Samuel Louis "Sam" Warner (August 10, 1887 – October 5, 1927) was a Polish-born American film producer who was the co-founder and chief executive officer of Warner Bros. Studios. He established the studio along with his brothers Harry, Albert, and Jack L. Warner. Sam Warner is credited with procuring the technology that enabled Warner Bros. to produce the film industry's first feature-length talking picture, The Jazz Singer. He died in 1927, the day before the film's enormously successful premiere.
In 1925, after years of bachelorhood, Warner met eighteen-year-old Ziegfeld Follies performer and actress Lina Basquette while spending time in New York visiting the Bell Laboratories. The two began an intense love affair. On July 4, 1925, the two were married. While Warner's younger brother Jack did not object to Basquette's Catholicism, the rest of the Warner family did. They refused to accept Basquette and did not acknowledge her as a member of the Warner clan. On October 6, 1926, the couple's only child, daughter Lita, was born.
In September 1927, Jack —who was working nonstop with Sam Warner on production of The Jazz Singer—noticed that his brother started having severe headaches and nosebleeds. By the end of the month, Warner was unable to walk straight. He was hospitalized and was diagnosed with a sinus infection that was aggravated by several abscessed teeth. Doctors also discovered that Warner had developed a mastoid infection of the brain. After four surgeries to remove the infection, Warner slipped into a coma. He died of pneumonia caused by sinusitis, osteomyelitis and epidural and subdural abscesses on October 5, 1927, the day before the premiere of The Jazz Singer.
According to Hollywood Be Thy Name, the 1993 memoir of Jack Warner, Jr., and Cass Warner Sperling, character actor William Demarest claimed that Sam Warner was murdered by his own brothers. This allegation, leveled in 1977, was never corroborated, and Demarest's reliability was questioned because of his long dependence on alcohol; the last time that Sam would meet with his entire family was at his parent's wedding anniversary in 1926.
Crowds of movie stars gathered at the Bresse Brothers funeral parlor to attend Warner's funeral. A private memorial service was then held in the Warner Bros. studio on October 9, 1927. He is interred in the Warner family mausoleum at Home of Peace Cemetery in East Los Angeles, California.
As the family grieved over Warner's sudden death, the success of The Jazz Singer helped establish Warner Bros. as a major studio. While Warner Bros. invested only $500,000 in the film, the studio reaped $3 million in profits. Hollywood's five major studios, which controlled most of the nation's movie theaters, initially attempted to block the growth of "talking pictures." In the face of such organized opposition, Warner Bros. produced twelve "talkies" in 1928 alone. The following year, the newly formed Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences recognized Warner Bros. for "revolutionizing the industry with sound."
For all Sam Warner's reputation as pioneer, he envisioned sound in movies not for dialogue but for music and effects only, in order to cut the costs of having live musicians in Warner theatres. Within a few years, his Vitaphone was replaced by the technically superior Movietone (sound-on-film) system, which became the industry standard. Nevertheless, his determination forever changed the way motion pictures are made.