Film: The Long Voyage Home
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.
John Ford was one of five Hollywood directors who went to war in the 1940s. Of the five, Ford essentially joined up before the U.S. entered the war under the assumption that we’d be there eventually. He was also the only one to enlist in the navy. Ford’s main concern initially was figuring out how to film in wartime conditions. The Long Voyage Home, adapted from a series of Eugene O’Neill short plays, was Ford’s first attempt at this. This is tangentially a war film, since we’re dealing instead with the Merchant Marine, but it’s taking place in wartime conditions, and has a plot updated from the plays to include real events of the ongoing conflict.
So, while this is a war film, we’re not going to see or hear a single shot fired. Instead, we’re going to spend time both at sea and in port with the crew of a tramp steamer called Glencairn. It’s a diverse crew of Americans, British, Irish, and Swedes who seem more or less to get along and who are happy to live under the sway of Aloysius “Drisk” Driscoll (Thomas Mitchell). Drisk likes a good scrap and loves a good drink, and so as he goes goes the crew of Glencairn. On board with him are Smitty (Ian Hunter), a taciturn Brit with upper-class tendencies; Cocky (Barry Fitzgerald), a man who has seen too much to go back to land; Yank (Ward Bond), who’s happy to be wherever he is; and Ole Olsen (John Wayne), a Swedish farmboy taken to sea and longing to get back home.