To drink or not to drink, that is the question

One of the biggest political debates of the silent era was the question of alcohol. Should it be legal? Was it evil? Is a vodka martini really a martini? (It is not. A “vodka martini” is a kangaroo.)

Prohibition was enacted at the height of the silent era and it died just before the rise of the Breen era of film censorship. However, the movies stayed wet even when the country was (officially) dry. And they preached dryness back when things were still wet. Americans are an eccentric people.

49-17-soft-drinksThere’s no drinking at THIS dude ranch. I particularly like that they have a twist-up sign all ready to go in order to convey this fact.

(This is from 49-17, a rather numerical silent film directed by Ruth Ann Baldwin. Read my review here.)

narrow-road-drinkingElmer Booth plays an ex-con who stops at the local bar on his way home. Wife Mary Pickford’s sensitive nose immediately detects this little detour. For shame!

(This is from The Narrow Road. You can read my review here.)

alias-jimmy-valentine-robert-warwick-1915-silent-movie-dont-give-me-a-tiny-beerJohnny Hines doesn’t want to be bothered with any of your little half-pint glasses. With beer, go big or go home!

(This is from Alias Jimmy Valentine. Read my review here.)

vagabond-prince-beerA keg part, 1916-style! Oh those scandalous bohemians and their artistic ways!

(This is from The Vagabond Prince. Read my review here.)

merry-jail-lubitsch-drink-like-you-mean-itThe Germans, on the other hand, kept things pretty wet all around. Here’s Agda Nilsson enjoying herself as a party crasher in The Merry Jail, a very early Lubitsch picture.

(Read my review here.)

6 Replies to “To drink or not to drink, that is the question”

  1. Prohibition was one of the stupidest laws which brought Capone and many others into power. I love what Agda is wearing….very Downton Abbey

    1. Yes, a perfect example of simplistic thinking. “I’ve got it! We’ll just ban alcohol!” And they never considered all the baggage that would come with the decision.

  2. I find this period fascinating in every sense, including and especially Prohibition. I’m sure you know who Ken Burns is, and I think his doc is as good as it gets, although his tend to be the gold standard on any subject.

  3. There’s a great shot in “Regeneration” (1915) where the good-for-nothing dad drinks out of a “growler” that is really just a dirty pail full of beer. No hipster craft beer in that world!

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