The Long Voyage Home
Drama / War
Directed by John Ford
Written by Eugene O’Neill and Dudley Nichols
Produced by John Ford
Cinematography by Gregg Toland
Distributed by United Artists
John Wayne as Ole Olson
Thomas Mitchell as Driscoll
Ian Hunter as Smitty
Barry Fitzgerald as Cocky
Wilfrid Lawson as Captain
Mildred Natwick as Freda
John Qualen as Axel
Ward Bond as Yank
Arthur Shields as Donkey man
Joseph Sawyer as Davis
J. M. Kerrigan as Limehouse Crimp
A saga of Merchant Marines that become embroiled in the conflict at the beginning of World War II, the crew of the Glencairn must fight against both man and nature to make it home safely. The Glencairn has just completed the first leg of its journey, travelling from the West Indies to Baltimore before the perilous Atlantic crossing home to England. In Baltimore, the crew loads a shipment of munitions, making the ship a target for the Nazis. The crew is very nervous about the cargo, and the implications of carrying it but look to their Captain, Ole Olson, to get them through safely.
Shortly into the trip a fierce storm strikes, and one of the crew, Yank, is tossed about on the deck, and killed. When they begin nearing England, one of their shipmates, Smitty, has become more and more aloof, and the paranoid crew begins to suspect him of sending signals to the Nazis. Smitty is forced to admit his aloofness is from his shame at his drinking problem, and the relieved crew convinces him that he should return to his wife and child when they reach land. However that is not to be as Smitty is killed when a Nazi plane strafes the deck.
The crew reaches port safely, but it seems their adventure is not over when the captain, Ole, is captured on his way home to see his aging mother and shanghaied to serve on the Arnindra. The crew rescues the captain but Driscoll stays behind to serve in Ole’s place. As the Glencairn sets out to sea again, the crew discovers that the Arnindra was sunk by a Nazi torpedo.
The script was adapted by blending four plays from writer Eugene O’Neil; The Moon of the Caribees, In the Zone, Bound East for Cardiff, and The Long Voyage Home.
Although the film was nominated for six Academy Awards, it won none.
Wayne was apprehensive about playing a Swedish character, but John Ford convinced him to take the role. Wayne was coached by Danish actress Osa Massen. Ford later complemented Wayne for how he handled the accent.
Eugene O’Neil was very pleased with how the film came out, wearing out the reel on the print that John Ford gave him.
Two actors, Barry Fitzgerald (Cocky) and Arthur Shields (Donkeyman), are actual brothers.
The character of Donkeyman gets his nickname from being the sole mechanic of the ship’s 'Donkey' engine.
As publicity for the movie, Producer Walter Wanger commissioned a series of paintings of the cast to be done by well known artists at the time. The paintings were displayed in Time magazine before going on tour at 23 art museums in 1940.