So you'd assume that Hard-Smoochin' Daddy is supposed to be the villain here ("Behold the dangers of infamously permissive 1930s parents!"), but wait! This baffling, slapdash production has more tricks up it sleeve. After a pastor shows up to lament the teens he sees prancing around "half-naked" in the streets ("These modern young rowdies are headed for perdition!"), the focus then shifts to a totally different young woman and her tale of woe. Her father turns out to be the overbearing preacher, so it seems like we're being told now that holy helicopter parenting is to blame when she succumbs to that devil hooch, her virtue goes kerblooey, and she winds up in an unhappy marriage.
After lolling around in her drunkitude for awhile, she runs home, and everything seems to sort itself out after Dad apologizes for being such a hardass. He then delivers a sermon admitting his mistakes by blathering weird nonsense like "You can't put old wine into new jugs" and "No boy and girl in their folly can break through the power of marriage!" And the final scene brings things full circle, as the girl from the beginning calls her creepy dad to tell the family she's getting married herself. Everyone seems as pleased as punch.
So what the hell was even the lesson here? Let's put it this way: Large chunks of the movie were cobbled together during the hasty editing process with footage from an entirely different film. This "Girls tempted by vice" genre was so hot back then that they were just throwing shit together, like those weird YouTube nursery rhyme videos. Who cares about message? This business is all about volume, sonny!
The most polished of the bunch, 1949's She Shoulda Said No! (also released under the title Wild Weed) features actual production values and a cast that wasn't made up of randos the director pulled out of diners and dockside bars. The lead actress, a proto-Kardashian named Lila Leeds, was capitalizing on her brief fame gained from getting arrested for smoking pot at a party with Robert Mitchum. It was also legendary character actor Jack Elam's first film. Don't recognize that name? Well, chances are good you know his cat's breakfast of a face.
Warner Bros. TelevisionThe only man Ernest Borgnine felt safe bringing to clubs as his wingman.
But while the producers may have sunk a little more money into this offering, the plot still fell into the same "Nice girl gets high, becomes public enemy number one, and now has no hope of marrying a decent fella" routine. To gain attention, a story was concocted that the United States Treasury Department had a hand in the filming. And new, sexed-up posters advertising an abundance of "hopped up harlots" with tag lines like "How Bad Can Good Girls Get?" were introduced after the initial release in order to attract more horndogs.
Modern Film Distributors"Sorry, under-16s. You'll just have to make do with the National Geographics in the garage."
Based on the actual experiences of Lila Leeds, the character she plays is an orphan named Anne (not Annie, that would be stupid), who eventually redeems herself after marijuana use causes her to be sexually promiscuous by ... becoming a narc. The former chorus girl is convinced to become a stoolie for the Man after a brief stint in the hoosegow, which apparently did the trick in terms of restoring some semblance of her respectability, despite the fact that the filmmakers did everything in their power to put Leeds' raw sensuality front and center.
Filmed in only six days, Leeds spent much more time than that making appearances around the country at theaters, even giving lectures. You might might say that such attempts at public service were laudable, until you hear about how the movie was often played at salacious midnight double billings, marketed in a way that the distributor could "... cash in and move to his next stop as fast as possible." You know ... we're starting to think that people out to police morality may not always have our best interests at heart.
Modern Film Distributors"Watch these nice girls become wasted shells, for your viewing pleasure! These tragic, sexy dope fiends are ready to get WILD!"
E. Reid Ross is the author of Canadabis: The Canadian Weed Reader, which is in stores now and available on Amazon or direct from Simon & Schuster.
Reefer Madness, heck of a musical wasn't it?
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