Chapter IV


Making the Movies by Ernest A. Dench
New York, The Macmillan company, published 1915 (now in the Public Domain)

pp. 15-18

Motion picture producers have to do many unpleasant things in the cause of "atmosphere." Everything in a photoplay is supposed to be true to life and they strive to maintain this ideal as far as they possibly can.

As they deal with all phases of life, saloon and restaurant scenes as well as examples of secret drinking have to be included.

Mr. L. R. Horton, of the Anti-Saloon League of the State of Washington, recently wrote a circular letter to all the motion picture companies, in the course of which he put forth the following query: "In your many drinking scenes, do the actors drink intoxicating liquor, or do they use a nonalcoholic substitute?"

Particularly satisfactory are the replies from the Selig and Edison Companies. They make it a strict rule that their players in drinking scenes shall use only ginger ale or sarsaparilla. Moreover, no matter how realistic the scene may have to be nothing stronger than these soft drinks is used. As they aptly point out, to let their players drink intoxicants would surely prevent them from working for hours, or even days, afterwards. The exacting nature of their work demands that they keep in a fit condition all the time.

On the other hand the New York Motion Picture Company, whose productions are released under the Kay Bee, Domino, Broncho and Keystone trademarks, through Tom Ince, their director-in-chief, insist that their players drink liquor when a play calls for it. But it is only fair to say that he trusts them so much that he knows they will not abuse the necessity laid upon them.

When he put on a cafe scene in "The Reward" recently, he had six dozen quarts of imported champagne displayed. There were, however, so many diners in the scene, and each was so moderate and sensible, that little harm was done. It is extremely hard for a motion picture player to express the exhilarating effect produced by champagne unless he has actually partaken of some, so the situation was produced as described.

In producing "The Alien," featuring George Beban, the players had to drink liberal quantities of beer in one scene. First, the glasses were laid on the table by the property man and then filled with ginger ale. At the top of each glass he poured a layer of soap suds so that it would pass muster as the real thing. But when Mr. Ince surveyed his doings, he indignantly told him to take the stuff away and procure a keg of beer. The scene was delayed half an hour while the beer was obtained from Santa Monica on a racing car.

Once, however, Ince has been known to discard his ironclad principles. That was when a film demanded that a band of hardy mountaineers drink whisky as a normal man does water. He didn't want to take a chance on the picture being delayed while the actors recovered, so he had ginger ale introduced.

The players attached to the other film producing concerns, in order to reproduce alcoholic excitement realistically, haunt saloons and restaurants, where they are able to study different types of it. This is undoubtedly the best and least offensive way.

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