Thursday, March 4, 2010
Adults Only! - Ten Nights in a Barroom (1931)
Never judge a book by its cover. This film was included in my "exploitation" films box set, but was anything but a throwaway picture; decidely low-budget, it more than made up for it in honesty and heart.
Adapted from the extremely popular temperance play (which in turn was based on the successful 1854 book by Timothy Shay Arthur), William Farnum stars as Joe Morgan, a family man led to ruin by the lure of alcohol. He is pressed into addiction by the cruel and selfish bar owner Slade (Tom Santschi), who has designs on Morgan's business.
This is a bleak, no-holds-barred look at how addiction can destroy not only one's own life but that of those you care about most deeply. Farnum emotes in an old-fashioned, melodramatic style perfect for the source material, and Peggy Lou Lynd adds a very effective (if a little heavy-handed) touch as Mary, Morgan's sick daughter who is so starved for her father's affection that she walks, alone, through the dark to fetch him from the bar.
An interesting note: the protracted fight scene near the end was a nod to The Spoilers (1914), in which Farnum and Santschi both starred. Their fight scene in that film was considered (and still is, by some) the best and most realistic one ever committed to film; for years both actors served as fight consultants on later pictures.
Scorecard: alcohol, gambling