Jack Leonard "J. L." Warner (August 2, 1892 – September 9, 1978), born Jacob Warner, in London, Ontario, was a Canadian-American film executive who was the president and driving force behind the Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. Warner's career spanned some 45 years, its duration surpassing that of any other of the seminal Hollywood studio moguls.
As co-head of production at Warner Bros. Studios, he worked with his brother, Sam Warner, to procure the technology for the film industry's first talking picture. After Sam's death, Jack clashed with his surviving older brothers, Harry and Albert Warner. He assumed exclusive control of the film production company in the 1950s, when he secretly purchased his brothers' shares in the business after convincing them to participate in a joint sale of stocks.
Although Warner was feared by many of his employees and inspired ridicule with his uneven attempts at humor, he earned respect for his shrewd instincts and tough-mindedness. He recruited many of Warner Bros.' top stars and promoted the hard-edged social dramas for which the studio became known. Given to decisiveness, Warner once commented, "If I'm right fifty-one percent of the time, I'm ahead of the game."
Throughout his career, he was viewed as a contradictory and enigmatic figure. Although he was a staunch Republican, Warner encouraged film projects that promoted the agenda of Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. He opposed European fascism and criticized Nazi Germany well before America's involvement in World War II. An opponent of Communism, after the war Warner appeared as a friendly witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee, voluntarily naming screenwriters who had been fired as suspected Communists or sympathizers. Despite his controversial public image, Warner remained a force in the motion picture industry until his retirement in the early 1970s.
He is also known as Jack Leonard Warner, Jacob Warner and J. L. Warner.
By the end of 1973, those closest to Warner became aware of signs that he was becoming disoriented. Shortly after losing his way in the building that housed his office, Warner retired. In 1974, Warner suffered a stroke that left him blind and enfeebled. During the next several years, he gradually lost the ability to speak, and became unresponsive to friends and relatives. Finally, on August 13, 1978, Warner was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Hospital, where he died of a heart inflammation (edema) on September 9. He was 86 years old. A funeral service was held at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, the synagogue to which many members of the Warner family belonged. He was interred at Home of Peace Cemetery in East Los Angeles, California.
Jack Warner left behind an estate estimated at $15 million. Much of the Warner estate, including property and memorabilia, was bequeathed to his widow, Ann. Warner, however, left $200,000 to his estranged son, Jack Jr., perhaps in an effort to discourage him from contesting the will. In the days following Warner's death, newspaper obituaries recounted the familiar story of "the four brothers who left the family butcher shop for nickelodeons" and went on to revolutionize American cinema. A front-page story in Warner's adopted hometown of Youngstown featured accounts of the family's pre-Hollywood struggles in Ohio, describing how Jack Warner drove a wagon for his father's business when he was only seven years old. The late movie was widely eulogized for his role in "shaping Hollywood's 'Golden Age'".
Several months after Warner's death, a more personal tribute was organized by the Friends of the Libraries at the University of Southern California. The event, called "The Colonel: An Affectionate Remembrance of Jack L. Warner", drew Hollywood notables such as entertainers Olivia de Havilland and Debbie Reynolds, and cartoon voice actor Mel Blanc. Blanc closed the event with a rendition of Porky Pig's famous farewell, "A-bee-a-bee-a-bee–that's all, folks." In recognition of his contributions to the motion picture industry, Jack Warner was accorded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 6541 Hollywood Boulevard. He is also represented on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto, which honours outstanding Canadians from all fields.