The Long Voyage Home (1940)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - War Drama  |   Release Date - Oct 8, 1940 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Michael Costello

Among John Ford's finest films, The Long Voyage Home is notable chiefly for the work of the great cinematographer Gregg Toland. The director admired Toland so much that he allowed him a free hand behind the camera, and the cameraman used the film to try out new lenses that would allow for greater depth of focus, lenses that he would also use on his next film, the historic Citizen Kane (1941). Like that masterpiece, this is also one of the most beautifully photographed films ever made, stunning in its angular expressionism, arresting wide-angled close-ups, and enveloping chiaroscuro. It's a style well-suited to this bleak, episodic tale of seafaring life, which for O'Neill and Ford is a metaphor for loneliness. Between the grueling, sometimes frightening months at sea, and the brief respite of whoring and drinking in port, the film depicts a grim way of life, and it's a small victory when the crew are able to return one of their number to the land. Except for the miscasting of Wayne as a genial Swede, and mediocre work by Ward Bond, the cast is uniformly superb. John Qualen is particularly haunting and Mildred Natwick is memorable amidst the courtesan contingent.