The Long Voyage Home

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The Long Voyage Home
Original movie poster for the film The Long Voyage Home.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Ford
Produced by Walter Wanger
Screenplay by Dudley Nichols
Based on The Moon of the Caribees
In The Zone
Bound East for Cardiff
The Long Voyage Home 
by Eugene O'Neill
Music by Richard Hageman
Cinematography Gregg Toland
Edited by Sherman Todd
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • November 11, 1940 (1940-11-11)
Running time
105 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $682,495[1]
Box office $580,129[1]

The Long Voyage Home is a 1940 American drama film directed by John Ford. It features John Wayne, Thomas Mitchell, Ian Hunter, Barry Fitzgerald, Wilfrid Lawson, John Qualen, Mildred Natwick, and Ward Bond, among others.

The film was adapted by Dudley Nichols from the plays The Moon of the Caribbees, In the Zone, Bound East for Cardiff, and The Long Voyage Home by Eugene O'Neill. The original plays by Eugene O'Neill were written around the time of World War I and were among his earliest plays. Ford set the story for the motion picture, however, during World War II.[2]

The picture tells the story of the crew aboard a freighter during the early days of World War II.


The film tells the story of the crew aboard a British cargo ship named the SS Glencairn, during World War II, on the long voyage home from the West Indies to Baltimore and then to England. The ship carries a cargo of high-explosives.

On liberty, after a night of drinking in bars in the West Indies, the crew returns to the tramp steamer and set sail for Baltimore.

They're a motley group: a middle-aged Irishman Driscoll (Thomas Mitchell), a young Swedish ex-farmer Ole Olsen (John Wayne), the spiteful steward Cocky (Barry Fitzgerald); the brooding Lord Jim-like Englishman Smitty (Ian Hunter), and others.

After the ship picks up a load of dynamite in Baltimore, the rough seas they encounter become nerve-racking to the crew. When the anchor breaks loose, Yank (Ward Bond) is injured in the effort to secure it. With no doctor on board, nothing can be done for his injury, and he dies.

They're also concerned that Smitty might be a German spy because he's secretive. After they force Smitty to show them his letters from home it turns out that Smitty is an alcoholic who has run away from his family. When they near port, a German plane attacks the ship, killing Smitty in a burst of machine gun fire. The rest of the crew members decide not to sign on for another voyage on the Glencairn and go ashore, determined to help Ole return to his family in Sweden, whom he has not seen in ten years.

At a seedy bar Ole is tricked into taking a drugged drink, and he is shanghaied aboard another ship, the Amindra. Driscoll and the rest of the crew rescue him from the ship, but Driscoll is accidentally left behind in the confusion. As the crew straggles back to the Glencairn the next morning to sign on for another voyage, they learn that the Amindra was sunk by German torpedoes, killing all on board.



Independent film producer Walter Wanger made film-making history during the production of this film. He hired nine prominent American artists, all painters, to document the dramatic scenes during the film's production. Mr. Wanger offered a commission of over $50,000 to encourage the artists to participate, and these funds were secured with the help of Reeves Lowenthal, Director of the Associated American Artists. No other undertaking of this magnitude and purpose had been done before in Hollywood film making. The artists insisted on three things to ensure a quality effort: freedom of choice on subject matter, studios on the production lot and a projection room for viewing rushes. The artists who participated were Thomas Benton, Grant Wood, George Biddle, James Chapin, Ernest Fiene, Robert Philipp, Luis Quintanilla (es), Raphael Soyer and Georges Schreiber. Eleven original paintings emerged from this inaugural effort. These toured the country in the museum circuit of the day beginning with a display in the Associated American Artists Galleries on Fifth Avenue, New York.[3]


The film did poorly in its theatrical release, losing $224,336.[1]

It was released on DVD in 2006 by Warner Bros. Home Video but is now out-of-print. The Criterion Collection now has the home video rights to release it. It has not yet been released on DVD or Blu Ray by The Criterion Collection.

It is available as part of a John Ford box set, Region 2.


Critic Bosley Crowther, film critic for The New York Times, liked the screenplay, the message of the film, and John Ford's direction, and wrote, "John Ford has truly fashioned a modern Odyssey—a stark and tough-fibered motion picture which tells with lean economy the never-ending story of man's wanderings over the waters of the world in search of peace for his is harsh and relentless and only briefly compassionate in its revelation of man's pathetic shortcomings. But it is one of the most honest pictures ever placed upon the screen; it gives a penetrating glimpse into the hearts of little men and, because it shows that out of human weakness there proceeds some nobility, it is far more gratifying than the fanciest hero-worshiping fare."[4]

The staff at Variety magazine wrote, "Combining dramatic content of four Eugene O'Neill one-act plays, John Ford pilots adventures of a tramp steamer from the West Indies to an American port, and then across the Atlantic with cargo of high explosives. Picture is typically Fordian, his direction accentuating characterizations and adventures of the voyage."[5]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 100 percent of critics gave the film a positive review based on eight reviews.[6]




  • Academy Awards:[7]
    • Best Black-and-White Cinematography, Gregg Toland
    • Best Special Effects, R. T. Layton (photographic), Ray Binger (photographic) and Thomas T. Moulton (sound)
    • Best Film Editing, Sherman Todd
    • Best Original Score, Richard Hageman
    • Best Picture, John Ford
    • Best Screenplay Writing, Dudley Nichols


  1. ^ a b c Matthew Bernstein, Walter Wagner: Hollywood Independent, Minnesota Press, 2000 p440
  2. ^ Steeman, Albert. Internet Encyclopedia of Cinematographers, "Gregg Toland page," Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 2007. Last accessed: January 18, 2008.
  3. ^ The Long Voyage Home as seen by Nine American Artists", cover article, American Artist Magazine, September, 1940, pp 4-14 at The Ned Scott Archive
  4. ^ Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, "The Long Voyage Home, Magnificent Drama of the Sea," October 9, 1940. Last accessed: January 18, 2008
  5. ^ Variety. Film review, October 9, 1940. Last accessed: January 18, 2008.
  6. ^ The Long Voyage Home at Rotten Tomatoes. Last accessed: April 8, 2015.
  7. ^ "The 13th Academy Awards (1941) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2013-06-18. 

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