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.
John Wayne ... Ole Olsen
Thomas Mitchell ... Aloysius \'Drisk\' Driscoll
Ian Hunter ... Smitty Smith, an alias of Thomas Fenwick
Barry Fitzgerald ... Cocky
Wilfrid Lawson ... Captain
John Qualen ... Axel Swanson
Mildred Natwick ... Freda
Ward Bond ... Yank
Arthur Shields ... Donkeyman
Joe Sawyer ... Davis (as Joseph Sawyer)
J.M. Kerrigan ... Nick, Limehouse Crimp
Rafaela Ottiano ... Bella, a Tropical Woman
Carmen Morales ... Principal Spanish Girl
Jack Pennick ... Johnny Bergman
John Wayne is misleadingly top-billed ,presumably to bring in the crowds who thought they were going to see typical Wayne heroics in this one.He is actually part of an excellent ensemble cast in this film,which has seamlessly adapted by Dudley Nichols from a group of one-act plays by the great Eugene O\'Neill. Nichols\' writing is so good that unless you\'re an O\'Neill expert,it is VERY difficult to tell where O\'Neill leaves off and Nichols takes over,except perhaps in the episode involving British actor Ian Hunter (in the performance of a lifetime) as a presumed German spy. The plays,written in the early 1900\'s,have been updated to take place during WW II,but the propaganda angle is very tastefully handled and almost non-existent;in fact,here Nichols and director John Ford show great respect for the integrity of O\'Neill\'s plays.
The cast is excellent,but Wayne actually hasn\'t got much to do in comparison with his other films,and this is a film of dialogue,not action.Perhaps that\'s why the previous reviewer found it interminable. [John Wayne uses a Swedish (!) accent in this movie,which he actually does quite well--don\'t laugh!] The most intense acting is done by Thomas Mitchell (Scarlett O\'Hara\'s dad in \"Gone With The Wind\") and Barry Fitzgerald,who are actually the stars of the movie.And director John Ford shows us what a true master of his craft he is by equalling Hitchcock\'s accomplishment in \"Lifeboat\" in keeping the action confined to a small space without making it seem tiresome. The back-and-white photography is stunningly good--the best American photography in a black-and-white 1940\'s American film,aside from \"Citizen Kane\",of course.
John Wayne fans shouldn\'t pass this one up,and all non-fans should still enjoy this fine film.
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.
The Long Voyage home is not a typical film from this period. It differs in that it focuses on an ensemble cast instead of on a star. That\'s common nowadays, but not back then. Ford\'s Stagecoach, made the previous year, had quite an ensemble cast, but the film was always focused on Ringo and Dallas. Here, John Wayne is just one of the stars. Thomas Mitchell, who played Doc Washburn in Stagecoach, has a role that\'s as big as Wayne\'s in Voyage. Others are as prominent.
The plot is also pretty tenuous and episodic. And, unlike most films of the time, the focus was not on a goal, but just on the events and lives of the seaman aboard the Glencairn. We see them sail through the war-torn Atlantic, between the U.S. and Europe. They have fun, they fight, they talk about home. It\'s all rather gentle and beautiful, very subtle. The script is great, which is probably due to Eugene O\'Neil, for of whose plays this film is based on (they are blended together seamlessly).
The actors are marvelous. Mitchell and Wayne are probably the best known, but there are also Ian Hunter, Barry Fitzgerald, John Qualen, Ward Bond, Mildred Natwick, and many other great character actors. John Wayne was probably the draw, considering how popular Stagecoach had made him, but, as I said, his role is not out in the front. In fact, he doesn\'t have many lines. His schtick is that he is a Swede who can\'t speak English well, so he is generally pretty quiet (Wayne can\'t muster the best Swedish accent, either, so that\'s kind of a good thing!). He has one great scene where he has some long bits of dialogue. But even without the dialogue, he emotes so well in his face. I knew his character intimately by the end of the film. We don\'t often think of Wayne as a great actor, but he certainly was. Although The Searchers probably contains his best role, The Long Voyage Home would certainly be worth a major mention when talking about his career.
If you could say that there is a single \"star\" of this film, that would have to be Greg Tolland. Of course, he photographed Citizen Kane in the next year, as well as Ford\'s Best Picture winning How Green Was My Valley and The Grapes of Wrath. The cinematography is some of the most impressive to be found in the American cinema. John Ford himself is just as much the star of The Long Voyage Home. He definitely put his heart into this one. The direction is beautiful, artful. It is as good here as it is in The Grapes of Wrath, My Darling Clementine, and The Searchers, that is, it is one of his very best films, if not THE best. To date, it\'s the only Ford film that made me shed tears.
* John Wayne was asked by director John Ford to play the part of Ole Olson, who was Swedish. Wayne wasn\'t sure he could pull off the Swedish accent and was worried that the audience would laugh. Ford persuaded him to take the role.
* \"Bound East for Cardiff\" opened in Provincetown, Massachusetts on 28 July 1916. \"In the Zone\" opened in New York on 31 October 1917. \"The Long Voyage Home\" opened in New York on 2 November 1917. \"The Moon of the Caribees\" opened in New York on 20 December 1918.
* Writer Dudley Nichols had to distill four of \'Eugene O\'Neill (I)\' \'s one-act plays into one cohesive screenplay.
* Initially resistant to the idea of working with a Swedish accent, John Wayne was instructed by Danish actress Osa Massen. John Ford later complimented Wayne on his handling of the accent.
* Eugene O\'Neill\'s favorite film. John Ford gave him a print of it, which O\'Neill wore out.
* The first spoken dialogue occurs nearly five minutes into the film.
* The name of Arthur Shields\' character, \"Donkeyman\", is a nickname for the job he performed, the sole caretaker of the ship\'s single-piston \"Donkey\" engine.
* Barry Fitzgerald, who plays the character of Cocky, and Arthur Shields, who played Donkeyman, were brothers in real life. They also appeared together in director John Ford\'s The Quiet Man (1952).