This is a movie that's a great, great classic movie, but also a great, great classic play. As a matter of fact, it's considered to be The Great American Play. "Long Day's Journey Into Night", a 1962 film directed by the legendary Sidney Lumet, and starring Oscar winners Katherine Hepburn and Jason Robards, and also Ralph Richardson and Dean Stockwell, is Eugene O'Neill's landmark 1941 play, complete and unabridged, filmed as a movie. Eugene O'Neill is considered to be the greatest American playwright of all time (he received the Nobel Prize for Literature), and drama scholars are in universal agreement about the fact that "Long Day's Journey Into Night" is the greatest play ever written by an American playwright (the play also earned O'Neill a Pulitzer Prize for Literature).
"Long Day's Journey Into Night" is the autobiographical story of O'Neill's Irish-American theatrical family: his parents James (Richardson) and Mary (Hepburn), his brother Jamie (Robards), and O'Neill himself (played by Stockwell in the movie). O'Neill's parents and brother Jamie were all professional stage actors, and O'Neill, of course, became a playwright. In the play, O'Neill changed the last name of the family from O'Neill to Tyrone, and the character that is him in the play is named Edmund and not Eugene. But O'Neill outright says in the preface of the play that all of the people in the play are his family and himself.
The history behind the publication of this play is fascinating. "Long Day's Journey Into Night" is a highly personal work that delves deep into the details of O'Neill's family and their lives and struggles. For this reason, O'Neill never intended the play to be published in his lifetime. As a matter of fact, he only wanted it to be published many, many years after his death. His plan was to have it published 25 years after his death. As a result, after the play was finished in 1942, O'Neill had a copy of it placed in a sealed vault at Random House with the instruction that it not be published until 25 years after his death. And he had legal documents drawn up that stipulated this. However, after his death in 1953, his wife, Carlotta Monterey, transferred the rights of the play to Yale University, thus skirting this agreement. As a result, "Long Day's Journey Into Night was published in 1956, only three years after his death, instead of 1978 as O'Neill wished it to be.
The play follows the Tyrone (O'Neill) family through one day in 1912 as they are gathered together in their Connecticut home. The whole family is highly dysfunctional, and there is a lot of drama, tension, high emotions, but also in places humor, even joy. The family clearly has its problems (to put it mildly!), but it is also quite clear that they love each other very much.
If you love the live theatre at all, then you absolutely need to see this play (in this case, the filmed play). It's the standard by which all American plays, past and present, are to be measured.
One note about this film: Whereas some movies that are also plays have screenplays BASED ON the original play, but often with a screenplay by a totally different screenwriter and not by the original playwright, that is NOT the case here. This IS the original Eugene O'Neill play, complete and unabridged; the screenplay IS the original stage play.
The filmed version of "Long Day's Journey Into Night" received high critical acclaim, just as the stage play did. The review website Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 93% Fresh rating. And Katherine Hepburn was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for this film.
Due to the length of this movie, just under three hours, there will be no double feature this time, just this one. But it's a good one!
Mike Ivie's Cine Mike home movie theatre, with its large screen projection DVD player and plush media chairs, is a delightful, fun place to see movies. There will be lots of yummy snacks and plenty of opportunities to meet new people and just be with people who love the cinema and the stage. So come join us!