You Must Remember This: To Watch PBS Tonight –

[CORRECTION: This series ended Thursday night and will not conclude tonight, Friday, as I originally reported.] Tonight brings a real treat for movie buffs: You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story. The five hour documentary premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on American Masters and continues tomorrow and Friday (check local listings; PBS affiliates are notorious renegades).

Warners was the home of Bette Davis and James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart and Bugs Bunny right through to Clint Eastwood (who narrates) and the big budget Superman and Batman movies.

Paying homage to the 85-year history is Richard Schickel, the long time Time magazine film critic, who is the writer, director and producer of the series. Also involved is documentary filmmaker Gregory Orr, step-grandson of film mogul Jack Warner.

A hefty reminder to get the word out on this series arrived today via courier: a lavishly illustrated and enormous companion book, co-authored by Schickel and George Perry. Like the documentary, it covers the entire 85-year story of the studio, from its first big star–a German shepherd named Rin-Tin-Tin–to Dirty Harry to Harry Potter.

Jon Voight was on the press tour panel last July in Los Angeles promoting the series and told a long but funny story about working with Burt Reynolds on the set of Deliverance. You can jump to my earlier report on that here.

I’ve seen two hours of the documentary and it was enough to hook me on seeing the rest of the series. if you love Casablanca or East of Eden or Yankee Doodle Dandy or The Searchers or All The President’s Men, check out the studio behind those pictures.


  1. Part One actually aired on Tuesday. There’s been lots of interesting insight and great clips from the studio’s vast catalogue of titles. However, it’s really annoying when they bleep curse words and put black bars over nude scenes. I thought this was PBS. They must be scared shitless over the possibility of FCC fines. The only other problem with it is the constant giving away of key plot details and endings. For those who would like to see a lot of these films in their entirety, it’s quite distressing.

  2. You’re right about all of this Denis (including me screwing up on the dates. The damn thing did end Thursday night). PBS is deathly afraid of the FCC, the network head is a wuss. I kinda liked that they gave the endings away, it made the series less of an infomercial for Warners’ DVDs and more of a celebration of the films.

  3. The censorship was annoying, to put it mildly. I was rather surprised how many words were bleeped out.

    I didn’t mind the giving away of plot points, as it’s difficult to intelligently discuss films while having to worry about revealing every “spoiler”.

    Watching this series, it made me realize what a woefully poor job studios like Fox and Paramount have done at preserving and promoting their own history. Fox is just starting to release some of their older titles, but there is still so much Hollywood history that is lost forever deep in the vaults of these studios. While it’s easy to point to a series like this and criticize it as a “promotional piece” for Warners, at least many of their films from the 30s onward are readily available.

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