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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
William Farnum had such a presence, he could make even the most dismal
Western memorable. He came from a family almost as steeped in
theatrical tradition as the Barrymores. His older brother, Dustin was a
renowned star of the American theatre as were he and his parents.
Dustin originally came to films as the star of Cecil B. DeMille's first
feature "The Squaw Man" (1914). William made his film debut in the
western "The Spoilers" (1914) - although he was extremely versatile and
his favourite role was as Sidney Carton in "A Tale of Two
Cities"(1917). Dustin died in 1929 but William kept going, giving
intensity to every part he played. I thought he was excellent in "The
Painted Desert" and "Between Men", but I agree with the reviewer that
in this film he gives his all and it may be his finest performance.
There is a new doctor in town and Joe Morgan (William Farnum) has high hopes that he will be able to cure his sick daughter Mary, (Peggy Lou Lynd). He finds the doctor in the bar, a place Morgan is reluctant to go. His family has a history of alcoholism, but after a fight (to prove his manliness) he is persuaded by the evil owner Simon Slade to have a drink (or three). As a result he arrives home drunk and his mother is distraught. His father was a drunkard and the family struggled in poverty.
Six months later Joe is the town drunkard, his mill is losing business and his hired hands are getting fed up. One night his little girl gets out of her sick bed and fetches her father from the bar. Although he is shocked, it is not enough to keep him from his bad ways. In desperation he signs the deeds of his mill over to Slade. Slade, who first introduced him to alcohol, over time has been fleecing him out of whatever money Joe has. When Joe has a fit of the DTs Slade refuses to serve him, calling him a "drunken bum". The doctor finds him and nurses him back to health but one night the old craving gets to Joe and he wanders into the bar. After an altercation with Slade, Mary wanders in and is hit by a bottle that Slade has thrown. Although Mary recovers, Joe, seeing himself in a mirror, realises what he has become and decides to change.
Farnum and Tom Santschi originally appeared together in "The Spoilers" (1914) and the fight between them was renowned for it's realism. It seems that fight was recreated in "Ten Nights in a Barroom" as it is one of the most realistic fights I have ever seen on film. For the fight alone the film is worth seeing and also for Farnum's magnificent portrayal of Joe Morgan.
In the 19th and early 20th century, moralistic and sensationalistic tales about the evils of drink were very popular on stage. Not surprisingly, in the early days of film, these sorts of stories were also extremely popular. The stories were generally very, very melodramatic and even a bit silly. They had a good point to make but told the stories in such ridiculous ways that they are laughable by today's standards. "Ten Nights in a Barroom" is clearly inspired by all these previous stories and even features some super- sentimental and old time music and is a bit ridiculous. However, oddly, it also is much more realistic at times--particularly in its portrayal of advanced alcoholism and the DTs. So, we have a definite mixed bag of a film that is super-familiar if you've seen any of these anti-drink silent movies. I've seen quite a few and they are all essentially the same--a decent family man avoids alcohol until one day he is pressed repeatedly by his so-called friends to have 'just one'....and he soon is a raging drunk who is abusive and neglectful of his poor family. If course, being an hour long, it's got more to it as well--including a very odd scene near the end when the drunken guy burns down the bar!! Oddly enjoyable despite its being old fashioned even when it debuted in 1931.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Not what I expected from a movie titled "Ten Nights In a Barroom",
particularly since it was packaged with a variety of anti-drug
propaganda films from the 1930's like "The Marijuana Menace" and
"Reefer Madness". This one played more like a melodramatic morality
play at one end, and as another reviewer on this board pointed out,
like a standard 'B' Western from the era wherein the main character was
duped by an unscrupulous villain to take away his business and
livelihood. For a very early talkie film, it deserves some credit for a
gripping story, but upon analysis, falls victim to a number of problems
to the discerning viewer.
For starters, there was an issue with the film's continuity relative to Joe Morgan's (William Farnum) sick young daughter Mary (Peggy Lou Lind). Early in the story, Dr. Romaine's diagnosis allowed for Mary to get over her illness with bed rest after a couple of days. Yet after six months, Mary's still in bed with no further explanation of her ailment, and that drags on until another title card states it's one year later! The young actress portraying Mary does a serious heart string number when she encounters her father in the bar for the first time, but then the picture goes on to attempt the scenario again when the initial impact provided the pathos needed to engage the viewer in her family's plight. At that time, the effectiveness of the scene was measured in the follow up where all the family men of the town stopped their drinking to go home to their families.
Where the film achieves a measure of success is the way it keeps one in suspense about villain Slade's (Tom Santschi) angle in leading Morgan down the path of the demon rum. It was easy enough to guess I suppose, but it wasn't clear early in the picture that Morgan was a man of some means, or that his family history was scourged by alcoholism. It's that unveiling that makes for an absorbing story, even if some of the acting has that forced look and feel of early talking pictures that tended to lay it all out for the viewer instead of allowing for one to use their own imagination.
1st watched 2/18/2007 - 6 out of 10(Dir-William O'Connor): Honest portrayal of alcoholism and it's effects in this rarely seen film. The title character, a family man named Joe Morgan, has a daughter who is very sick and visit's the new doctor in town at the local hotel and bar. The only problem is he steps his foot into the bar and orders a drink(his family history is such that one drink will start a cycle that he won't be able to stop). Up to this point, he is seen as a hard-working, family-loving man but things get worse as he frequents the bars day after day. After a few months, he is to the point where he needs the doctor worse than his daughter as she is getting better under his care. He loses his job and all his money in a card game and soon he is spending more time at the bar than at home. There are a couple un-forgettable scenes where his daughter visits him in the bar asking him to come home because she misses him so much that is heart-breaking(although the 2nd scene makes it a little over-done). This movie started as a portrait of a sick girl and became a portrait of a sick man who is only temporarily won over by the love of his daughter. The movie doesn't try to explain away the problem, it just presents it. He still loves his daughter and his family but he is taken away from it by his alcoholism. It also doesn't try to candy-coat things with a Hollywood-type ending, it just ends(actually on a pretty negative note). The only real negative to the movie is it's attempt to throw in minor scenes of comedy and a very slight portrayal of the effect on the family but these things really don't diminish from the overall impact of the movie.
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