Legends of the Fall and Prohibition

         Legends of the Fall starred Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins and was directed in 1994 by Edward Zwick. A historical aspect of the film is Prohibition. Brad Pitt's character, Tristan, and his father, Col. Ludlow, played by Anthony Hopkins, began to deal in bootleg whiskey. They began this operation soon after the Volstead Act was passed. The Volstead Act was passed in 1919 and took effect in 1920 when the Eighteenth Amendment took effect. Interestingly, legal prohibition was establishing in twenty-six out of the forty-eight states by 1916. Prohibition was part of the Temperance Movement.

         The Temperance Movement sought to make alcohol illegal. Federal Prohibition Agents were given the job to enforce the law. Large quantities of alcohol were smuggled in from foreign countries, and home breweries popped up across the country. President Harding kept the White House stocked with bootleg liquor throughout prohibition, but as a senator he had voted in favor for Prohibition. Agents often took bribes to overlook the illegal distribution of alcohol. Medical doctors freely wrote prescriptions for whiskey for medical purposes. The pharmacists did not ask questions, and over one million gallons of alcohol were consumed each year through these prescriptions. These discrepancies made the public have disdain for authority.

         Prohibition led to organized crime. In the end making alcohol illegal was costing an enormous amount of money. Prohibition ended and was turned over to individual states to decide their own laws pertaining to alcohol in 1933 when the Twenty First Amendment was ratified.

         In Legends of the Fall the character Tristan lost his wife as a result of bootlegging whiskey. The prohibition agents were angry at him for cutting in on their business. The agents were running their own bootlegging business. The agents fired shots at Tristan and killed his wife by accident. The movie shows the disastrous results of Prohibition because the officials had not been able to fairly enforce such a widely unpopular and largely unsupported law.

Stephanie Cain

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