The Long Voyage Home, a classic directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne, is a screen adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's four S.S. Glencairn sea plays. Dudley Nichols' adaptation sets the scene at the beginning of World War Two. Though the DVD jacket for The Long Voyage Home hints at a war movie by focusing on perhaps twenty or so minutes of the play (granted the most dramatic ones) this is much more of a human drama than a war movie.
The story of The Long Voyage Home focuses on the crew of the S.S. Glencairn. The leader of this crew is Drisk, a man everyone looks up to. Drisk is played by Thomas Mitchell, part of the John Ford players, a great American character actor who was in the classic war movie The Fighting Sullivans, Uncle Billy in It's A Wonderful Life, and who won an Academy Award in 1940 for another John Ford / John Wayne classic, Stagecoach. John Wayne plays the very secondary role of Ole Olsen, a Swede (and Wayne sometimes remembers that) who longs to go back home to his farm in Sweden but always manages to find a job as crew on a freighter. The rest of the characters in this human drama are easily recognizable as type characters commonly seen on stage: the old philosopher, the man who always manages to overhear important conversations, and so on.
Eugene O'Neill's story is basically an easily understood metaphor for life itself. The men of the Glencairn are all looking for passage to where they belong. For many of them, like ship philosopher Donkeyman, home is the sea. For others, home is somewhere they are still looking for. The Long Voyage Home is basically about finding your place and, by the end of the movie, some have and some have not.
This is a moody movie by John Ford with a few brilliant moments here and there. The scene involving the storm at sea as the ship makes its way to England (with enough dynamite in its hold to blow it up) is simply brilliant and powerful. The war movie part takes up only a few minutes and is more about rumors and jumping to conclusion than any actual combat. In the end, the war is simply another thing the men must worry about as they sail for their destination and destinies.
The Long Voyage Home is a good if a bit long human drama. The extra feature is a short documentary on John Ford's interest in sailing and rather interesting for fans of the director.
This movie is available individually or part of the really cool John Ford / John Wayne collection that also includes The Searchers, Fort Apache, Stagecoach, The Wings of Eagles, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon,The Godfathers, and They Were Expendable.
Other John Ford Reviews
They Were Expendable: Classic war movie by John Ford starring John Wayne
The Wings Of Eagles: Biography of Frank Spig Wead. John Wayne does comedy.
John Wayne - John Ford Film Collection: The ultimate collection of John Wayne and John Ford in one boxed set.
Stagecoach: A great western movie classic.
Fort Apache: A classic cavalry movie starring Henry Fonda
She Wore A Yellow Ribbon: Captain Nathan Brittles, on the eve of retirement, takes out a last patrol to stop an impending massive Indian attack.
The Searchers: Simply one of the finest old style western movies John Wayne ever appeared in.
3 Godfathers: Three outlaws on the run discover a dying woman and her baby. They swear to bring the infant to safety across the desert, even at the risk of their own lives.