Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Filmed theatre: Long Day's Journey Into Night

Author Eugene O'Neill gives an autobiographical account of his explosive homelife, fused by a drug-addicted mother, a father who wallows in drink after realizing he is no longer a famous actor and an older brother who is emotionally unstable and a misfit. The family is reflected by the youngest son, who is a sensitive and aspiring writer. 

LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT is the big one, a long, searing drama by Eugene O'Neill, which can be tough to watch for almost three hours. It was hardly seen at all for a long time, as the 1962 film had a very limited release then, despite its cast of 4 getting best actor awards at the Cannes Film Festival. 

It is Sidney Lumet again, and Katharine Hepburn again - see below for A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE and A DELICATE BALANCE
The great Kate is mesmerising here in maybe her finest performance as Mary Tyrone the mother who descends into morphine addiction over the course of that long day. Ralph Richardson too is a perfect choice here - Fredric March had played it on the stage - and the two sons are Jason Robards as the wayward older son, and Dean Stockwell as the sensitive younger one. It is perhaps as searing a drama as WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? or A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE in the American theatre pantheon, and of course O'Neill's THE ICEMAN COMETH (the 1958 film of O'Neill's DESIRE UNDER THE ELMS with Loren in her first American made film, Perkins and a totally over the top Burl Ives, does not work at all, looking now like overheated trash). As a film LONG DAY'S JOURNEY is one of Lumet's best - his ALL ABOUT EVE perhaps, though not as witty as the Mankiewicz classic, but as iconic in its own right.

Richardson excels as the father unable to help his family - a penny-pinching famous old actor, whose wife Mary is being lost to drug addiction, as he was too cheap to pay for proper medical treatment. This is Hepburn's most intense, frightening role and she gives herself completely to it - when we see her in LION IN WINTER or SUMMERTIME we can see her acting and enjoy her all the more, but this harrowing role is different as she captures every facet of it. It was her only screen work between 1959's SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER and 1967's GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER when we young movie buffs fell in love with her, despite that hokey film, after her long absence, as this 1962 film was not available then. Stockwell and Robards are note-perfect too. Here O'Neill shows us his dysfunctional family, like Tennessee Williams does in his great works. 
Lumet sometimes misfires as with his film of THE SEA GULL in 1968 - as per recent review, Lumet label - but here he is in sure command of the material and it shows.

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