Documentaries are supposed to present truths, or something approximate thereto.
I am watching “Prohibition”, a PBS doc series by Lynne Novik and Ken Burns. Of course, there are many many MANY things that piss me off about the doc and the way the story is constructed. But the thing that made me stop watching to compose this letter of outrage is the way they treated the story of George Remus. Their narrative in brief: George Remus was a defense lawyer who decided to get into the bootlegging business by exploiting the holes in the Volstead Act, which was a law passed to help enforced the 18th Amendment: Prohibition. Dude got rich as Croseus. Dude married two wives, one after the other. Dude bribed EVERYBODY. Dude got overconfident and eventually got brought to heel by the Justice Department. Dude spread his money around in jail, but an Agent Dodge was sent in and his high life came to an end. Dude sent letters to his wife claiming that they would settle down after his 2 year sentence cause all he got was jail time, he was still rich. Wife, however, took up with the agent, sold EVERYTHING and divorced him. Dude left jail. On the way to final divorce hearing, dude saw wife and step daughter in a passing taxi. Dude instructed his taxi to run theirs off the road and shot her in front of their daughter. He went to jail, wrote in his letters that he felt at peace for the first time in years. Went to trial defended himself using the temporary insanity card, got off scott-free after 19 min jury deliberation (one woman that I remember on the jury) and took off. And the story of Prohibition moves on. Please note that the usual tricks were applied, with the camera moving in on Imogene’s eyes, the music changing, all the narration excerpts from his diary and or whatever writings he kept.
So, oh followers, take a look at this story and tell me, what is missing here?
1. Oh several things. Why on earth did the wife promptly take up with the FBI agent who added insult to injury by fucking up ole Remus’ fun times in jail? And she decided to sell all his shit? Why? There has be a reason for that, right?
2. What in the hell happened to the young woman WHO SAW HER MOTHER SHOT TO DEATH RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER AND THE MURDERER GET OFF SCOT FREE???!!? Not even a throwaway line there, Ken Burns and Lynn Novik??!?! are you KIDDING ME?????
So here is the funny thing. The directors of this thing spent a lotta time noting that some of the reasons for white women’s (whether or not black women supported the thing was not mentioned cause as we all know, America = white people, rest of us are useless minorities who were apparently not doing a damn thing during history) support of the constitutional amendment was that alcohol binges would lead men to perpetuate serious serious SERIOUS domestic violence on women and girls. And they spent a good deal of disc two telling us all about the violence of Al Capone and the rest of them. And yet, in a two hour doc; they had no time at all to add a few sentences that might have addressed the motives for Madam Imogene to do what she did?! As a matter of fact, they DELIBERATELY set up the narration and the graphics to give the impression that she was a gold-digging wench who just transferred her allegiance once her man wasn’t watching. That nice and tidy “ungrateful woman” narrative just fit real tidily over her, didn’t it. After all, they started that section by noting that dude made said wife a large pool and named it after her. And the houses were lavish and he wrote so much about his love and trust for her….
Funny how they managed to make not a peep, not a word, not a mention of the domestic abuse.
Here is The Milwaukee Journal of Dec 17, 1927 under the headline “Girl Despises Remus Name: Slaim Wife’s Daughter is here to attend Father’s Funeral” interviewing Ms Ruth Remus, soon to change her name to Holmes just before the verdict came in.
“Remus gave my mother the home at Cincinnati as a wedding present but he soon wanted it back. He became so angry that he hit my mother so her nose bled and she was hysterical for two hours. He is not insane. He has the most vicious temper that I have ever seen and the worst of it is that he could control it if he wanted to. He used to break dishes and smash furniture inhis scenes, but he always picked out inexpensive articles to break. He liked to act violent and make a great crash.”
Oh for real? Might that have been the reason why our Imogene proceeded to have an affair with Agent Dodge as soon as her husband was put away in the clink? Would it have really killed you guys to make a passing mention of these allegations? Would it have made the documentary that much longer? To continue: “I think he would have killed me one time at the home in Cincinnati if a guest in our house had not interfered. Remus swung a kitchen chair over his head and aimed it at me. The visitor knocked it to one side.” But ya’ll were too busy trying me to sympathize with dude collapsed when he got home and saw Imogene had stripped the house of “every stick of furniture”. How could she, after he had promised her a trip around the world and to settle down quietly afterwards, you voice of godded the audience. What an ungrateful bitch. In fact, you went so far as to blame Imogene for breaking up the marriage of Remus and his first wife, with those gold-digging wiles of hers! Because surely Remus had not a fucking thing to do with choosing to get with Imogene of course. Oh wait:Immigrant Entrepreneurship.org
In 1915 Lillian had threatened to divorce Remus. She had heard rumors about her husband not only being involved with another woman, but also paying that woman’s rent. Remus had indeed become overwhelmingly infatuated with a young woman in her late twenties by the name of Augusta Imogene Holmes. Imogene was working in a delicatessen and in the process of divorcing her husband, Albert W. Holmes. She was living with her daughter Ruth in Evanston, just across the north side border of Chicago. Remus would come into the delicatessen, buy some groceries, and make small talk with Imogene. When her divorce was finalized in 1917, Remus vigorously began to pursue a relationship with Imogene, eventually moving out of the family’s home to take up residence with her on December 26, 1918.
Shortly after moving in with Imogene, an incident involving Remus and a plumber by the name of Herbert Youngs would demonstrate Remus’ tendency for unprovoked violence. Youngs had come to Imogene’s home to return a watch that her daughter Ruth had lost. Youngs demanded a $15 reward (about $217 in 2010$). While Imogene agreed to provide a reward, she felt that $15 was excessive and instead offered Youngs $5 ($72 in 2010$). They began to quibble over the amount when suddenly, out of nowhere, Remus appeared, punched the plumber in the jaw, and then chased him from the property. Youngs proceeded to file a charge of assault and battery against Remus with the Evanston Police. When the case came up for a hearing on February 8, 1919, Remus asked for a change of venue and the prosecuting attorney dropped the charge. Of course, all of this was reported in the press and confirmed Lillian Remus’ suspicion of her husband’s infidelity.
And Mrs. Lillian didn’t have a word to say about atrocious domestic abuse. Oh wait. Immigrant Entrepreneurship.org
Lillian Remus filed for divorce on the grounds of extreme and repeated cruelty. The case was heard in Superior Court on March 7, 1919. In her testimony Lillian stated that her husband had provided a home for another woman for the last three years. She also charged that Remus had beaten her on several occasions, pinched, choked, and kicked her. The court granted the divorce to Lillian along with $25 per week ($315 in 2010$) in alimony. In addition, she was granted a $50,000 ($630,000 in 2010$) lump sum payment. Remus’ daughter Romola was also awarded a $30,000 ($378,000 in 2010$) lump sum payment.
Well. Funny how not a word of THAT made it to your doc. Biased much? Instead there were nice Aftereffects push ins on Imogene’s eyes over ominous music while you told the tale of her many wrongdoings against poor hardworking bootstrapping brainy betrayed immigrant George Remus who was breaking a silly and stupid law anyway. And if you fucked up that big on that story, remind me again why I should trust the entire thing? What other holes will I see if I feel like digging deep enough? And really, Would it have killed ya’ll to add an update on what happened to the NINETEEN YEAR OLD KID WHO WATCHED HER STEPDAD KILL HER MOM IN FRONT OF HER AND WATCH HIM GO FREE??? Did you think about her at all, that girl who he nearly killed with a kitchen chair? I turned up that stuff with a two second google search. I guess that her story didn’t fit the one you wanted to tell. Well. Fuck your story.
Here is more on Imogene’s last days:
George Remus was determined to seek revenge for Imogene’s infidelity. (my annoyed note: of course he would. Nevermind HIS philandering and cheating, no sir!) Though she had filed for divorce on August 31, 1925, the divorce case was delayed several times by suits, countersuits, and continuances. During one deposition taken in the Chicago law office of Imogene’s attorney, Remus suddenly became enraged and attempted to throw him out of a window. Furthermore, both Remus and Imogene accused each other of plots to kill each other. When they appeared in court, they usually had bodyguards.
On October 6, 1927, the day the divorce suit was finally scheduled to be heard in domestic court in Cincinnati, Remus found out that Imogene and her daughter were staying at the Alms Hotel. Remus had his driver take him over to the hotel that morning and waited until Imogene and Ruth emerged and got into a taxi. Remus then pursued them at high speed intoEden Park where his driver cut off the taxi forcing it to the curb. (You said that he saw the taxi passing by and ran it off the road, oh directors. ) Imogene jumped out of the cab and began to run up a hill with Remus in pursuit. According to Ruth, Remus “was cursing and swearing and acted like he was crazy. He grabbed my mother saying, I’ll fix you, I’ll fix you.” When he caught up with her, Remus put a revolver to Imogene’s abdomen and pulled the trigger. He then calmly walked out of the park. It was only the second time in his life that Remus had fired a gun. Two hours later, following emergency surgery at Bethesda Hospital, Imogene died.
Remus immediately turned himself in to the Cincinnati police. When a reporter later asked Remus why he did not take flight from justice, Remus responded, “Why should I go about the country as a fugitive from justice – a man with a price upon his head. If you have a clear conscience, you have nothing to fear. A man who feels that he has performed a duty to society and that he has committed no moral wrong, does not run away from the consequences of his act.” 
I have no idea what happened to Ruth Holmes. I hope she had as best a life as she was able to under the circs. But George Remus was an abusive, philandering misogynistic premediatately murderous little shit. And that fact deserves to be part and intimate parcel of any story told about the fucker. So here is my contribution to making sure that that happens. And here is my ever growing skepticism about ya’lls interpretation of history.
Thank you for this.