Ten Nights in a Bar-Room - A 1931 Movie about Drunkenness

A Harvard Health study shows that alcohol consumption rose over the last couple of years because of the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns and economic stress. Reasons for increased drinking included increased stress (45.7%), increased alcohol availability (34.4%), and boredom (30.1%). The study revealed that participants who reported being stressed by the pandemic consumed more drinks over a greater number of days.

Dry January and Temperance

For those that may have started drinking too much it may be a time to give Dry January a try. The idea behind Dry January is to encourage people to consider and discuss their alcohol consumption and to inspire change for those that need it.

While doing a bit of research on Dry January we came across this tough love movie based on a mid-1800s book about overconsumption. In 1854, Timothy Shay (T. S.) Arthur (1809 –1885) published ‘Ten Nights in a Bar-Room’, a best-selling novel that dramatized the evils of alcohol. The book has been performed as a play and as a movie. This 1931 movie was made at the tale end of Prohibition. It’s a remake of a 1910 version of the same movie.

‘I’m A Man, I Can Stop Anytime I Please’

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The movie shows the effects of drinking on an alcoholic in a more real manner than most films of the times. The story line reveals a man who begins to drink and becomes an alcoholic and how it affects his family including his wife, mother, little girl who is sick and how he is manipulated into selling his family business to the unscrupulous bar owner. Somewhat ironically, the family business is the local grain mill.

The films premise begins with a visit from the towns new doctor as he checks into the Cedarville Sickle & Sheaf hotel and bar. Once he’s registered, he meets Simon Slade, the hotel and bar owner. Slade helps the doctor find his way to the bar to meet some of the locals. The doctor is offered a drink but turns it down as he does not drink but he’s happy to accept a cigar.

Word travels fast in the small town that the new doctor is at the Sickle & Sheaf. Joe Morgan hears the news and travels to the hotel to see if Dr. Romaine can do something to help his sickly daughter. Once there he asks the front desk clerk to get the doctor and to meet him in the hotel lobby. Overhearing the conversation Slade directs Morgan to the bar to meet the doctor. Morgan tries to avoid going into the bar but is lead there by Slade. Once in the bar, Slade tricks Morgan into taking a shot.

“Have a drink, Joe,” says Slade. “You know I don’t drink Simon,” replies Morgan. “One drink isn’t going to hurt you,” responds Slade. Once he starts, he cannot stop. And this is where the trouble begins.

Morgan eventually stumbles home in a drunken stupor. Once home he’s greeted by his mother at the door who knows he’s spent the evening at the bar. Here is an excerpt of the conversation Morgan has with his widowed mother.

“You’ve been down to Slade’s place, drinking.”

“Well, what if I have?”

“Oh Joe, don’t you remember when you were a child how we struggled for a living just because your father was a drunkard. Do you want Mary to be raised like you were?

“Well, I’m not a drunkard. What’s the harm in one or two little drinks.”

“But you can’t stop with one or two Joe.”

“Oh yes, I can. I’m a man, I can stop anytime I please.”

“You may be a man but you’re a Morgan and no Morgan ever won a bout with whiskey yet.”

“I can take a drink, where I please and when I please or leave it alone.”

And he walks out of the room to see his sickly child.

Watch the movie to see the entire 1931 version of Ten Nights in a Bar-Room.

Please enjoy your favorite spirits responsibly. Cheers!

Source: Harvard Health Study

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