Partners: Florentine Films and WETA, distributed by PBS International
Length: 5 x 53 minutes
Airing: October 2011 (PBS)
Rights available: Worldwide
Prohibition, enacted in the United States from 1920 to 1933, has been referred to by some as “TheNoble Experiment” and by others as a grand folly. As per the Eighteenth Amendment to the American Constitution, it banned the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol. It also served as the hottest of political hot potatoes, pitting the “dries” (those in favor of Prohibition, who were also vehemently opposed to the proliferation of saloons and the loose morals displayed within) against the “wets” (those who just wanted to have a drink, damn it). What may have started as a “noble” endeavor to prevent rampant alcohol abuse wound up magnifying the issue, resulting in an increase in liquor consumption amongst the young, and a ramping up of criminal behavior as neighborhood gangs transformed into national crime syndicates.
Ken Burns and Lynn Novick distill (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) the Prohibition years into five captivating hours, using expert interviews and, of course, scads of painstakingly-sourced archival footage and photos.