UC Berkeley Library

Documentaries on the 1920's

People's Century: On the Line, 1924.

When Henry Ford's Model T rolled onto the scene in 1908, it was inconceivable that it would ever be anything more than a plaything for the wealthy. But mass production and later, Ford's moving assembly line, allowed manufacturers to produce goods at affordable prices that made them accessible to a new mass market. This film follows the acceleration of mass production, from the days of master craftsmen to the pressures and benefits of assembly-line work to the growing strength of "people power" as labor and management struggled to divide the fruits of increased productivity. 1997.


Directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Narrator, Peter Coyote. 2011. A Nation of DrunkardsThe 19th century was a period of growth both for alcoholic beverages and the temperance movement. The women's crusade of 1873 was essentially a general strike by women whose protest spread to 911 communities in 37 territories. However no laws had been changed and within a few years, saloons were back in business. In 1879, Frances E. Willard became the head of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.

Prohibition Newsreels

Producer, William Randolph Hearst: Capital stirred by biggest hooch raid (1923); Behind the scenes with the bootleggers (1926); More bad news for the thirsty (1930); Hoover Board's Dry Law report stirs nation (1931); Some opinions on Hoover Board's Dry Law report (1931); Dry agents still on the job (1932); First repeal gin shipped (1933); Repeal brings wet flood! (1933) (13 min.) Included on Treasures from American Film Archives III.

Prohibition: America on the Rocks

Looks at the history of America's drinking habits and the establishment and repeal of Prohibition, the "Noble Experiment," by constitutional amendment from 1919 to 1933. The illegal production and distribution of liquor, or bootlegging, became rampant, with the rise of bootleggers and gangsters. It was repealed by the twenty-first Amendment. Features archival film footage with commentary by authors, academics and historians. Supplementary short issued with: The Adventures of young Indiana Jones. 2007. 33 min.

Robert Benchley and the Knights of the Algonquin.

This special collection of rare short films pays homage to the great American satirist Robert Benchley and two other witty literati who shared his company at the Hotel Algonquin's legendary round table and personified the sophisticated literary scene of New York in the 1920's and 1930's. The witness / directed by Leslie Roush ; photographed by William Steiner (1941) -- The trouble with husbands / directed by Leslie Roush ; photographed by William Steiner (1940) -- The man's angle / directed by Leslie Roush ; photographed by William Steiner (1942)-- Mr.

Sacco and Vanzetti (2004)

Tony Shalhoub (voice of Nicola Sacco), John Turturro (voice of Bartolomeo Vanzetti). Examines the case of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti through archival film, music, poetry and excerpts from the 1971 feature film. Also includes interviews with historians, artists and activists as well as readings from the prison diaries of the two defendants.

The 1920's

Documents the decade of social change and exuberance that followed World War I. Describes the conflict between those who accepted the complexity of the twentieth century and tried to cope with it, and those who rejected the new and tried to live according to past values.

The Age of Ballyhoo

A television documentary about the Twenties told through the use of Hollywood movies, audio recordings and newsreels of the period. Narrated by Gloria Swanson. 1973. 52 min.

The Devil's Music: 1920s Jazz (Culture shock; 2)

Second of a four part series exploring why particular works of art became controversial. Part 2: In its early years, jazz faced resistance across America. Like rap today, jazz music was considered a dangerous influence on young people and society. It featured improvisation and the liberating rhythms of the black American experience instead of classical music forms. As jazz's popularity grew, moralists fought to suppress the music before it finally won acceptance as an art form. Directed by Maria Agui Carter & Calvin A. Lindsay, Jr. 60 min.

The Diary of Sacco and Vanzetti

A docu-drama about the 1927 Massachusetts trial and execution of two Italian-American immigrant anarchists based on Vanzetti's own letters and speeches. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian immigrants to America were executed after they were convicted of killing two people during a robbery in South Braintree. Their controversial trial became a political firestorm fueled by anti-immigration and "Red Scare" hysteria that gripped post-World War I America.