Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962)

Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Written by Eugene O’Neill
First Company
Repeat viewing/YouTube


“The fog was where I wanted to be. Halfway down the path you can’t see this house. You’d never know it was here. Or any of the other places down the avenue. I couldn’t see but a few feet ahead. I didn’t meet a soul. Everything looked and sounded unreal. Nothing was what it is. That’s what I wanted—to be alone with myself in another world where truth is untrue and life can hide from itself. Out beyond the harbor, where the road runs along the beach, I even lost the feeling of being on land. The fog and the sea seemed part of each other. It was like walking on the bottom of the sea. As if I had drowned long ago. As if I was the ghost belonging to the fog, and the fog was the ghost of the sea. It felt damned peaceful to be nothing more than a ghost within a ghost.” ― Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey Into Night


This faithful adaptation of the play is  filled with great acting and poetry.

Everyone in the Tyrone family is struggling with an addiction except youngest son Edmund (Dean Stockwell).  Ironically, he is the one who is dying.  It is a dysfunctional family where every one lies to each other and, more significantly, to themselves.  All the men have drinking problems to one degree or another but focus their attention on mother Mary (Katharine Hepburn) who is unsuccessfully struggling to overcome a morphine addiction acquired after giving birth to Edmund.  She is lost in the past.

Father James (Ralph Richardson) is a would-be Shakespearean actor who wound up appearing in the same melodrama over and over.  Both son Jamie (Jason Robards Jr.) and Edmund resent him mightily for being a tightwad.  James spends as little time as possible in the company of his wife.

Jamie acts when he can but spends much of his time boozing and whoring.  At the moment though he is doing odd jobs for his father.  He is quite the cynic.  The story takes place from morning to deep in the night of the day in which Edmund is to receive his diagnosis.

The film is a verbatim performance of the play which Lumet opened up somewhat to work cinematically.  It takes place over the course of a single day.  All the performances are wonderful, with Hepburn managing to trump the others including my beloved Ralph Richardson.  She is both radiant and tragic at once.  It’s a depressing story with no resolution but still well worth seeing.  Highly recommended.

Hepburn was Oscar-nominated as Best Actress.