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Ten Nights in a Barroom (1931)

 -  Drama  -  1 March 1931 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.4/10 from 52 users  
Reviews: 4 user | 1 critic

A man's heavy drinking drives away his family and threatens to destroy his relationship with his little daughter.


(as William O'Connor)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
William Farnum ...
Joe Morgan
Tom Santschi ...
Simon Slade
Patty Lou Lynd ...
Mary Morgan
Robert Frazer ...
Dr. Romaine
Phyllis Barrington ...
Ann Slade
Sarah Morgan
Thomas Jefferson ...
Silent Sam
Lionel Belmore ...
Bill, the Bartender
John Darrow ...
Frank Slade
Frank Leigh ...
Harvey Green
Kathrin Clare Ward ...
Grandma Morgan
Sheila Bromley ...
June Manners (as Sheila Manners)
Fern Emmett ...
Harry Todd ...
John Uppman ...
The Singer


A man's heavy drinking drives away his family and threatens to destroy his relationship with his little daughter.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

1 March 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Alcool  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (DVD)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Photophone Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This film is sometimes confused with D. W. Griffith's 1931 talkie "The Struggle." In 1940, a distributor named B. A. Mills of B&M Pictures considered re-releasing the Griffith film under the new title. He dropped the idea when informed of the heavy Code cuts that would be required. (Source: March 7, 1940 letter from F. S. Harmon in the MPPDA/MPAA files at the motion picture Academy). See more »

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User Reviews

Exceptional Early Talkie - Demon Rum Nightmare - Farnum's Finest Role
8 August 2005 | by (New England) – See all my reviews

TEN NIGHTS IN A BAR-ROOM is an exceptional early talking feature, bringing the best of late silent cinema syntax into a melodramatic world filled with sparkling repartee and punchy dialog exchanges. Man's eternal battle with the Demon Rum has never been depicted with more psychological clarity and gripping dramatic intent.

William Farnum is incredible as "everyman" Joe Morgan, who starts the film off as a stuffy teetotaler, and ends it as a crippled shell of a man. His performance is nothing short of a jewel in the lost art of melodramatic acting, designed for the theater but woefully underused in cinema.

The titular "bar-room" is depicted as an evil cavern, a veritable cage filled with a herd of faceless, broken animals, drinking and shouting and gambling and wasting their lives way, while outside its doors, devoted wives and children suffer in silence in homes of shame and squalor. These antithetical worlds are depicted so literally, the stark contrast between a life of sobriety and a life of debauchery comes across in a vivid relief not easily forgotten.

Amongst many startling scenes in this gripping drama is one in which Joe Morgan, now a full-blown drunkard (no "alcoholic" euphemisms here!), swats terrifyingly at the air, trying to shoo away invisible flying demons that only he can see. In another, this sad shell of a man slouches to the bar, and pleads with the evil (yes, Evil) bartender Slade to give him just one drink because, "I'm sick, see, and I really need it..."

Also haunting and indelible are the touching scenes wherein Morgan's sick little girl Mary (a spooky performance by young Peggy Lou Lind), rises, ghostlike, from her death bed, walking vulnerable and alone through the dark night, and enters the smoky den of sin to retrieve her beloved father, whom she adores even in this diabolical state. As he comes to consciousness from a drunken stupor, and sees his darling little angel standing before him in her nightgown, like a phantom of goodness in a smoky cavern of horrors, Farnum makes a grimace of sheer horror which is truly spine-tingling.

Many reviews of this film have noted the climactic fight scene between Morgan and Slade, a literal fight between good and evil incarnate, as being the highlight of the film. Although this scene is well-choreographed, and rather exciting to boot, it could have come out of any number of B-Westerns of the day, including other works of Farnum itself, and does not capture the true spirit of the picture, which is a tragic melodrama through and through.

It is the incisive dialog, the remarkably atmospheric settings, and the breathtaking performance of Farnum which makes this film an early talking masterpiece. Even a modern-day wraparound, which paints the story with a happy ending not in T.S. Arthur's original prohibition-era novel, does not diminish the unrelenting tragedy of the piece one wit, nor its message: a drunkard destroys himself, and everyone he loves, on his long, torturous road to ruin.

(Just a thought: what if Sean Penn were to remake this, with Jack Nicholson as the drunkard, and did for TEN NIGHTS IN A BAR-ROOM what he did for THE PLEDGE, imbuing it with his psychologically-fueled mysticism? Now THAT would be a movie to contend with...)

11 of 13 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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