As part of their studies of shifts in the place of alcohol in American society, the Alcohol Research Group of Berkeley has been doing work on portrayals of drinking and drunkenness in American films. More complete film notes will be made available on the evening of each program.
“The diverse repertoire of alcohol images in film springs from the major role of drinking as a sensitive touchstone of social currents in U.S. society.... In the series of four evenings devoted to Images of Alcohol in American Film: 1909-1960, we attempt to cover part of (this) rich diversity. The first half of the series focuses on a climactic era in cinematic portrayals of drinking. The close of the 1920s and early years of the 1930s witnessed a growing tide of public sentiment against Prohibition in a period of severe economic depression. In these changing social currents, a rash of films were released which looked both at the old and anticipated the new mores for drinking in American culture. The controversy over temperance and prohibition issues was directly addressed in films such as Fleming's The Wet Parade, and D.W. Griffith's The Struggle. The favorable and even heroic qualities of drinking emerge clearly in such films as Chaplin's City Lights and Van Dyke's The Thin Man. And sinister glamour marked the wave of prohibition gangster films such as Mayo's Night After Night.
“The latter half of the series looks at the postwar period, focusing both on the alcoholism film and on movies depicting heavy, but normalized drinking patterns. The films from this period are noteworthy for their emphasis on the psychology of the drinker and corresponding lack of concern with the social and political context emphasized in the earlier films.
“The series is offered in cooperation with the Alcohol Research Group, which is associated with the School of Public Health. Information on seminars being offered in conjunction with the series is available from the Group at 642-5208.” --Denise Herd