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Long Day's Journey Into Night

Long Day's Journey Into Night(1962)

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teaser Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962)

Based on the autobiographical play by Eugene O'Neill, Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962) is an intense, harrowing look at a troubled family. Father James Tyrone, an actor living on past glories, is a tightwad; the mother is a drug addict; one son is a cynical failed actor and alcoholic, the other a tubercular writer. The film was a faithful adaptation of the three-hour play, produced on a shoestring budget with a superb cast. It was directed by Sidney Lumet, who rehearsed the cast, theater-style, for three weeks, and made no attempt to "open it up" and make it more filmic.

O'Neill had planned to write a series of nine autobiographical plays, but only wrote three of them before his death in 1953. He had stipulated that he didn't want Long Day's Journey Into Night, which he called "a work of old sorrow, written in tears and blood," to be produced until 25 years after his death. But just three years later, his widow permitted a production, starring Fredric March and his wife Florence Eldridge as the Tyrone parents, and Jason Robards and Bradford Dillman as the sons.

For the film version, Robards reprised the role of the elder son, Jamie. Over the years, Robards became one of the leading interpreters of O'Neill, appearing in productions of all three of the Tyrone family plays: Long Day's Journey Into Night, A Touch of Poet, and A Moon for the Misbegotten, as well as several other O'Neill plays. He played both James Tyrone, Jr. in his youth, and James Tyrone, Sr. later in life.

Katharine Hepburn was offered the part of Mary Tyrone in Long Day's Journey Into Night, and jumped at it, even though it would be made on a tight budget, and she would be paid far below her usual fee. The one hesitation she had was leaving Spencer Tracy, who was seriously ill and dependent on her. But she offered the producers a solution: Tracy, who had not been onstage since the early 1930's, had been talking for years about appearing in an O'Neill play. He could play James Tyrone, Sr. Hepburn invited Producer Ely Landau to meet with Tracy, who immediately had all sorts of reasons for refusing, among them that they were offering too little money, and that he was a movie actor, not a stage actor. The truth was that Tracy was notoriously insecure, his health was very poor, and he was not up to the rigors of the role. Instead, British actor Ralph Richardson was cast as the father, but Hepburn decided to stay and honor her commitment. Former child actor Dean Stockwell, who had recently revived his film career with excellent performances in Compulsion (1959) and Sons and Lovers (1960), was cast as the younger son, Edmund, and more than held his own with his powerful co-stars.

Long Day's Journey Into Night was a true ensemble piece, and each of the actors earned their share of raves. All four were awarded Best Actor and Actress honors at the Cannes Film Festival, and Hepburn earned her ninth Best Actress Academy Award nomination. It was probably the best performance of her career. According to critic Pauline Kael, Hepburn had become "our greatest tragedienne." In her memoirs, Hepburn demurred: "One could never be better than the part. O'Neill's knowledge of people, and his analysis of that couple, was really thrilling. I just had to think and to concentrate and to read the lines. I felt entirely supported by the words. What an experience! I'll never forget it."

Director: Sidney Lumet
Producer: Ely Landau, Jack J. Dreyfus, Jr.
Screenplay: based on the play by Eugene O'Neill
Cinematography: Boris Kaufman
Editor: Ralph Rosenblum
Costume Design: Motley
Art Direction: Richard Sylbert
Music: Andre Previn
Cast: Katharine Hepburn (Mary Tyrone), Ralph Richardson (James Tyrone, Sr.), Jason Robards, Jr. (James Tyrone, Jr.), Dean Stockwell (Edmund Tyrone), Jeanne Barr (Cathleen).
BW-171m.

by Margarita Landazuri

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