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Alcoholism and Alcoholics Anonymous in U.S. Films, 1945–1962: The Party Ends for the “Wet Generations”
At least 34 Hollywood films were made between The Lost Weekend (1945) and Days of Wine and Roses (1962) with an alcoholic as a major character; six depicted an Alcoholics Anonymous-like self-help organization. Presentations of alcoholism’s origin as mysterious competed with psychodynamic interpretations and situational explanations, often in the same film and sometimes concerning the same character. Willpower and mutual help were each frequently shown as paths to recovery, whereas neither professional treatment nor AA’s spiritual side were often shown. For the women alcoholics (17 of 39 depicted), drinking went with sexuality, but for men it replaced it. “Creative” occupations were hugely overrepresented among screen alcoholics, in part reflecting the personal struggles with drinking of the movies’ creators. These writers, actors and directors were drawn from the “wet generations” of middle-class youth, who had adopted heavy drinking in their college years as a generational revolt against “Victorian morality.” Alcoholics Anonymous was founded and peopled by members of these same cohorts as a generational solution to their eventual life-problems. The flurry of alcoholism films represented a parallel and overlapping generational response.