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Financial Literacy - Planning for your heirs
SPOTLIGHT
Legacy of Warner Bros
The granddaughter of Harry Warner, president and co-founder of Warner Bros., inherited more than money.
Planning for your heirs

Spotlight: Cass Warner

What would you say is the most you've raised for any one project?

That's hard for me to answer because it comes in so many different forms of support -- it's just not financial. If you're asking just financial, about $250,000 for my current documentary.

In your indie film, "Conversations With Cass," you talk to stars, such as Matthew McConaughey and Giovanni Ribisi, on subjects like power and success. In making this film, what surprised you most about the relationship between money and success?

Every single person I interviewed said it's not the money that has made them successful. It's the playing of the game and knowing how to, despite all the odds and all the barriers. With my family, every stop and barrier was an incentive for them to do the next thing. My grandfather gambled everything on buying Vitaphone. They bought Vitaphone at $7 million, which is about $70 million today. And my grandfather managed to convince somebody to help him buy Vitaphone.

What is Vitaphone?

Well it means "living voice." Vitaphone was the first thing in 1925 that people turned to when trying to figure out how to synchronize sound to film. They partnered with Bell Laboratories and a few engineers and figured out how to warm the audience up to wanting talkies because Thomas Edison had made some unsuccessful attempts previously. People were watching movies that sound did not synchronize up to film and they ended up throwing tomatoes at the screen.

The Warner Brothers got the Philharmonic to play behind "Don Juan" where they made this handsome man kiss the women 191 times in the movie and really figured out a way to warm up the audience to this technology gradually. And Al Jolson, in "The Jazz Singer," he was so comfortable in front of the camera that he improvised. But after "The Jazz Singer" and "Don Juan" became successful, they had to overcome the fact that no theaters had any wiring for sound. So the brothers had to go out and borrow the money -- and we're talking at something like 40 percent interest rates! It was a big-time gamble. Harry had to go and raise the money in order to buy theaters because theater owners weren't going to spend for this new technology. They had to buy the theaters, wire them for sound and we all know it became very successful.

Afterward, they said, "OK, we look like we're successful, but the next barrier will be coming and we always have to be one step ahead."

-- Posted: Nov. 19, 2007
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