The Struggle (1931 film)

The Struggle is a 1931 American pre-Code feature film directed by D. W. Griffith. It was his only other full-sound film besides Abraham Lincoln (1930). After several films directed by Griffith failed at the box office, The Struggle was Griffith's last film. The film was made primarily at the Audio-Cinema studios in the Bronx, New York with some outdoor filming on the streets of the Bronx.[3]

The Struggle
Theatrical release poster
Directed byD. W. Griffith
Produced byD. W. Griffith
Written byJohn Emerson
Anita Loos
D. W. Griffith (uncredited)
Based onThe Drunkard by Emile Zola
StarringHal Skelly
Zita Johann
Charles Richman
Helen Mack
Music byD.W. Griffith (uncredited)
Philip A. Scheib (uncredited)
CinematographyJoseph Ruttenberg
Edited byBarney Rogan
United Artists
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • December 10, 1931 (1931-12-10)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box officeless than $100,000[1][2]

The Struggle stars Hal Skelly, Zita Johann, Charles Richman, and in her film debut, Helen Mack. Longtime Griffith actress Kate Bruce made her final film appearance in this film as Granny, and this was also the final film for Claude Cooper.


The film contains a preface with the following paragraphs:

This story is a true narrative, based on actual fact, mirroring what is happening to thousands of families throughout the land.

While "THE STRUGGLE" is a powerful indictment of bootleg liquor, emphasizing its devastating effect on American Youth, it is not presented as a preachment either for or against Prohibition.

The picture however, does raise these questions:

If Prohibition is the success that people claim it is, how could all these things have happened?

Is man's struggle against intemperance controllable by law, or is it solely a matter of individual character?

The story then begins in 1911 and extends into the Prohibition era. Jimmie got into the habit of drinking (bootleg liquor) partly due to the Prohibition law. When he falls in love with and proposes to Florrie, he makes a vow "not to take another drink". The young couple gets married, has a daughter and enjoys a happy family life until Jimmie starts drinking again due to circumstances. As Jimmie descends into alcoholism, his family falls into disarray. His sister Nan is forced to break off engagement with Johnny due to Jimmie's alcohol-fueled bad behavior. Finally, Florrie manages to save the family and nurtures Jimmie back to his feet. Nan and Johnny are reunited.[4]



The film was inspired in part by Griffith's own battles with alcoholism. He partly funded it with a 1929 tax refund that had been invested in stocks that did well despite the Depression. Shooting took place from July to August 1931.[1]


The film received poor reviews and was not a success at the box office. In 1935 United Artists considered re-releasing the film but could not get a Code Seal from the Breen Office unless cuts were made, so decided not to do it. In 1940 another distributor B.A. Mills considered re-releasing it under the title Ten Nights in a Barroom but encountered similar difficulties. Griffith never made another movie although he did marry an actress from the film, Evelyn Baldwin.[1]

See also


  1. Nat Segaloff, Final Cuts: The Last Films of 50 Great Directors, Bear Manor Media 2013 p 123-125
  2. Balio, Tino (2009). United Artists: The Company Built by the Stars. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0-299-23004-3. p87
  3. IMDB entry
  4. New York Times review of DVD set of Griffith films (November 18, 2008)
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