Sometimes, when the nights are dark and the weather is miserable, we can feel bored and trapped, stuck in our homes with nothing to do and little prospect of anything exciting happening. In addition, rising inflation this year has done little to help with many people trying to reduce heating bills; some homes are not even very cozy anymore.
At least we have plenty of options
Well, at least we always have the telly for company. It might not always be the most scintillating distraction, but it is there. We have the chance to listen to music, chat with friends on the internet, play online games, and watch our favorite period dramas. Compare that to the scenes we see depicted in the olden days. Then, in less well-off homes, the only entertainment was the live music hall, and even reading after dark was a hard slog with no electric lights.
What is very noticeable from the recent Marie Antoinette series is that gambling was a top-rated entertainment in the upper echelons of society. This contemporary period drama charts the early years of Marie Antoinette and Louis’s relationship. When he was heir to the throne, Louis was impossibly shy and virtually unable to speak to his beautiful Austrian bride.
Marie Antionette, one of the first influencers
She found her entertainment elsewhere, and we see her at the games’ tables, the harpsichord, and holding raucous private parties at her villa at Versailles. Marie Antionette is reported to have spent fortunes gambling. She might lose five or six hundred or a thousand louis d’or playing lansquenet on a typical day. Of course, she played other games of chance too.
As the fashion influencer of her day, from outrageous hairstyles to magnificent dresses, Marie Antoinette made the gaming tables incredibly fashionable.
Meanwhile, across in England
Marie Antoinette was not the only upper-class lady who enjoyed playing at live casinos. Over in Britain, Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, almost made the French queen appear as a model of sobriety. Keira Knightley’s portrayal of the young Duchess shows her living her hedonistic life to the full. Married at seventeen, she soon realizes that her husband has no interest in her beyond providing him with an heir.
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, knew how to party
The 2008 period film drama has several scenes showing her living life large at the gambling tables. She turned her drawing room into a gaming room and invited all her friends and acolytes to join her.
Not content with a few card tables, Georgiana made the entire room resemble a professional casino, much like many modern live casinos, where sets are designed to resemble brick and mortar casinos and the scenes are then live streamed to the masses. She hired croupiers and had a bank set up. Her game of choice is reported to be Faro.
Borrowing from the bank
A famous scene from the movie has her turning up, having had one too many tipples and wanting to join in the gaming. She had to borrow some money, first from a friend and then from the house bank. Eventually, she won on her hand and left the party. In the excitement, she forgot to repay the bank. Georgiana was a powerful woman, and it is unlikely that anyone would have challenged her.
The roaring twenties
The States has its fair share of period dramas too. It is hard to beat the decadence and opulence shown in Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 Great Gatsby. Leonardi di Caprio plays the lead role as Jay Gatsby, and Tobey McGuire plays his disillusioned neighbor, Nick Carraway. The gambling scene is truly memorable, with the pair turning up to a barber shop and being led behind a sliding partition to the ultimate in nightclubs.
Police officers and politicians
Despite prohibition, the club teems with booze, gaming tables, and dancing girls. Music booms out, and fun is the name of the game. Jay calls out to the police commissioner and the senator. It might be banned, but everyone who is anyone knows about the barber shop club. Carraway asks Gatsby about the man who has brought them to the club.
“Who is he, anyway, an actor?” says Nick
Gatsby replies, “He’s the gambler. He fixed the 1919 World Series”.
The scene absolutely captures the roaring twenties and the decadence of the jazz age. The interesting thing about the music in this section of Luhrmann’s film is that it has a more modern club feel but does not sound out of place.
We cannot talk about period dramas and gaming without bringing in the best-dressed gentlemen in town – the Peaky Blinders. The sharp-suited (and sharp-hatted) gang members are famous for their dress sense and villainy.
Their whole illegal business empire is based on sports betting and other unlawful business practices. Thomas Shelby always displays great business and negotiation skills – all assisted by the fact that the peak of his hat reveals a razor blade!
Violence and turf wars
The gambling scenes in this period drama are not pretty. They are a far cry from the salons of the French Court or the Duchess’s drawing room. Gatsby’s barber shop is positively palatial in comparison – and that is just the actual shop and not the club. Instead, Peaky Blinders features turf wars over residential areas and racecourses. Holding the ‘turf’ gave gangsters the opportunity to make plenty of money. Not only were there fights as gangs without licenses stole from licensed bookmakers, but the gangs would also set fire to the legally obtained licenses. Just to be sure.