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Aboard the freighter Glencairn, the lives of the crew are lived out in fear, loneliness, suspicion and cameraderie. The men smuggle drink and women aboard, fight with each other, spy on each other, comfort each other as death approaches, and rescue each other from danger. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
Nice blend of O'Neill, Nichols, and a touch of Ford
The Long Voyage Home is a compilation film of four one act plays by Eugene O'Neill who some will argue is America's greatest dramatist. The man who did the stitching together of O'Neill's work about the crew of the S.S. Glencairn is Dudley Nichols and presiding over it all is the direction of John Ford.
Mr. Ford is usually someone who really puts an individual stamp on one of his movies. But the usual Ford trademarks are noticeably absent from The Long Voyage Home. Probably in mood and style the film of Ford's this comes closest to is The Informer. In fact J.M. Kerrigan is playing almost the same part in this as he did in The Informer.
One thing Ford always did was use the right kind of music to set the tone for a film. Those 19th century ballads like I Dream of Jeannie that work so well in something like Stagecoach are substituted for Harbor Lights. That song expresses so well the longing of a whole bunch of rootless men to find some kind of stability in their lives.
Eugene O'Neill spent many years at sea and the characters of these men on the S.S. Glencairn are drawn from his own youthful experience. Most of our planet is covered by water and no country owns it. It's just called the high seas and the seamen on it are an international fraternity, like the S.S. Glencairn crew. I've always felt that O'Neill was trying to say that if there's any salvation to be had in this old world, it's to be found on the salt water. It's the only place where all kinds of people really work for a common goal, stay alive and make the trip.
The original plays had a World War I background, but it has been updated for World War II. Especially in the part when the crew becomes convinced that Ian Hunter is some kind of spy. Certainly the second World War in 1940 gave the audiences some real interest. Ian Hunter may have given his career performance in this as Smitty. Turns out he's far from what everyone suspects.
Hard to believe that John Wayne would be in a film by one of our greatest dramatists. But the Duke holds his own in the ensemble. It's the only time he ever attempted some kind of accent and he pulls it off. But I'm sure he thought once was enough.
Wayne as Olsen is the innocent of the group, maybe the only time he's ever been that on the screen. The rest of the crew makes every effort to see he does in fact get home to Sweden. It turns out to cost one of them his life ultimately.
If you're any kind of depressed, The Long Voyage Home or any Eugene O'Neill is not good for your mental health. He's one pessimistic fellow that O'Neill. But his insights into our character and soul are always penetrating as they are in The Long Voyage Home.
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