The Struggle plus A Drunkard's Reformation and What Drink Did
D.W. Griffith's second talkie proved to be his last film; when it was released in 1931, it was seen by a Depression audience as something from a bygone era. But several current Griffith scholars have argued the merits of The Struggle, a film which Griffith made on a small budget with his own money in order to avoid studio interference. Ironically, the film was re-cut after its disastrous commercial reception, and Griffith, discouraged and in debt, retreated altogether from the public eye.
The Struggle was intended by Griffith to be an argument for tolerance and sanity on the subject of alcohol - to show the evils not of alcohol, but of Prohibition. The film which developed, however - the story of an alcoholic's struggle to give up drink, his decline, and the effect of this on his family - was received more as a statement against alcohol use (a topic which had seen its day) than as what it was: a rather detailed and realistic account of the larger economic reasons as well as the small, daily frustrations which “drive a man to drink.”
Griffith re-creates the working class New York milieu of his own years of financial struggle - “its cluttered streets, shabby stores, and poverty-stricken faces.... To Griffith's realistic eye, the city was not Fifth Avenue or Madison Avenue.... Besides the accurate settings, he also included some of the city's ethnic types.... The film was honest and sincere, and, except for the almost obligatory happy ending, was very un-Hollywoodish; it had no false glamour, no ‘beautiful' people, and no consciously artistic lighting and photography.... Certainly The Struggle...is one of the best of Griffith's later pictures.” --Arthur Lenning, in “The Films of D.W. Griffith”