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The Long Voyage Home (1940) is an Americanmarker drama film and directed by John Ford. It features John Wayne, Thomas Mitchell, Ian Hunter, Barry Fitzgerald, Wilfrid Lawson, John Qualen, Mildred Natwick, Ward Bond, among others.

The film was adapted by Dudley Nichols from the plays The Moon of the Caribees, In The Zone, Bound East for Cardiff, and The Long Voyage Home by Eugene O'Neill. The original plays by Eugene O'Neill were written around the time of World War I and were among his earliest plays. Ford set the story for the motion picture, however, during World War II.

The picture tells the story of the crew and passengers aboard a freighter.


The film tells the story of the crew aboard an Englishmarker cargo ship named the SS Glencairn, during World War II, on the long voyage home from the West Indies to Baltimore and then to England. The ship carries a cargo of high-explosives.

On liberty, after a night of drinking in bars in the West Indiesmarker, the crew returns to the tramp steamer and set sail for Baltimore.

They're a motley group: a middle-aged Irishman Driscoll (Thomas Mitchell), a young Swedishmarker ex-farmer Ole Olsen (John Wayne), the spiteful steward Cocky (Barry Fitzgerald); the brooding Lord Jim-like Englishmanmarker Smitty (Ian Hunter), and others.

After the ship picks up a load of dynamite in Baltimoremarker, the rough seas they encounter become nerve-racking to the crew.

They're also concerned that Smitty might be a Germanmarker spy because he's secretive. After they force Smitty to show them his letters from home it turns out that Smitty is an alcoholic who has run away from his family. When they near port a German plane attacks the ship, killing Smitty in a burst of machine gun fire. The rest of the crew members decide not to sign on for another voyage on the Glencairn and go ashore, determined to help Ole return to his family in Sweden who he has not seen in ten years. At a seedy bar Ole is tricked into taking a drugged drink and he is shanghaied aboard another ship, the Amindra. Driscoll and the rest of the crew rescue him from the ship, but Driscoll is accidentally left behind in the confusion. As the crew straggles back to the Glencairn the next morning to sign on for another voyage, they learn that the Amindra was sunk by German torpedoes, killing all on board.


Critical reception

Critic Bosley Crowther, film critic for The New York Times, liked the screenplay, the message of the film, and John Ford's direction, and wrote, "John Ford has truly fashioned a modern Odyssey—a stark and tough-fibered motion picture which tells with lean economy the never-ending story of man's wanderings over the waters of the world in search of peace for his is harsh and relentless and only briefly compassionate in its revelation of man's pathetic shortcomings. But it is one of the most honest pictures ever placed upon the screen; it gives a penetrating glimpse into the hearts of little men and, because it shows that out of human weakness there proceeds some nobility, it is far more gratifying than the fanciest hero-worshiping fare."

The staff at Variety magazine wrote, "Combining dramatic content of four Eugene O'Neill one-act plays, John Ford pilots adventures of a tramp steamer from the West Indies to an American port, and then across the Atlantic with cargo of high explosives. Picture is typically Fordian, his direction accentuating characterizations and adventures of the voyage."

Critic Dennis Schwartz appreciated the acting ensemble in the film and wrote, "The film was too stagebound to be effective cinema, but it scores points in its unsentimental portrait of the loser life of the lonely and desperate merchant seamen. These same misfits, who don't fit the image of heroes, nevertheless come through as men who do their duty when the chips are down and prove they will fight for their country even though it's not necessarily for patriotic reasons."



  • Academy Awards: Oscar; Best Black-and-White Cinematography, Gregg Toland; Best Special Effects, R.T. Layton (photographic), Ray Binger (photographic) and Thomas T. Moulton (sound); Best Film Editing, Sherman Todd; Best Original Score, Richard Hageman; Best Picture, John Ford; Best Screenplay Writing, Dudley Nichols; 1941.

Influence on other works of art

Phil Ochs composed his song "Pleasures of the Harbor" after watching a 1966 revival cinema screening of the film at a Los Angeles theater. The song became the title track of Ochs' first album for A&M Records in October 1967.


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