American Experience: Season 18, Episode 9

Eugene O'Neill: A Documentary Film (21 Mar. 2006)

TV Episode  |   |  Documentary, History
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Reviews: 3 user

The life and career of American playwright Eugene O'Neill.


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Title: Eugene O'Neill: A Documentary Film (21 Mar 2006)

Eugene O'Neill: A Documentary Film (21 Mar 2006) on IMDb 8.4/10

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Episode credited cast:
Robert Brustein ...
Herself / Mary Tyrone
Arthur Gelb ...
Barbara Gelb ...
Himself / Edmund Tyrone
Himself / James Tyrone Jr.
Himself / Hickey
Narrator / James Tyrone
Don Parritt (archive footage)
Herself / Mary Tyrone
Lloyd Richards ...


Eugene O'Neill tells the haunting story of the life and work of America's greatest and only Nobel Prize-winning playwright -- set within the context of the harrowing family dramas and personal upheavals that shaped him, and that he in turn struggled all his life to give form to in his art. More than a biography of the greatest literary genius the American theater has produced, this American Experience production is a moving meditation on loss and redemption, family and memory, the cost of being an artist, and the inescapability of the past. It is also a penetrating exploration of the masterpieces O'Neill created only at the very end of his career -- "The Iceman Cometh" and "Long Day's Journey Into Night" pre-eminent among them -- brought to life in mesmerizing scenes performed especially for the production by some of the most gifted actors working in theater today, including Al Pacino, Zoe Caldwell, Christopher Plummer, Robert Sean Leonard, Liam Neeson, and Vanessa Redgrave. (taken ... Written by

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Interesting survey of O'Neill's life and mental state, but repetitive of various points.
31 August 2006 | by (Jacksonville, Oregon, USA) – See all my reviews

This well produced survey of the tormented life of a man whom many consider America's greatest play wright suffers perhaps from the zeal of the director and writer. O'Neill's biography is constantly interspersed with repeated descriptions of his tormented mental state, sometimes using the exact words of a previous commenter. There are a number of film clips of various actors reading from O'Neill plays, and these are sometimes repeated verbatim. It looks like a bit of re-editing would have created a shorter documentary with the same impact.

If you have the patience to tolerate what I have described above, and found annoying, it remains a documentary well worth viewing. It could lead to a better understanding of the psyche of Eugene O'Neill. If you would rather let O'Neill speak for himself, just view his latter day great plays, especially MOURNING BECOMES ELEKTRA, A LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, and A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN. Another alternative is to view the 1985 PBS documentary "Eugene O'Neill: a Glory of Ghosts". Since it was part of the American Masters series, beginning in 1983, it may be hard to find.

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