Published on September 5th, 2008 | by Chris0
The Long Voyage Home (1940)
Ah, the merchant marines, the unsung heroes of WWII. Putting their lives at risk on the open waters of the North Atlantic to deliver much needed supplies to Allied forces in Europe. The Long Voyage Home follows the crew of the Glencairn in just one of these voyages.
And what a misfit, motley bunch of guys this is. Through the length of the picture, we witness the bond between these guys grow, get tested a few times, get re-affirmed, and finally tested again. That's what this movie is really about, is how a crew of sailors (or soldiers, or whomever) winds up more-or-less as a family.
The opening scenes were, well, lets just say I was shocked at how racy and provocative they portrayed the island women. Especially considering this was 1940! Yikes! That definitely had to raise some eyebrows back in the day....
Then we are witness to some of the paranoia that came out of the war. One of the characters, Smitty (Ian Hunter) gets accused of being a Nazi spy through no fault of his own, but through a series of unfortunate observances on the part of the crew. In a psychological twist the entire crew right down to the "leader" of the gang, Driscoll (Thomas Mitchell), and one of his best friends starts to doubt him. But in the end the real problem is revealed, and its clear that nearly everyone identifies with him.
And what of the ethnic stereotypes present here? Holy cow, more than you can shake a stick at. Between Driscoll's drunken Irish demeanor, and the simply awful accent of the Swede, Ole (none other than John Wayne) it gets a little funny at times. Sure these crews were made up of guys from widely varied backgrounds, and even the US at the time might've been a little more diverse, but these guys hammed it up. Bigtime.
You'll get the entire range of human emotion in this film. From the exuberant opening party in the West Indies, all the way through the fear, comedy, desperation, comraderie, death, compassion, and an incredibly tense, but still quite funny, sequence at the end. My God, I have to admit to being hooked by it, line and sinker included as the impending fate of Ole starts to unfold. Surely they wouldn't! But no, they didn't, and instead one of the others makes the ultimate sacrifice to get good old Ole home again.
The Long Voyage Home might not appeal to everyone, but it has a place as a decent portrait of the forgotten cogs in the war machine.
Summary: The Long Voyage Home might not appeal to everyone, but it has a place as a decent portrait of the forgotten cogs in the war machine.