Watch Ken Burns: Prohibition

The Television Mini-series Prohibition, narrates the history of prohibition in the U.S. The series lays out in full the societal influences that caused the escalation of the Temperance movement, and the eventual passing of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It was filmed in the popular style pioneered by Ken Burns, with photographs depicting the events of the film with narration and voice acting along with haunting musical scores.

In the three episodes, totaling five and a half hours, Prohibition covers the influences of the Temperance movement such as alcoholism, immigration, and woman's suffrage. After the passage of the amendment, problems begin due to ineffective enforcement of the new law and the unforeseen repercussions that made criminals out of a large percentage of the population. The final episode explains the eventual decline of popular favor due to the problems created by the law. As the Great Depression looms, the priorities of the country shift.

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick directed the series with Peter Coyote narrating throughout. It features the voices of nearly twenty actors and celebrities, including Tom Hanks, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Lithgow. A large group of historians and advisers also contribute, including Daniel Okrent, who wrote Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, the inspiration for the series.

Prohibition was written by Geoffry C. Ward, who earned the series a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Writing of Nonfiction Programming as well as a Writer's Guild award for Documentary Other Than Current Events. The Series was also nominated for two Primetime Emmys in Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming and Sound Editing for Nonfiction Programming.

Prohibition was produced by Florentine Films, PBS, and WETA. It was distributed by PBS Distribution, PBS International, Polyband in Germany, PBS and YLE in Finland. It was funded by the Arthur Vining Davis foundations, The Bank of America, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The National Endowment for the Humanities, The Park Foundation, and Viewers of PBS.

PBS
1 Season, 3 Episodes
October 2, 2011
History
8.2/10
Cast: Peter Coyote, Pete Hamill, Catherine Gilbert Murdock, Michael Lerner
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Ken Burns: Prohibition Full Episode Guide

  • Support for Prohibition continues to decrease in the mid-1920s; the law has actually provided gangsters a way to make huge profits. Following the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, Congress repeals the 18th Amendment and Americans are free to purchase alcohol legally for the first time in 13 years.

  • In the 1920s, Prohibition went into effect forbidding the making, transporting, or selling of intoxicating liquor. As holes are found in the laws, millions discover ways to get around them. Alcoholism continues to increase as women now drink in the speakeasies.

  • Since the early years of the American Republic, alcohol has been embedded in the fabric of American culture. This is the story of the Eighteenth Amendment.

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