The Drunkard

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Poster for a 1938 production by the Federal Theatre Project

The Drunkard; or, The Fallen Saved is an American temperance play first performed in 1844.[1] A drama in five acts, it was perhaps the most popular play produced in the United States before the dramatization of Uncle Tom's Cabin [2] in the 1850s. In New York City, P.T. Barnum presented it at his American Museum in a run of over 100 performances.[3] It was among the first of the American temperance plays, and remained the most popular of them until it was eclipsed in 1858 by T. S. Arthur's Ten Nights in a Bar-Room.[2]

The primary writer of the play was William H. Smith, who also directed and starred in the original production in Boston in the 1844–45 season.[1][2] Smith was the stage manager at Moses Kimball's Boston Museum and a recovered alcoholic.[2] An anonymous collaborator, believed to have been Unitarian minister John Pierpont, co-wrote the script.[2]

In the 20th century[edit]

A production of The Drunkard opened at the Theatre Mart in Los Angeles in 1933 and ran for 36 years. At one point, Boris Karloff suggested adding an olio, a musical number following the performance, played in front of a olio drop.[4]

The dated melodrama of Smith's play made it a target of parody in films. In 1934, a production of The Drunkard was featured to comic effect in the W. C. Fields film The Old Fashioned Way.[5] The following year, James Murray and Clara Kimball Young starred in a film called The Drunkard, a comedy-drama in which two theatrical producers present the play as a farce with their needy relatives in the cast.[6][7] In 1940, Buster Keaton starred in another film parody, The Villain Still Pursued Her.[8]

A musical adaptation of the play by the British writer Brian J. Burton, The Drunkard or Down With the Demon Drink, was published in 1968 and has been performed several times since.[9][10]

Another version of the play, adapted by Richard Mansfield Dickinson, has been performed every Saturday night beginning on November 14, 1953[11] at the Tulsa Spotlight Theatre, located in Tulsa, Oklahoma; the company claims that this is the longest-running stage production in America.[12][13]

Characters and 1844 cast[edit]

Another poster for the Federal Theatre Project production
  • Edward Middleton....Mr. W. H. Smith
  • Lawyer Cribbs....G. H. Wyatt
  • William Dowton....C. W. Hunt
  • Farmer Gates....C. H. Saunders
  • Farmer Stevens....G. Howard
  • Old Johnson....G. E. Locke
  • Sam....S. Adams
  • First Loafer....J. Adams
  • Second Loafer....Thompson
  • Mr. Rencelaw....G. C. Germon
  • Landlord....Harris
  • Bar Keeper....Willard
  • Watchman....Coad
  • Mary Wilson....Mrs. G. C. Germon
  • Agnes Dowton, a Maniac....Thoman
  • Mrs. Wilson....Woodward
  • Patience....C. W. Hunt
  • Julia....Miss A. Phillips
  • Villagers, Loafers, Watchmen, &c.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b "The Drunkard: Author's preface (1850 edition) in Uncle Tom's Cabin & American Culture: A Multi-media Archive on the University of Virginia website
  2. ^ a b c d e "The Drunkard" in Uncle Tom's Cabin & American Culture: A Multi-media Archive on the University of Virginia website
  3. ^ Burrows, Edwin G. & Wallace, Mike (1999). Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195116348.  p.815
  4. ^ Counter, B. "The Drunkard at Theatre Mart" on the Los Angeles Theatres website
  5. ^ The Old Fashioned Way at the Internet Movie Database
  6. ^ Box Office, June 8, 1935: p. 29 seen at
  7. ^ The Drunkard (1935) at the Internet Movie Database
  8. ^ Mitchell, C. (2004). Filmography of Social Issues: A Reference Guide. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-32037-3. p. 4.
  9. ^ "Brian J. Burton" on
  10. ^ The Drunkard, Music Theatre International, accessed July 31, 2013
  11. ^
  12. ^ "History of the building" on the Tulsa Spotlight Theatre website
  13. ^ Regan Henson, "In On The Act", Oklahoma Magazine, January 2012.

External links[edit]