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Old 04-01-2020, 03:09 PM
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Earliest Movies About Drug Addiction?


Or taboo in general..

The earlier, the better, as they seem to handle the subject matter better, especially with quality writing, instead of being crass.. Nothing after the 1970s. From any country. For some reason, they just seem to be better. Nothing silly, but something mature. I'm watching "Pale Flower" and loving it, and there's a mention of a guy who is a "dope addict"... I do remember liking "The Man With The Golden Arm", too.

Not the exploitation stuff...
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Old 04-01-2020, 03:13 PM
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Reefer Madness....quality writing there.

Last edited by madsircool; 04-01-2020 at 03:15 PM.
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Old 04-01-2020, 03:15 PM
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"The Lost Weekend" (about an alcohol addict) is a famous classic film.
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Old 04-01-2020, 03:19 PM
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kUp1SLt45s
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Old 04-01-2020, 03:23 PM
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The IMDb says that the first movie that they have a keyword of "drug addiction" for is a 1911 Danish movie called The Morphine Takers.
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Old 04-01-2020, 03:25 PM
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Here's the link for that movie:

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0246088/?ref_=adv_li_tt
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Old 04-01-2020, 04:03 PM
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The IMDb says that the first movie that they have a keyword of "drug addiction" for is a 1911 Danish movie called The Morphine Takers.
After not seeing a single vote, and googling, I wonder if its available anywhere.
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Old 04-01-2020, 04:04 PM
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There's a cocaine addict in Chaplin's 1917 movie Easy Street.

Last edited by Sefton; 04-01-2020 at 04:04 PM. Reason: Added year
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Old 04-01-2020, 04:21 PM
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Kind of off to one side is Bigger Than Life (1956) about the side-effects of cortisone treatment.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigger_Than_Life

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049010/
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Old 04-01-2020, 06:04 PM
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There's a cocaine addict in Chaplin's 1917 movie Easy Street.
Chaplin also has the Little Fellow snorting cocaine himself in Modern Times.

Human Wreckage may have been the first American feature where drug addiction was the central plot. It was written by and starred Dorothy Davenport, whose husband, Wallace Reid, died of an overdose.
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Old 04-01-2020, 06:29 PM
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MortSahlFan, I searched and found the following page from a book. It's in German, so if anyone knows German well enough, would they please translate the reference to The Morphine Takers to English? It seems to say that there is a copy of the movie in the Danish Film Institute:

https://books.google.com/books?id=lO...201911&f=false
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Old 04-01-2020, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
MortSahlFan, I searched and found the following page from a book. It's in German, so if anyone knows German well enough, would they please translate the reference to The Morphine Takers to English? It seems to say that there is a copy of the movie in the Danish Film Institute:

https://books.google.com/books?id=lO...201911&f=false
I don't think it's necessary to translate the whole paragraph, but the gist of it is this: the text is about early movies dealing with a drug theme (so exactly what this thread is about). After explaining how many early films got lost, it's mentioned that some films have been preserved in institutes and can only be reviewed on site. "The Morphine Takers" ("Die Morfinisten") is mentioned as one example that is kept at the Danish Film Institute (Dänisches Filminstitut). Hope that helps.
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Old 04-02-2020, 06:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
MortSahlFan, I searched and found the following page from a book. It's in German, so if anyone knows German well enough, would they please translate the reference to The Morphine Takers to English? It seems to say that there is a copy of the movie in the Danish Film Institute:

https://books.google.com/books?id=lO...201911&f=false
Google Translator is the only thing I can think of... I once found a documentary on Marcello Mastroianni, and did the translations of this almost 4 hour documentary! The only problem is that you can only translate a certain amount of characters, but it should be much easier than also having to indicate these time stamps.
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Old 04-02-2020, 07:50 AM
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If you make it "nothing after the 1970s except 1987" then you can include two of my favorite dissolute movies Withnail & I, which is set in 1969, and Barfly, which also starts in the 60s.
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Old 04-02-2020, 08:18 AM
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MortSahlFan, it's not necessary to translate anything more from that book page I linked to than what has already been posted. I was able to guess close enough to what it said, and EinsteinsHund's translation was enough to let us know what it was in that book in its mention of The Morphine Takers. Does this satisfy what you needed to know in the OP? What we can now see is that drug use was mentioned very early in the history of film. It appeared in famous early movies like Easy Street and Modern Times. Do you need some deep knowledge about the appearance of drug use in movies? Are you writing a book about it? Or was it just a casual question?
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Old 04-02-2020, 08:40 AM
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An early realistic look at heroin addiction was The Man with the Golden Arm from 1955. The Code made it difficult to even mention drugs in movies and the producers had to fight to release this movie despite it's totally negative portrayal of drugs. Heroin addiction wasn't specifically mentioned, based on a book about a morphine addict, but the movie is considered to be representing heroin addiction instead. The movie is often credited as having the first complete jazz score, though I've never seen confirmation of that, but it is often considered the movie that cemented together jazz and noir.

Last edited by TriPolar; 04-02-2020 at 08:41 AM.
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Old 04-02-2020, 08:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
MortSahlFan, it's not necessary to translate anything more from that book page I linked to than what has already been posted. I was able to guess close enough to what it said, and EinsteinsHund's translation was enough to let us know what it was in that book in its mention of The Morphine Takers. Does this satisfy what you needed to know in the OP? What we can now see is that drug use was mentioned very early in the history of film. It appeared in famous early movies like Easy Street and Modern Times. Do you need some deep knowledge about the appearance of drug use in movies? Are you writing a book about it? Or was it just a casual question?
I'm not writing a book on it.. I was inspired to ask this after seeing "The Pale Flower". It was a great movie, and it dealt with the issue very well, unlike many other movies who just exploited.

I wish I would have put "post-1933", because it seems there are a TON before The Hays Code.
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Old 04-02-2020, 03:35 PM
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I assume you mean Pale Flower, filmed in 1964 in Japan and directed by Masahiro Shinoda.
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Old 04-02-2020, 03:58 PM
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"The Lost Weekend" (about an alcohol addict) is a famous classic film.
This is an excellent movie.

There's a movie from 1933, called The Mystery of the Wax Museum, which belongs to the "antics and adventures of newspaper reporters" genre-- being a newspaper reporter was a supposedly exciting, and romanticized profession until television. Anyway, the movie has a shocking twist that usually get it listed as a horror movie these days, especially since most people aren't familiar with the "reporter" genre.

I'm mentioning it, because it's a pre-code movie that features a character who is a drug addict. They never mention which drug, but he's clearly jonesing in several scenes, and the police want some information out of him, and pretend that they'll get him "something" if he tells them what they want to know. Basically, they say they'll "help" him, and imply without saying directly that they'll get him a fix if he gives up the information they want. They also try to keep him from leaving, so he can't go get anything on his own-- not that he seems to have means of doing so. He keeps trying to get a firm commitment from them that they'll really "help" him by getting him what he needs, and he hedges by saying little bits of what they want, trying to get a promise from them.

It's very revealing psychological brutality, that probably really went on, and the movie is overall, a fast-talking, and sort of light fare, in spite of its horror twist. It's not about police brutality, and the police are actually mostly good guys, so this probably happens because it's something people would recognize. It may even be that it's supposed to be funny, although it does not play that way now.

The movie is probably predictable to someone watching it even for the first time now, but it must have stunned audiences with its originality in 1933. Personally, I saw it when I was only about 11, and didn't know what it was about, except that there was something scary in it. It played as "original" to me, because it was the first time I saw most of the trops in it.

I still think it's a very good movie, and worth watching. I've seen it four or five times, and I always enjoy it.

It is also a very early color film, that used a two-color process, which isn't as flashy as early three-color films, which can look brighter than natural. I think the color is beautiful.

So, it's not really about an addict or addiction, but you get to see how very early Hollywood handled the subject before the Hays' code dictated to the letter how it HAD to be handled. And it's just a good film, so if you're casting around for something to do, there you are.
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Old 04-02-2020, 04:35 PM
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It's another Pre-Code movie, but there's Three on a Match, in which a well-to-do but bored society woman throws her life away looking for a little excitement with a skeevy gangster-connected boyfriend and (it is implied by Humphrey Bogart) a cocaine addiction. Remarkably, the film stars Joan Blondell and a very young Bette Davis, but it's the pretty much forgotten Ann Dvorak as the addict who gives the most memorable performance.
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Old 04-02-2020, 04:55 PM
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It's not early, and not addiction per se, but The Gene Krupa Story (1959) tells the story of how the famous big band leader/drummer derailed his career and hit bottom due to his use and abuse of (duh duh duuuuhhhh)...marijuana.
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Old 04-02-2020, 05:04 PM
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Mystery of Edwin Drood
Choirmaster John Jasper is an opium addict in Dickens’ last, unfinished novel. First filmed version of the story was done as a short in 1909, followed by a feature in 1914. Claude Rains stars in the best-known version in 1935.

Broken Blossoms (1919)
This is something of an anomaly because while opium is part of the story, no one gets addicted or suffers any adverse consequences as a result of smoking it; indeed, opium serves a useful purpose by offering the characters a respite from the everyday misery of their lives.

Heroes for Sale (1933)
The protagonist lets someone else take credit for his WWI heroics, then gets hooked on morphine while recovering from his wounds. A better title for this flick might be Chumps for Sale.

The Invisible Man (1933)
Monocaine!

A Hatful of Rain (1957)
Bland Hollywood treatment of addiction.

Confessions of an Opium Eater (1962)
Awful, yet it does contain an opium trip sequence.
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Old 04-02-2020, 05:34 PM
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Broken Blossoms (1919)
This is something of an anomaly because while opium is part of the story, no one gets addicted or suffers any adverse consequences as a result of smoking it; indeed, opium serves a useful purpose by offering the characters a respite from the everyday misery of their lives.
Which is NOT how it's portrayed in the original story the movie is based on (which has a totally different ending, too). In the original, people use opium because their lives are miserable. They are good people who have a lot to offer, but because they suffer a lot of racial prejudice and no one wants their talents, they end up in dead-end jobs, smoking opium to relieve their boredom.

It's a fascinating piece. It's a mixture of horrible racism of its time (the title is "The Chink and the Child"), and weird enlightenment. It's in a collection of short stories set in Limehouse, London's Chinatown just before WWI, and all the villains are white people. It's written by a white guy, whose style is imitative of English translations of Asian literature.
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Old 04-02-2020, 06:18 PM
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Even Betty Boop cartoons mentioned drug addiction, such as Minnie the Moocher (1932)

Starting 5:00

She messed around with a bloke named Smokey
She loved him though was cokey
He took her down to Chinatown
And he showed her how to kick the gong around [smoke opium]

Last edited by Colibri; 04-02-2020 at 06:19 PM.
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Old 04-02-2020, 06:26 PM
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Chaplin also has the Little Fellow snorting cocaine himself in Modern Times.
The first time I saw Modern Times (decades ago) it really surprised me. They never said "cocaine" of course. They called it "nose candy."
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Old 05-07-2020, 02:26 PM
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Victim (1962)
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Old 05-21-2020, 11:15 AM
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"Spring Night, Summer Night" -- taboo, but no exploitation at all. Very cinema-verite.
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Old 05-21-2020, 11:47 AM
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The first time I saw Modern Times (decades ago) it really surprised me. They never said "cocaine" of course. They called it "nose candy."
Heh. I used to know a farmer/trucker who was the most straitlaced guy I'd ever met. He worked really hard, managing a small farm and driving a truck, putting in long days and longer weeks. One day he told me he'd lost his truck due to "nose candy". He actually used that term.
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Old 05-21-2020, 12:07 PM
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A Pipe Dream (1905)
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Old 05-21-2020, 12:29 PM
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A Pipe Dream is kind of stretching it, since it's just a 43-second movie of a woman smoking a cigarette and imagining the smoke as being a man dancing on her outstretched hand.
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Old 05-26-2020, 10:53 AM
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Shoes (1916)
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Old 05-26-2020, 12:34 PM
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Does Shoes actually contain any references to drugs? Have you watched it? I couldn't find a copy of it online. It's supposed to be a fascinating film for its time. It's about poverty and prostitution, for instance, but I couldn't find any mention of it discussing drugs.
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Old 05-26-2020, 01:57 PM
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Alice's Restaurant (the movie), 1969, contains themes dealing with drug addiction (not included in the original song).

OP asks for "taboo in general". So also consider Oh, Calcutta!, a long-running Broadway revue started in 1969 I think, later made into a movie in 1972. This was a series of skits on sex topics, much more explicit than was commonly considered acceptable in those days.
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Old 05-26-2020, 03:09 PM
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Does Shoes actually contain any references to drugs? Have you watched it? I couldn't find a copy of it online. It's supposed to be a fascinating film for its time. It's about poverty and prostitution, for instance, but I couldn't find any mention of it discussing drugs.
No drugs, but a girl selling herself for a pair of shoes was pretty taboo for 1916. I just didn't want to "spoil" it and figured whoever was curious would find out.... I just saw this yesterday on TCM (and I think its still available On-Demand) and it reminded me of this.

Last edited by MortSahlFan; 05-26-2020 at 03:10 PM.
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