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Prohibition -

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(generated from captions) So you see - it's just possible
that this great old hobby

still has something going for it.

And our Spitfire can stand as
a monument to what it's all about.

One day, these children
will be as old as me,

but maybe they'll bring
their children to this museum

and they'll look at the Spitfire
that they built

and they'll say,
"That's what it was all about.

"That is the spirit of Airfix."

Supertext Captions by
Red Bee Media Australia
Captions copyright SBS 2009

On June 19, 1926,

six and a half years

after Prohibition
became the law of the land,

Republican Congressman
Fiorello LaGuardia of New York

called 20 newspapermen
and photographers into Room 150

of the House Office Building
in Washington DC.

No one had been
a more vociferous critic

of the Volstead Act.

He thought it intrusive,
unfair to the poor,

and, above all, hypocritical.

To prove it, he stood
before the cameras

and mixed two
perfectly legal products

available in any
neighbourhood grocery,

non-alcoholic near-beer
and malt extract,

which, when allowed to ferment,
would become illegal 2% beer.

He downed a glass of it,

pronounced it
not only delicious,

but "refreshing, pure,
and wholesome,"

and dared anyone to stop him.

No one did.

When the Director
of the New York Prohibition Office

warned that anyone who tried
to duplicate LaGuardia's stunt

in his state
would be arrested,

the congressman hurried home
to stage the same demonstration

at Kaufman's Drugstore
on Lenox Avenue in Harlem.

No Prohibition Agent
turned up to arrest him,

and when he asked a passing
patrolman to take him in,

the officer said
it wasn't his job.

The 18th Amendment,
LaGuardia said, was a disaster.

It had created "contempt
and disregard for the law

"all over the country."

The thing that
stands out for me most

when I think about Prohibition

is the law of
unintended consequences,

that you just don't know
what you're gonna get

when you pass a law that seems
pretty straightforward.

MAN: What a stupid idea it was,

that people actually thought
you could get away with this,

that you could actually
ban alcohol,

completely eliminate its usage
in American society.

It's a preposterous idea.

WOMAN: To me, one of
the great lessons of Prohibition

is that the dry movement
in the late 1920s

had an opportunity to capitalise
on its success

but modify the most egregious issues
within the Volstead Act

and the enforcement of Prohibition -

and refused to.

In their extremism,

they eliminated
all moderate support.

And that's a really important
political lesson

that applies to a lot
of different movements,

that you gotta bend a little
if you're gonna stay,

if you're gonna keep
what you've got,

because if you don't bend,

it'll come crashing down
around you.


MAN: It was an age of miracles,

it was an age of art,

it was an age of excess

and it was an age of satire.

It was a whole race
going hedonistic,

deciding on pleasure.

The people over 30,
people all the way up to 50,

had joined the dance.

The Jazz Age now raced along
under its own power,

served by great filling stations
full of money.

F. Scott Fitzgerald.


In the mid-1920s,

the pace of change in America
was steadily accelerating.

Big cities grew
relentlessly bigger.

Women found themselves
going places

they had never gone before.

An unprecedented, unbroken
winning streak on Wall Street

seemed to suggest that the good times
would go on forever...

and an exciting new music
seemed to capture it all.

Prohibition had been enacted
to forestall change,

to put an end to alcoholism,

to safeguard
the American family,

to re-establish
the moral supremacy

of small-town
Protestant America.

Instead, it had helped fuel
the very transformation

its champions feared.

Somehow, the same country that
had banned the sale of alcohol

had become the biggest importer

of cocktail shakers
in the world.

By 1926, more and more Americans

were beginning to rethink
the Volstead Act.

Their initial optimism at the
decline in alcohol consumption

had given way
to frustration and cynicism

as the law was
so imperfectly applied

and so widely ignored.

Whether you were for it
or against it,

Prohibition bred hypocrisy.

Brigadier General Lincoln Andrews,

head of the Treasury Department's
Prohibition efforts,

admitted that,
while his agents had seized

700,000 stills since 1920,

at least half a million more
remained in business.

Scores of people had been killed
in armed encounters

with federal, state,
and city law enforcement.

Many more were dying
from drinking illegal liquor

made from industrial alcohol

deliberately poisoned
at government orders

to discourage its being diverted
for human consumption.

And when Wayne Wheeler
of the Anti-Saloon League,

the chief lobbyist for the drys,

denounced the victims

as "deliberate suicides"
for whom no one should feel sorry,

even some Prohibition supporters

were appalled
at his callousness.

Soon, Americans would be
battling every bit as fiercely

over whether to repeal
the 18th Amendment

as they'd once fought
over its passage.

Before that struggle would end,

a Connecticut clergyman's daughter
would chronicle

a night-time world her parents
could never have imagined.

A murderous gangster
with a fatal fondness for publicity

would turn himself
into an international celebrity

and an unyielding upholder
of the law

would abandon her principles

and help poison a campaign

for the highest office
in the land.

MAN: Prohibition
is an awful flop.

We like it.

It can't stop
what it's meant to stop.

We like it.

It's left a trail
of graft and slime

it didn't prohibit worth a dime.

It's filled our land
with vice and crime.

Nevertheless, we're for it.

'The New York World'.

HAMILL: There was a speakeasy
in the ground floor of our building

run by Willie Sutton, later
to become a famous bank robber.

And most of the people,
including my father,

who had come from Ireland
in 1923,

most of the people
remembered it fondly

because it made them feel
like Americans.

A lot of them were immigrants -

and, as we know
with the history of Prohibition,

a lot of it
was an anti-immigrant movement -

and these people
were really Americans.

They thought the Constitution
was a real thing.

They had to read it
to get to become citizens,

which some of the other
dumbbells didn't.

They felt it was
the stupidest law

in the history of the country,

couldn't possibly last,

and they had to bring it
to an early death by drinking.

And thank God the resistance
triumphed in the end.

WOMAN: I wasn't much
of a party girl -

my sister went quite a bit -

but I did go once to 21,
which is still with us,

and I remember
knocking on the door

and somebody looking
through a peephole,

and the boys in the group sort
of whispered something to them,

and they opened the door,
and we went in,

and it was very exciting,
the fact, I guess,

that you were able
to break a law so easily

and having to have a password

and going out on the town.


The Stork Club and the 21 Club

and O'Leary's on the Bowery.

The Lido, Ciro's,
and the Trocadero.

The Daybreakers
and the Cave of the Fallen Angels.

The Casanova and the Jungle Room
and Club Alabam.

The Hyena and the Ha! Ha!
and the Hole in the Wall.

Basement Brown's and Barney's
and the Beaux-Arts.

The Zum Brauhaus
and the Irish Veterans Association.

The Culture Club
and the Club Pansy.

Prohibition had done away
with the old-time saloon,

but speakeasies
had grown up everywhere,

from lavish nightclubs

where waiters served champagne
on silver trays

to tiny apartments
in rundown tenements.

All you needed, one man said,
was "two bottles and a room."

No one knows precisely
how many speakeasies operated

in New York City.

One police commissioner

there were at least 32,000,

one for every 243 inhabitants.

There were so many hidden
behind the doors of brownstones

along a single block
of West 52nd Street

that a tenant was forced
to put a sign on her door -

"This is a private residence.
Do not ring."

As soon as Prohibition agents
closed one speakeasy down,

two more seemed
to open somewhere else.

Texas Guinan,
an ex-star of Western movies

and the city's most celebrated
speakeasy hostess,

endured so many closings

that she had a charm necklace
made for herself

of miniature gold padlocks.

WOMAN: My girlish delight
in bar rooms

received a serious setback
a week or so ago

in a place which shall,
not to say should, be nameless.

The cause was
a good old-fashioned raid.

It wasn't one of those
refined, modern things

where gentlemen in evening dress
arise suavely from ringside tables

and depart, arm in arm,
towards the waiting patrol wagons.

It was one of those movie affairs

where burly cops
kick down the doors

and women fall
fainting on tables

and strong men crawl under them

and waiters shriek, and start
throwing bottles out of windows.

Lois Long, 'The New Yorker'.


When 'The New Yorker' magazine
began weekly publication in 1925,

its advertising prospectus

vowed that it would be
witty and sophisticated

and definitely not
for what it called

"the old lady in Dubuque."

23-year-old Lois Long,

the Vassar-educated daughter
of a congregational minister,

was assigned to cover
the city's nightlife.

Her pen name was Lipstick.

LOIS LONG (Dramatised):
To the accompaniment of a slight
shiver of outworn padlocks,

Barney Gallant is doing business
at The Old Stand.

The place is dimly lit,

and decorated
in modernistic-bohemian fashion.

The revue is as bad as ever.

I don't like to put any deserving
black bottom dancers

out of a job,

but I don't see why Barney
bothers with entertainment at all.

In a place as dark as that,

people ought to be able
to entertain themselves.

MAN: Lois Long's columns

were laced with a wicked
sort of sexual sense of humour.

She openly flouted
sexual and social conventions.

She was a favourite
of Harold Ross,

who was the original editor
of 'The New Yorker'

and who couldn't have been more
different from Long if he'd tried.

He was a staid and proper

and she was absolutely
a wild woman.

She would come into the office
at four in the morning -

usually inebriated,
still in an evening dress -

and she would, having forgotten
the key to her cubicle,

she would normally
prop herself up on a chair

and try to, you know,
in stockinged feet,

jump over the cubicle,
usually in a dress

that was too immodest
for Harold Ross' liking.

She was, in every sense of the word,
both in public and private,

the embodiment
of the 1920s flapper,

and her readers really loved her.

(Men sing) # Yes, sir,
that's my baby

# No, sir, I don't mean maybe... #

LOIS LONG (Dramatised):
Texas Guinan,

who is now carousing
at the Salon Royale,

has added to her show a girl
who does a hootch dance

with the aid
of a real boa constrictor

a good eight feet long.

Since Texas' place is
legitimately open until 7am or later

and is, therefore, the last
stop on the nightclub whirl,

you can imagine the effect of this
on late arrivals

who are a little
the worse for wear.

The highlight of the week was
the opening of The Club Mirador.

I have never seen so many
good-looking blonde women in my life

as were present.

The men were not handsome,

but they looked like
good providers.

Rosita and Ramon are dancing
at The Mirador

and look so suspiciously Spanish

that I am convinced
they were born in Jersey City.

ZEITZ: Most women who were working

didn't make enough money
to go to nightclubs

to spend their evenings
drinking and dancing

in the arms
of dashing young men.

That simply wasn't available
to most people.

This is still a country in which
there are deep inequities,

but they could read
about what it was like

to be a young, single,
liberated woman

who goes to
all the right nightclubs,

who drinks
all of the right liquors,

who knows
all of the right people.

LOIS (Dramatised): Another thing
that your most high-hat friends

have recently discovered
is The Cotton Club in Harlem.

I cannot believe
that most of them realise

that they are listening
to probably

the greatest jazz orchestra
of all time,

which is Duke Ellington's.

I'll fight anyone
who says different.

It is barbaric and rhythmic
and brassy as jazz ought to be,

and it is all too much
for an impressionable girl.

Harlem had hundreds
of speakeasies of its own,

most hidden behind store fronts
and tucked away in alleys.

The Spider's Web and the Nest.

The Garden of Joy
and the Bucket of Blood.

The Shim Sham and the Hotcha
and the Yeah, Man.

Connie's Inn
and the Catagonia Club

and Small's Paradise.

Some, like the Cotton Club,
allowed only white customers,

but most were "black and tans",

eager to sell drinks
to customers of both races.

Above 125th Street,

the latest place visited
was the Club Harlem.

Your first impression is
of very pleasing decoration.

The second impression
is of a grand blues orchestra,

and the third is probably
the most inferior collection

of white people
you can see anywhere.

Possibly, they are hired
by the management

to give the coloured people
magnificent dignity

by contrast,

but I don't know.

WOMAN: We used to go
dancing up there,

and the music, of course,
was wonderful.

It was a time when quite a lot
of white people were up there.

They were sort of interested
to have us,

and we were all ashamed to dance

because they all danced
so much better than we did.

MAN: What occasions the focusing
of attention on the Negro?

Granted that white people
have long enjoyed

the Negro entertainment
as a diversion.

Is it not something different,
something more,

when they bodily throw themselves

into Negro entertainment
in cabarets?

They camel and fish-tail
and turkey.

They geechee and black bottom
and scrontch.

Maybe these Nordics at last
have tuned in our wavelength.

Maybe they are at last
learning to speak our language.

Rudolf Fischer.

LOIS (Dramatised): In the dear,
dead days of my youth,

some five years ago,

the crude younger generation
that gambolled about the town

in all manner of places

carrying such a load
of cocktails

that further libations were
not only unnecessary, but risky.

In the new speakeasies deluxe,

there has been a trend
among bright young drinkers

toward a glass of sherry
before meals,

a bottle of wine during dinner,

port with the cheese,
a liqueur with the coffee,

instead of one highball
after another.

All of this is doing wonders
for our young people.

All of us are less likely
to collapse utterly

before we have time to be
the fathers and mothers

of the next
horrendous generation.

Lois Long.

What do we have here?
(BOTH SPEAK INAUDIBLY) Two entrenched views.

Real estate website. Oh, he wants a new home and
she has some plans to renovate.

Either way, I'm thinking they
don't have a lot of spare time to get their loan, right? MAN: Whether your refinancing,
renovating or buying, ANZ home loan specialists
can help make it real. My money's on the renovation.

I've been working as a pharmacist
for 25 years. There are a lot of silent sufferers
of dry mouth out there. Dry mouth can be a side effect
from taking medication. People have difficulty swallowing.
They can suffer from bad breath. Water only offers a temporary relief. There is an easy solution,
and that is Biotene. The enzymes in Biotene
are naturally found in our saliva.

Biotene helps moisturise the mouth
and it's going to give them relief. I always recommend Biotene

MAN: Some call it bootlegging.
Some call it racketeering.

I call it a business.

They say I violate
the Prohibition law.

Who doesn't?

All I ever did was sell beer
and whiskey to our best people.

All I ever did was to supply
a demand that was pretty popular.

Why, the very guys
that made my trade good

are the ones
that yell loudest at me.

Some of the leading judges
use the stuff.

They talk about me
not being on the legitimate?

Nobody's on the legit.

Al Capone.


EIG: Capone becomes really famous
for the first time

in the summer of 1926.

It's after the murder of
Billy McSwiggin, a prosecutor,

and this is a crime
that really outrages everybody.

I mean, it gets national publicity,

and Capone is the first person
blamed for it.

He hides out for a while, and
he comes back to town and says,

"I'll answer
all the questions you've got.

"I didn't do it.
Billy McSwiggin was a friend.

"I was paying him.
He was on my payroll."

As if that explains everything.

Al Capone,

the big-time Chicago bootlegger
and gangster,

had not wanted
the prosecutor killed.

His triggermen were trying
to hit the mobsters

walking next to McSwiggin
who had gone to school with him.

Two of them had also died.

Capone was never charged.

The peace among the city's
various ethnic neighbourhood gangs

Capone and his mentor
Johnny Torrio

had carefully negotiated
back in 1921

had not lasted very long.

The big profits to be made

from hijacking each other's shipments
of beer and liquor

proved too tempting.

MAN: So all the gangsters

who had their own neighbourhoods
in Chicago

started vying for the work
in their territories.

Well, the strong won out,

and they ended up
with the district,

and the weak ended up
in the cemetery.

Dion O'Banion,
the head of one gang,

became worried
that the Italians,

including Capone and Torrio,

were conspiring against the Irish,

and decided
to double-cross them.

When O'Banion learned

that the police were planning
to raid his biggest illegal brewery,

he kept it to himself

and told Torrio and Capone
he wanted out of the business

and was willing to sell it to them
for half a million dollars.

When Torrio arrived
to take possession,

the police descended

and arrested him
and a number of his men.

"O'Banion's head," Capone said,
"got away from his hat."

A few months later, as O'Banion
was working in his flower shop,

two gunmen shot him dead.

Capone denied any connection
to that crime, too,

and sent a huge bouquet
to the funeral,

but O'Banion's henchmen,
Hymie Weiss

and George "Bugs" Moran,

swore vengeance.

The Chicago beer wars had begun.

When someone shot up
Capone's car,

he ordered himself
a 7-ton, bulletproof Cadillac.


Weiss and Moran then shot
Johnny Torrio

as he returned from shopping
with his wife.

Torrio was hit five times.

He somehow survived

but soon thereafter decided
he'd had enough

and went home to New York.

Al Capone inherited
all of Torrio's Chicago operations

and moved to consolidate
his hold on the beer business.

EIG: As Capone starts
to seek more power,

there's a great shake-up
in the hierarchy.

This sets off a huge gang war,

and the public begins to see
shoot-outs on Michigan Avenue,

and suddenly it's like
Dodge City here -

newspapers every day
screaming with headlines,

bullets flying, cars driving by,

and light of the machine gun
flashing from the window.

And suddenly,
he's in the spotlight.

He seems to like the spotlight.

AL CAPONE (Dramatised):
I don't want trouble.

I don't want bloodshed,
but I'm going to protect myself.

When somebody strikes at me,
I'm going to strike back.

I'm the boss.

In September of 1926,

Hymie Weiss led a deadly convoy
of 11 sedans

through the suburb of Cicero,

firing more than 1000 rounds
into Capone's headquarters there

and hitting
several innocent passers-by.

Capone was unhurt.

No one was arrested.

Three weeks later, in broad daylight,

in front of Holy Name Cathedral
in downtown Chicago,

Capone's men
machine-gunned Weiss to death

and wounded three
of his lieutenants.

Again, no one dared
make an arrest.

76 mobsters

would be shot or stabbed
or bludgeoned to death in Chicago

by the end of 1926.

54 more would die in 1927.

"I don't want to encourage
the business,"

the Chief of Police
told a reporter,

"but if somebody
has to be killed,

"it's a good thing the gangsters
are murdering themselves.

"It saves trouble
for the police."

Jurors and judges
and prosecutors were paid off.

Gang members refused to talk.

Intimidated witnesses

"Chicago amnesia."

None of the killers
was ever sent to jail.

"The city today,"
wrote the 'Literary Digest',

"symbolises murder galore
and crime unpunished."

One senator demanded
that President Coolidge

withdraw US Marines
from Nicaragua

and send them to Chicago.


The New York mobster
Lucky Luciano visited the city

and pronounced it
"A real goddamn crazy place.

"Nobody's safe in the street."


EIG: For just a couple
of years there, '26 and '27,

it almost lives up to the hype.

These incredible violent acts -
it's Capone's doing.

It's his quest for power.

With most of his enemies dead

or driven out of town,

Capone decided it was time to call
for a truce in the beer wars.


We're making a shooting gallery

out of a great business,

and nobody's profiting by it.

It's hard and dangerous work,

and when a fellow works hard
at any line of business,

he wants to go home
and forget it.

He doesn't want to be afraid
to sit near a window

or open a door.

There's plenty of beer business
for everybody.

Why kill each other over it?

Everything seemed
to be going Capone's way.

In 1927, his old ally,

the Republican ex-mayor
Big Bill Thompson,

decided to run again,
promising an end to police raids

that seemed only to affect
thirsty working people

and leave the big shots

"When I'm elected,

"we will not only reopen places
these people have closed,"

Thompson promised,
"but we'll open 10,000 new ones.

"No copper will invade your home

"and fan your mattress
for a hip flask."

Capone gave Thompson an estimated
quarter of a million dollars

to run his campaign.

The Republican won
by a landslide.

Capone hung
a portrait of Thompson

between images
of George Washington

and Abraham Lincoln

on his office wall.

He could now afford to be
magnanimous about law enforcement.

"I got nothing against the honest cop
on the beat," he explained.

"You just have them
transferred someplace

"where they can't do you
any harm."

EIG: There's no real reason
why he should become

the most famous gangster
in American history.

He's not that different from
dozens, maybe hundreds of others,

who were doing the same kind
of criminal activity.

I think the key difference
is that he liked attention.

He was the first media hound,
the first publicity addict

among the great gangsters,

and he invited the newspaper
reporters for interviews.

Most gangsters did their best
to stay out of sight.

Al Capone held press conferences
at which he presented himself

as what he called
a "public benefactor"

who offered Chicago citizens

the "light pleasures"
they wanted.

"When I sell liquor,
it's bootlegging," he said,

"When my patrons serve it
on a silver tray

"on Lake Shore Drive,
it's hospitality."

CLARKE: He got to be
very popular

because he was one of
the few gangsters that spent money.

The rest of them
threw half-dollars around

like they were sewer covers.

Capone gave everybody money,

the newspaper reporters.

Capone's idea was that
everybody reads the newspaper

and most people
are stupid enough to believe

what's written in the newspapers.

EIG: There was a great media war
underway at the time.

Hearst was expanding to Chicago
and other cities,

and he was doing it by making his
papers splashier than the others,

and the newspaper writers
who discovered these gangsters

were rewarded.

They became stars
of their newspapers because

these were great stories that
people couldn't get enough of.

He felt like,
by elevating himself in this way,

by making himself famous
in the way that Babe Ruth

was more than a baseball player,
he was a celebrity,

in making himself famous
in that way,

he would somehow
rise above the muck

and make himself a public figure
and he might be accepted that way,

that he might have a better chance

of operating in the long run
as this Prohibition businessman.

Capone became one of the best-known
Americans on Earth.

He signed autographs at Cubs
and White Sox games,

played Santa Claus
at the nearby parochial school,

and gave away $100,000 worth
of baubles every Christmas.

ran after his limousine

as it slid through the streets.

18 bodyguards surrounded him

when he turned up
at the fights

or the opera
or the racetrack.

Tour buses rolled past
the Metropole Hotel,

his new Chicago headquarters,

where he had rented two floors
and 50 rooms

from which to run
a growing empire

of prostitution and gambling,

and his biggest source
of money - booze.

Newspaper readers
couldn't get enough of Al Capone.

EIG: I think in the middle
of Capone's reign,

it's a very complicated relationship
that the public has.

It's not that he's a bad guy,
that he's a super villain.

They see him as a human being

who happens to be
in this illegal racket,

but it's a racket
that nobody really -

nobody really supports Prohibition -

so they can't really hate Capone
too much.

And for the most part,

there's never a clear murder
you can pin on him.

So people have this feeling that
maybe he's above it all somehow,

and he's got a piece
of everything at this point.

Not a lot of businesses
in Chicago

are not in some way
connected to Capone.

You know, every delivery driver,
every dry-cleaning business

is connected to Capone.

He's everywhere now - his tentacles
are reaching everywhere.

As Capone diversified,

he nonetheless
cautioned everyone

against investing
in the booming stock market.

"It's a racket," he said.

MAN: My dad ran two
very large hotels in Chicago.

The principal one
was the Stevens Hotel.

They were successful
in persuading

the Canners Convention
to come to Chicago.

He and the manager
of another hotel in Chicago

thought it was very important
that there not be

an awful lot of crime in the city
at the time of the convention.

So they had the bright idea
of going to see Al Capone,

and they told him how important
it would be for Chicago

not to have crime
while the canners were in town.

And Capone said he understood
the purpose of it,

and it's certainly
a reasonable request,

and he'd do
what he could do to help out.

And my dad said there wasn't
a single holdup

in the city of Chicago
for the week the canners were there.

Now, I don't know
if that's true or not,

but he told me that story
on more than one occasion.


Al Capone was not the only American

building a fortune
by getting around the law.

William McCoy, a Florida skipper,
pioneered the rum-running trade

by sailing a schooner
loaded with 1500 cases of liquor

from Nassau in the British colony
of the Bahamas

to Savannah

and pocketing $15,000 in profits
from just one trip.

Smuggling was not difficult.

The 48 states had a total coastline
of more than 5000 miles.

More than 35,000 if every tidal bay
and twisting inlet,

salty creek
and river mouth was counted.

Soon scores of other seafarers
were following McCoy's example.

From the tip of Florida

all the way north
to the coast of Maine,

a permanent picket line
of rusting freighters,

tramp steamers
and converted submarine chasers

tossed at anchor just beyond the
three-mile limit of US jurisdiction.

This chain of floating liquor
warehouses was called "Rum Row".

Every evening after dark,

fast-moving little boats carried
cargo to drop-off points onshore.

Bootleggers, they would dump
cartons of liquor

that floated somehow

and then came ashore

and then the owners
would have been notified

and they would
come down to the beach

and wait for the liquor to come in

and it would be marked in some way
that meant it was for them.

I know I had friends
who lived on that shore

who said if they got up
early enough

they could get liquor
and take it to their house

and steal it from the man
who was waiting for it!

Rum Row was busiest at what
was called "The Rendezvous",

off the southern coast of Long Island

where New Yorkers in motor launches
moved from ship to ship,

comparing prices
before deciding what to buy.

"It was like going to a supermarket,"
one schooner captain recalled,

"We had a good reputation
and lots of customers.

"They would carry your mail ashore
and bring you anything you wanted."



MAN: July 1, 1928.

'The New York Times'.

More than 160 federal
Prohibition agents

conducted early this morning

the largest series of raids
on nightclubs

that has taken place
in this city.

Between midnight and three o'clock,

eleven of the leading nightclubs
had been closed,

the waiters, entertainers,
orchestras and guests

driven to the street,
and in many instances,

principals and employees
were arrested

and taken to
the West 30th Street Station.

One day
before unprecedented raids

closed down eleven of the biggest
speakeasies in Manhattan,

Al Smith, the Governor
of New York State,

accepted the Democratic
nomination for president.

It was not a coincidence

that one event preceded the other
by just a few hours.

The raid had been ordered
in a deliberate effort

to embarrass
the Democratic nominee

by Mabel Walker Willebrandt,

the Assistant Attorney General
in charge of enforcing Prohibition.

She had devoted seven years

to the effort to uphold
the 18th Amendment

and was determined that all that work

would not be undone
by a presidential nominee

who had consistently
criticised it.

AL SMITH: Governments should be
constructive, not destructive.

While this is a government
of laws, and not of men,

laws do not execute themselves.

OKRENT: In 1928,
Al Smith gets the nomination,

and it is the first
national campaign

run by somebody who believes
the Prohibition law is wrong,

and he runs
as an unapologetic wet.

AL SMITH: I will not be
influenced in appointments

by the question of a person's
wet or dry attitude

or by what church he attends
in the worship of God.

In this spirit,
I enter upon the campaign.


The contrast
between Smith and his opponent

in the 1928
presidential election

could not have been clearer.

Herbert Hoover,
the Republican nominee,

favoured Prohibition,
at least in public.

It was "a great social
and economic experiment,

"noble in motive and far-reaching
in purpose," he said,

but in a nod to swing voters

with the Volstead Act,

Hoover also conceded
that problems with the law

"must be worked out

MAN: The imperatives
of democracy are such

that even if people want to be
hypocritical about it,

they still want to vote
for somebody

who stands up for
the right sort of values,

and Prohibition
counted in that time

as the right sort of values.

Within a few days,
Willebrandt would try again

to tarnish the Democratic nominee's

by ordering another series
of raids in Manhattan

that swept up not just waiters
and bartenders,

but scores
of speakeasy customers

who had never before
been targeted.

Willebrandt's raids may have pleased
Hoover's conservative supporters,

but many Democrats saw them as
the publicity stunt they were.

And they especially infuriated
Al Smith's big-city supporters,

who shared his conviction

that Prohibition was then,
and had always been,

a terrible idea.

MAN: If you were a Catholic,
you were for him

because he said he would
repeal Prohibition,

and, boy, everybody gravitated
to that message

because they wanted to get
that regular beer back.

HAMILL: He knew
what it was to be poor.

He came off the streets
of New York City.

It was before television,

but it was not before radio,

so he had some disadvantages.

AL SMITH: My friends
in the radio audience,

the only cure for the ills
of democracy is more democracy.

HAMILL: His accent...
he was great.

He makes me want to weep
when I hear the voice.

He was a terminal New Yorker -
if you listened to him talking,

because there's not many people
speak like that anymore -

but he had one big strike
going against him -

he was a Catholic.

It was the Catholic
plus the big city,

the Catholic
plus the wet insistence.

This religious
fundamentalist root

of the Prohibition argument

got inflamed again.

We must press on

with invincible determination,

praiseworthy perseverance.

No time to shilly-shally,
no time to turn back.

Liquor is an evil.

It has never done anyone
any good, nor never will.

The country
may have been changing.

The drys were not.

They had rejected every proposal
to revise the Volstead Act,

insisting that stronger enforcement
was the answer.

As for repealing
the 18th Amendment,

that was unthinkable.

Prohibitionists said "No way.
It's a constitutional amendment.

"No constitutional amendment
has ever been repealed.

"We've got it."
Tough nooks, basically.

By 1928, when the drys -

who are, may I say,
the most inflexible people

I have ever come across -

it is completely their fault
that Prohibition failed -

they refused to give in
an inch, a millimetre.

There were
multiple opportunities

to make the law correspond
more accurately

to the reality of American life.

OKRENT: Being no fools,
the Anti-Saloon League,

realising they had to get
Prohibition passed by 1920,

got it passed and then realised
they had to protect it.

So for the first time
in American history,

there was no reapportionment
in Congress.

The Anti-Saloon League
controlled state legislatures.

There was no reapportionment
in '22, '24, '26, '28,

and the issue,
the only issue there,

was keeping representation
in the cities down.

Now, who were the groups who wanted
to keep representation down?

Those who were anti-Catholic,
anti-Irish, anti-Italian,

anti-Jewish, and anti-booze.

Once again,
big cities found themselves

pitted against small towns.

As the presidential campaign began,

Hoover preferred to remain
above its bitterness,

but his surrogates fanned out
across the country,

intent on doing all they could
to preserve the 18th Amendment

and destroy Al Smith.

Wayne Wheeler,
the master tactician

of the Anti-Saloon League
for more than 30 years,

had recently died.

His successor
as League spokesman

was James Cannon Jr,

the Virginia political boss
and Methodist bishop

whose self-righteous zeal
equalled that of his predecessor

and whose xenophobia
far exceeded it.

Cannon concentrated his fire
on the South,

flooding the region
with tracts and pamphlets

falsely charging
that Smith was a drunk,

"the cocktail president",

denouncing his Catholic faith
as "the mother of ignorance,

intolerance, and sin",

dismissing his most ardent supporters

as the "kind of dirty people
that you find today

"on the sidewalks of New York."

The Ku Klux Klan
joined the fight.

Crazed rumours spread -

a Smith victory meant
all Protestant children

would be made illegitimate,

Smith planned
to give the Pope an office

in the east wing
of the White House

and was building an underwater tunnel
to the Vatican.

OKRENT: The hatred
directed toward him

that was both anti-Catholic
and anti-wet

was really beyond the pale,

the worst we imagine
in American politics.

The Reverend Bob Jones,

the founder
of Bob Jones University,

he said, and this is
a direct quotation of ugly words,

"I would rather see
a nigger in the White House

"than have Al Smith president."

In September,
Mabel Walker Willebrandt herself

took to the campaign trail,
travelling to Springfield, Ohio,

to address a gathering
of Methodist ministers.

Herbert Hoover
would enforce Prohibition

with "consecrated leadership,"
she promised them,

while Smith was the captive
of Tammany Hall

and the liquor interests

and could not be trusted to be
faithful to the Constitution,

and then she urged the clergymen
to campaign against Smith

from the pulpit.

WOMAN: It is not abandoning
your non-partisan policy

to take a stand against
the Democratic nominee.

In fact, there is no choice.

There are 2000 pastors here.

You have in your churches
more than 600,000 members

in Ohio alone.

That is enough
to swing the election.

The 600,000 have friends
in other states.

Write to them.

Every day and every ounce
of your energy are needed

to rouse the friends of Prohibition
to register and vote.

To many, Willebrandt
seemed to be calling

for something
like a religious war.

"So much for the separation of
Church and State," Smith said,

but the damage had been done.

A conclave of Atlanta ministers
warned the Democratic candidate

that "you cannot nail us
to a Roman cross

"and submerge us
in a sea of rum."

As Smith's campaign train
rattled toward Oklahoma City,

it passed a fiery cross
lit by Klansmen

burning in a field
beside the track.

That night,
the Democratic candidate

blamed "Republicans high
in the councils of the party"

for countenancing
the rumour-mongering

and pointed out that
no campaign official had disavowed

Willebrandt's exhortation
to the Ohio clergymen.

Then he spoke directly
to the question of his faith.

"In this campaign," he said,
"an effort has been made

"to distract the attention
of the electorate

"and to fasten it on malicious
and un-American propaganda.

"Let me make myself
perfectly clear.

"I do not want any Catholic
to vote for me

"because I am a Catholic,

"but on the other hand,
I have the right to say

"that any citizen
of this country that believes

"I am capable of steering
the ship of state

"safely through the next four years

"and votes against me
because of my religion,

"he is not a real,
pure, genuine American."

Smith's cause had always
been hopeless.

The economy was still booming,

and no one saw a way that
the Republicans could lose.

Smith's candidacy

did bring thousands of big-city
working-class voters

to the polls
for the first time,

but his religion
and his opposition to Prohibition

cut deeply into the supposedly solid
Democratic South.

Hoover won by six million votes.

Smith was stunned
at the size of his defeat

and the viciousness
of the campaign against him.

"I do not expect
to run for office again,"

he told reporters.

"I have had
all I can stand of it."

HAMILL: He had gone to a lot
of American cities

which were all against it,
against Prohibition,

and mistook that
for the entire country, I think.

OKRENT: But the important thing
in terms of Prohibition

is that he brought
the discussion of Prohibition,

whether it should be kept in the law
and in the Constitution,

he brought that discussion
into the open.

Empowered by their mandate,

Bishop Cannon and the drys won
another victory for their cause,

lobbying Congress to enact

the so-called Five-and-Ten Law
that doubled the penalties

for a first violation
of the Volstead Act,

Five years in prison

and $10,000 for a first offence,

and for the first time,

also made it a felony
not to report violators.

A citizen who suspected his neighbour
of selling home brew

was now legally required
to turn him in.

LEUCHTENBURG: I have a searing
memory of a day in my childhood.

I'm living
in a New Jersey suburb.

My father works
in the big post office

across from Penn Station
in Manhattan,

and he supplements
family income by a still

down in the cellar
of this New Jersey house,

and on this particular day -
I'm eight years old -

I'm sitting on the front steps
of the house.

All of a sudden come two huge men,
broad shouldered,

heavy suits and ties,
like nothing I've ever seen before,

like the scene in a movie
of Hemingway's 'The Killers',

and they come in
and tell my father

that a neighbour has complained.

They know he has a still
in the cellar,

and he has to smash it.

And it takes away
the extra family income.

We are forced to move into
the Borough of Queens in New York,

give up the house,
the countryside,

and the city and life
close in around me.

Not long after the election,

Bishop Cannon himself
was disgraced,

charged with gambling
in fraudulent stocks,

hoarding flour
during the Great War,

and having had not one,
but two mistresses

while his first wife
still lived.

Mabel Walker Willebrandt,

who had so successfully stirred up
anti-Catholic prejudice

against Al Smith,

expected to be rewarded
for her loyalty

by becoming Attorney General.

When Hoover named someone else,

she resigned her post

and resumed
the private practice of law.

One of the first clients
she took on

was Fruit Industries Limited,

an organisation
of California grape growers

lobbying for the right to sell
a flavoured grape concentrate

called Vine-Glo

when water and sugar were added,

could be turned into wine.

Later, she would represent
the movie industry

and convert
to the Roman Catholic faith.

Despite the satisfaction

the dry forces
found in Al Smith's defeat,

despite the fact that
no constitutional amendment

had ever been repealed,

attitudes toward Prohibition
were beginning to shift

and American women,

who had done so much
to bring it about,

would soon lead the fight
to overturn it.

Captions (c) SBS Australia 2012


WAITER: What'll it be?

Corned beef hash and eggs.


Alright, thanks.
You're a credit to the force.

Your leg again?

I should have let them cut it off.

Well, this'll make you feel better.

That was my cop. Your pal Liam -
the mug who slashed Pearl?


Apparently he takes his meals
at a joint on the North Side.



MAN: I'm warning you.

Don't come near me, goddammit!

Don't come any closer to me.

Get back!

Get back, you little sonofabitch!

Carlisle! Don't make me use this!

That's right.

Hey, hey, hey, get out,
all of you. Little turds.





Everybody stay back!

Hey! Ow!

Oh! Oh!


Come here! I'll...!


Arggh! Oh, jeez!

(SHOUTS) Help!



Where was the surgery done?

A field hospital outside of Verdun.

Three more at Walter Reed.

This is some fine work.

So why does it hurt?

The screws in the femur -
could be a problem there.

Trauma to the nerve.

So I got a screw loose?

Do you think you do?

It was a joke.

No numbness or weakness?

It's more of a dull ache.


It started recently.

It hurts like hell.

How's your sleep?
Off and on.

I'm up a lot.

What do you do?

I go for walks.

I...I read, mostly.

You're employed? What do you do?

Oh. Bell Telephone.

Have you ever heard
of Dr Robert Woodworth?

He developed a test during the war
to help the soldiers.

We're giving it
to all the men who come in.

What kind of test?
It's called a personal inventory.

The war's over.

It might be useful anyway.

For the country.

"Set a high standard
for a clean America."

What do I have to do?

Just answer a few questions
about yourself.

It could help you feel better.

Sure. Why not?

MAN: Try and hold still, now.

Good God Almighty!

Pop, come on. One, two, three.

You fucking butcher!

MAN: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!

Pop, just let us
get you situated, OK?

Ho ho ho!

Look who's come to pay a visit!

I came as soon as I heard.

I called your office. Eddie said
you were out with your lady friend.

(CHORTLES) Who's that? Mabel?

Mabel was my wife. You know that.

Arggh! God Almighty!

Get him in there.

It's alright.
Oh, God.

Five goddamn hours!

I could have lost my leg
if your brother hadn't come by.


Thank you, Dr Surran.

Alright, Mr Thompson, here we go.

Oh, my God. (GROANS)

I'll stop by the hospital
later, Pop.




So...this woman.

This Margaret Schroeder.


What's going on there?

She's a lovely person, Eli.
I'm sure she's a peach.

She's also a widow. Remember?

Pretty tragic circumstances.