Earliest Movies About Drug Addiction?

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I've always depended on the kindness of strangers
Or taboo in general..

The earlier, the better, as they seem to handle the subject matter better, especially with quality writing, instead of being crass.. Nothing after the 1970s. From any country. For some reason, they just seem to be better. Nothing silly, but something mature. I'm watching "Pale Flower" and loving it, and there's a mention of a guy who is a "dope addict"... I do remember liking "The Man With The Golden Arm", too.

Not the exploitation stuff...



Or taboo in general..

The earlier, the better, as they seem to handle the subject matter better, especially with quality writing, instead of being crass.. Nothing after the 1970s. From any country. For some reason, they just seem to be better. Nothing silly, but something mature. I'm watching "Pale Flower" and loving it, and there's a mention of a guy who is a "dope addict"... I do remember liking "The Man With The Golden Arm", too.

Not the exploitation stuff...

The earliest movie about drug addiction that I can think of is Bigger Than Life (1956). It's a powerful movie, and I highly recommend it.

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Reefer Madness. That movie is a little notorious for over-exaggerating things. But then again it was 1936, different times. There are a few more, I will post when I recall them.
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Wasn't that about drinking? If you include pure alcoholism, there would wayyy to many to mention!



I've always depended on the kindness of strangers
Wasn't that about drinking? If you include pure alcoholism, there would wayyy to many to mention!
Yes, and I guess suicide. But it seems the movies before that showed alcoholics in a comedic light.



This movie probably packed a wallop in 1945 but it hasn't held up well...a lot of over the top melodramatics almost to the point of being laughable.



I've always depended on the kindness of strangers
This movie probably packed a wallop in 1945 but it hasn't held up well...a lot of over the top melodramatics almost to the point of being laughable.
I just saw it again a few months ago.. I still loved it. I never thought about 1945. I just saw a tortured soul who used alcohol to numb the pain of being alive, but also the talent he had, and the potential that went to waste, but at least having a caring brother and a caring woman to help him out of the hole.



I think alcoholism definitely counts as a drug addiction, unless it's done for comic effect or it's a very minor character. The Days of Wine and Roses is an interesting study of addiction, not just the affect it has on the addict but on the people around them.

Depending on whether you're more interested in the drug aspect or the addiction aspect, there's plenty of good films where people are addicted to fame, money, beauty...lots of abstract things.



Ones I've come across, from the 50's & 60's, not previously mentioned:



Bigger Than Life - James Mason is a teacher than gets addicted to a painkiller (cant remember which one)

The Connection - The Blair Witch Project owes a bit to this film, of 'found footage' of junkies

Monkey On My Back - Supposedly based a real story about a former champion boxer addicted to morphine (I think?). While not exactly Raging Bull, does cover some similiar territory.

Synanon - set mostly in a rehab facility, dealing mostly with heroin addiction. 28 Days reminded me of this film a bit - without the happy ending ofc.



I remember Reefer Madness watching it with my Dad in our living room. Miss the old days..



The Man with the Golden Arm, if that counts as early.



I've always depended on the kindness of strangers
The Man with the Golden Arm, if that counts as early.
Yeah, that was one of the first that came to my mind, so I started the thread naming that movie. I think the movie was successful because Frank Sinatra was in that role, because people liked him. I doubt they looked down on him after seeing him in that role, but I think they'd do that with many actors. I think Sinatra did it to add something to his resume that would show more than the usual.



[The Man With the Golden Arm]Yeah, that was one of the first that came to my mind, so I started the thread naming that movie. I think the movie was successful because Frank Sinatra was in that role, because people liked him. I doubt they looked down on him after seeing him in that role, but I think they'd do that with many actors. I think Sinatra did it to add something to his resume that would show more than the usual.
Preminger's movie was exceedingly daring for 1955. In fact they evidently had trouble getting a seal from MPAA. Showing what a drug addict went through while kicking heroin was not seen before in that era.

I remember the film vividly from the theater. My baby sitter (a guy) took me to see it when at the time I was 11 years old! Obviously I didn't understand all of it, but I got the idea, and knew the performances were good. The film was certainly ground breaking for its time. I've seen it several times since, and I understood it much better...



I thought The Man with the Golden Arm was pretty powerful stuff for the 1950's...I'm pretty sure Preminger had to make a lot of concessions to get the movie made, one of which I'm sure was the fact that the word "heroine" was never used. I don't think Sinatra has ever been better.