Over the course of one day in August 1912, the family of retired actor James Tyrone grapples with the morphine addiction of his wife Mary, the illness of their youngest son Edmund and the alcoholism and debauchery of their older son Jamie. As day turns into night, guilt, anger, despair, and regret threaten to destroy the family.Written by
Marc Andreu <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When James and Mary sit on the swinging bench, James' left hand jumps to his mouth. See more »
[Edmund has just recited a piece of poetry]
You recite it well... Who wrote it?
Never heard of him. Where you get your taste in authors...
[Motioning to Edmund's bookshelves]
This damned library of yours: Voltaire and Rousseau and Schopenhauer. And Ibsen... Atheists, fools and madmen! And your poet, this... "Baudelaire." And Swinburne, and Oscar Wilde. Whitman and Poe... Whoremongers and degenerates! When I've got three good sets of Shakespeare there you can read...
[...] See more »
Some prints of "Long Day's Journey Into Night" run 136 minutes, and are missing a number of scenes in the first 1/3 of the film, including the original opening scene, and a long exterior scene between Ralph Richardson and Jason Robards, containing dialogue crucial to the understanding of Katharine Hepburn's character. See more »
His full name was Eugene Gladstone O'Neill, and it sort of explains his background. Born in 1888, his father was James O'Neill, then one of the most promising actors on the American stage. The Gladstone represented (as did the O'Neill) the Irish heritage. O'Neill is an important name in Irish history - a proud name. The O'Neill family was an ancient aristocratic Irish family that ran (as Earls) the county of Tyrone. If you saw THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX / ELIZABETH THE QUEEN with Bette Davis and Errol Flynn, Flynn is sent to Ireland to put down a "revolt" led by Alan Hale, the Earl of Tyrone. Flynn fails in this. Historically Tyrone destroyed at least three English armies and their commanders (Essex was the second one) between 1590 and 1610. He was finally driven out of Ireland in defeat, but he was never forgotten by the Irish people for his bravery and leadership. The Gladstone was in honor of British Prime Minister William Gladstone, who supported (in 1888) Charles Stewart Parnell's Home Rule scheme for Ireland. James O'Neill (like most Irish Catholics) wanted to see his homeland free or self-governing.
I bring this out because the name given by Eugene O'Neill to his stage family (representing his own) is "Tyrone". This is a tip of the hat to his illustrious relative.
O'Neill had had a hard early life. A good looking young man, he had been driven to drink by the disintegration of his family. But he had sufficient stamina to pull himself together and make his name as a dramatist. In fact, to this day, he remains America's greatest dramatist. Much of his best writing (particularly in his last fifteen years) was based on autobiographical material that screamed for staging.
James O'Neill had (as said above) been a leading Shakespearean actor - a possible successor to Edwin Booth as the best one. But in the 1890s, with two living sons and a wife, O'Neill stumbled upon a hack melodramatic version of Alexandre Dumas Sr.'s THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. He soon was making fantastic (for that period) box office in that ramshackle play. He never stopped appearing in it. It was not unheard of (Joseph Jefferson, another actor of that period, kept returning to his role of RIP VAN WINKLE, and Frank Mayo to the play DAVY CROCKETT), but it ruined O'Neill as a Shakespearean. In the meantime, because O'Neill had been a poor man, he tended to do things cheaply to save money. When his wife gave birth to Eugene, it was a difficult birth and the doctor (a cheap one) used morphine to remove the pain. Mrs. O'Neill became hooked.
The oldest surviving son James or Jamie was a disappointment as a newspaper reporter, and became an alcoholic. A middle son named Edmund died in childhood (this is referred to in the movie as the dead middle son "Eugene", a clever switch of names by Eugene O'Neill between his dead baby brother's character and his own stage character. Also Eugene had become a seaman (which would give him material for many of his early plays), but had lived in a flop house (the background for the earlier masterpiece, THE ICEMAN COMETH), and developed tuberculosis (but managed to lick it).
All this has to be kept in mind when watching this film (or just seeing the play or reading it). The family life of Eugene O'Neill was a disaster, and he was honest enough to present it to the world in his last decade in this marvelous play - the first one about a truly dysfunctional family since KING LEAR, only this one is middle class. All four stars are superb in their roles - although to me the performance of Jason Robarts (who became the leading interpreter of O'Neill in the late 20th Century) is the best. Ralph Richardson manages to squeeze some needed humor out of the tightwad James Sr. Katherine Hepburn's performance as the drug addicted Mary Tyrone is heart breaking. Dean Stockwell manages to suggest that maybe he can still break out of this Greek Tragedy family, whose members succeed in impaling each other all the time.
Also take a moment to notice the fifth member of the cast, Jeanne Barr. Her performance as the maid Kathleen is usually not spoken of - but she does nicely in the scene with the drugged Hepburn,who is talking of how she gave up her two deepest wishes when she married Richardson. Ms Barr made only three appearances in film (this was her second), before dying in 1967 - the first cast member to pass away.
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