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Absinthe, dir. Herbert Brenon and George Edwardes-Hall

February 3, 2014

On January 24, 1914, “the Chicago censor board revoked the license” for the film Absinthe, a new feature film directed by Herbert Brenon and George Edwardes-Hall and starring King Baggot and Leah Baird (Moving Picture World, vol 19, page 661).

AbsintheNotSensational1914 copy

Poster advertisement, The Moving Picture World, Vol 19, page 249.

sensational poster for Absinthe, 1914 from MPW

Poster advertisement, The Moving Picture World, Vol 19, page 248.

That didn’t stop Salt Lake City’s Rex Theater from showing the film continuously (on a loop) 100 years ago today.

They even placed a special advertisement for the film in the local newspaper:

Scene from Absinthe at the Rex

Newspaper advertisement for Absinthe in The Salt Lake Tribune, 3 Feb, 1914. 

The caption reads “King Baggot has the greatest role of his career in the four-part Universal film playing at the Rex theater today and tomorrow. It is a powerful story, working [indecipherable] the results of an intimate, personal study of the curse the drink has brought France.”

According to wikipedia, absinthe was banned in the United States from 1915 to 2007. I wonder if we can thank this film (and the many others of the era that demonstrated the evils of the drink) for swaying public opinion in favor of the ban (and perhaps the prohibition of all alcohol a few years later?)

Some evidence for this theory comes to us from The Moving Picture World, which reported that one enterprising exhibitor–D. M. Hughes of the Majestic in Lockport Illinois–decided to show the film as part of a special “Temperance night” along with a lecture by a local minister, the Reverend Walter MacPherson of Joliet. (Moving Picture World, vol 19, page 1404).

Those interested in the history of film advertising will likely enjoy this advertisement announcing the supremacy of Absinthe‘s advertisements. I especially like the part about how the posters are available in “sensational” and “not sensational”

The Moving Picture World, Vol 19, pages 248-249. http://archive.org/stream/movingpicturewor19newy#page/660/mode/2up/

The Moving Picture World, Vol 19, pages 248-249. http://archive.org/stream/movingpicturewor19newy#page/660/mode/2up/

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