Volume 2: Filmography

 

TEN NIGHTS IN A BAR ROOM

 

November 4, 1910 (Friday)

Length: 1,000 feet

Character: Drama

Scenario: From the book of the same name by Timothy Shay Arthur

Cast: Marie Eline (Little Mary), Frank H. Crane (Joe Morgan, the father)

Notes: 1. This film was not announced far in advance, but was released at the last minute, to take the place of The American and the Queen, originally scheduled for November 4th release (rescheduled to November 11). 2. A notice in The New York Dramatic Mirror, issue of November 23, 1910, told of a competitor planning to issue the same story on film, with an obvious reference to the one-reel length of the recent Thanhouser production: "The Selig Company announces that its forthcoming production of Ten Nights in a Barroom will not be confined to one reel, but will be given all the film that it requires for proper production. This departure from the restrictive limit of 1,000 feet gives promise that the drama will have adequate treatment." 3. Thanhouser spelled the name as two words, "bar room," in most but not all publicity. Selig used one word, "barroom."

 

BACKGROUND OF THE SCENARIO: Timothy Shay Arthur (1809-1885), the grandson of a Revolutionary War officer, was born on a farm in New York and lived for a time near West Point. He eventually finished his childhood in Baltimore, where he was to remain in later life. Found to be a "dull" student by his teacher in school, he was apprenticed to a watch maker, but his eyes could not take the bench work in combination with his passion for late night reading. His next job was as a clerk in a counting-house, which gave him the opportunity to read as much as he liked. During this time he began to write, and soon adopted writing as his profession. He concentrated on temperance pieces for various journals and became a self-proclaimed enemy of saloons, eventually establishing himself as a leading figure in one of the greatest social movements of the mid-19th century.

His fame rested primarily on his extremely popular novel, Ten Nights in a Bar Room, and What I Saw There. Sensational and full of lurid episodes, with the backing of numerous members of the clergy the tale was second in sales during the 1850s only to Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. Ten Nights in a Bar Room opened as a play in New York City in 1858 and soon became a classic. By the turn of the century it was a staple on the stage, along with other such favorites as East Lynne, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Hazel Kirke. Ten Nights in a Bar Room narrates the shameful ruin of a small town brought about by the Sickle and Sheaf, a tavern owned by one Simon Slade, who was later murdered by his own son in a drunken quarrel. Other characters of note are Joe Morgan, the town drunk; his noble wife Fanny and angelic daughter Mary; gambler Green, who meets a horrible death; and Judge Hammond, also destroyed by alcohol.

 

ADVERTISEMENT, The Moving Picture World, November 5, 1910:

"Have you positively been booked for that Ten Nights in a Bar Room masterpiece? If not, get busy. Remember the release date? Friday, November 4th. Get the reel as near to that as you can. It's an adorable presentation of the adorable play. Just the bare announcement of it on your 'coming Thanhouser' board will rouse the neighborhood. Everybody knows it - everybody loves it. Especially will it appeal to the temperance folk - and you have loads of 'em in your vicinity - and very few go to picture shows. This Thanhouser will do yeoman's service in interesting 'em in uplifting moving pictures, and with the kind of strong advertising that you can certainly give an epoch-maker like this, you should make Ten Nights In a Bar Room night one long to be remembered at your theatre. Frank Crane and The Thanhouser Kid play the leads. The latter is Little Mary, of course."

 

ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, October 29, 1910:

"Whoever suggested the above title for a photoplay in these days of 'uplifters' and 'reformers' should be sentenced to 10 days' imprisonment. Let us hope that the makers of this film will use discretion so that the films will be used as a booster for and not a club against our common interest. Ten Nights in a Bar Room is full of great possibilities in picture making, and the Thanhouser Company can be depended on to get the best out of its varied situations. While such a name might suggest possible scenes that one would just as soon not see, the fact that all Thanhouser releases are submitted to the Board of Censorship insures a picture that can be shown to any audience. We understand the picture is from the original book, the dramatic moral teaching of which has been well known and much used. As a moving picture the moral of the book will appear in its most telling manner and this Thanhouser release should become a classic among moving pictures."

 

SYNOPSIS, The Moving Picture News, October 29, 1910:

"Despite the fact that he is a loving husband and father, Joe Morgan ruins his life by his fondness for drink and finally becomes a seemingly hopeless drunkard. He spends his time and money in the saloon kept by Slade, the man who took away Joe's mill and largely caused his financial ruin. Slade's saloon, when he first opened it, was well furnished, the landlord courteous and well groomed, and the customers happy and seemingly unaffected by their surroundings. But as time passed, a change for the worse was noted in everything. Probably this escaped Joe's notice, for a sharp shot, indeed, was needed to reform him. That shock came.

"Joe's only daughter, Mary, was in the habit of going to the saloon and piteously urging her father to come home. She knew that no matter how intoxicated he might be, he would never harm her. But one evening when she appeared her father and Slade had been quarreling, and the saloonkeeper threw a bottle at Morgan, who dodged. The missile struck the child, entering. The blow resulted fatally, but before Mary died, she extracted a promise from her grief-stricken father that he would never drink again, a promise which he ever-afterward kept. In later years Joe became wealthy and respected, and influenced by the thought of his daughter in heaven he kept in the straight and narrow path. The saloon keeper who killed Mary was never punished by the law - but through the irony of fate his taking off was much like that of Joe Morgan's helpless child."

 

REVIEW by H. Jeanval, The Moving Picture News, November 12, 1910:

"In Ten Nights in a Bar Room, the man who is leaving his home in poverty doesn't look it, and his wife is most emphatically not 'garbed in poverty.' Later on, whilst in dire distress, there are lace curtains on the windows. Facing starvation, 'mine Uncle' would have seen to that end."

Note: H. Jeanval wrote a column of film commentary apart from the review section of this periodical.

 

REVIEW by Walton, The Moving Picture News, November 12, 1910:

"This title would be completely misunderstood by the majority of moving picture show attendants. Some sporadic 'reformer' who does not know the original and who has never seen the film will fill 'space' on the iniquity of moving pictures founded on this title. If he did see the film it has not the necessary power to grapple with the terrible reality of a too common incident in daily life."

 

REVIEW, The New York Dramatic Mirror, November 9, 1910:

"It was to be supposed that some company would finally present this familiar drama in pictorial form, and a reviewer must feel glad that it is over, for the film doesn't materially exalt the level of film output. The narrative, of course, tells of the downfall of Jack Morgan through the curse of drink, the death of his daughter, and his reformation. The leading character portrayed the gradual degradation of Joe Morgan well, it must be admitted; and he appropriately added all the delirious trimmings to the death scene. His prosperity, attendant upon his foreswearing liquor, burst rather splendidly upon the spectator. Although the stage management was usually good, it was notable that in one scene - apparently in the evening - the heavy shadows fell toward the lamp instead of away from it. Mrs. Morgan's part was well filled, and the barroom scenes were well acted. The little girl indulged in some play to the camera which was quite superfluous."

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Copyright © 1995 Q. David Bowers. All Rights Reserved.