a pirate raid." Continuing
(pages 260-261), "Warners heroes are born losers who refuse not to win. This gives MGM films their confidence. Warners films their balls. Then too, MGM's idea of the human comedy is everybody getting along because everybody wants to. Warners believes we have to work at it, sacrifice some sense of self to defeat evil. The good fight is a communal undertaking."

While I enjoy the old "tough guy" movies, I never realized Warners was the "specialty" film company in the genre. I've learned there were reasons for it: for example, Warner Brothers was the "cheap" movie company and fast-paced action was demanded by the brothers in place of star-power, plot and character-development. If anyone has further information about Warners and its "tough guy" image I'd like to hear about it.

Bill Harker

Marlowe is a man "in a lonely street, in lonely rooms, puzzled but never quite defeated."
                                                                 Raymond Chandler, 1959

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