The Long Voyage Home (John Ford, 1940)
Of the many John Ford films reviewed here, The Long Voyage Home is probably the most underrated so far. This masterpiece from Ford's most prolific period (The Grapes of Wrath, Stagecoach, Young Mr. Lincoln, Drums Along the Mohawk, How Green Was My Valley) diserves a better place in his career as in film History.
During the Second World War, the American navy was often represented in the films of John Ford. This is the kind of subject he loved to work with: His archetypal ensemble character plot could fit perfectly in the micro society of ship's crew. This ensemble cast will represent a social group that must work as a united team or a family where everyone as to behave and work hard with their strength to reach greater will. The crew of the ship illustrate this concept.
The visual side of the film was assured by the mastery camera work of cinematographer Gregg Toland, who is notorious for his work on Citizen Kane. His vision made The Long Voyage Home very unique in its visual beauty. The uses of low camera angles, dark lighting, and inventive framing that all characterized Citizen Kane and even the famous sealings are present inside of the boat. I'm not trying to say that Citizen Kane wasn't as inventive as a André Bazin could have wrote but Orson Welles himself always said that you're never the first to do something... Here Gregg Toland may or may not be the first to use all these new techniques but he sure was one of the few who mastered them that well. Clearly, Toland weas probably influenced by the films of the German expressionists like Murnau's silent films. Toland's work may have influenced the way film noirs were shot in the 1940's and in the 1950's. Many film historians will brag that Citizen Kane was probably the first film noir if not the major influence with all its particular style.
However, let's get back to The Long Voyage Home, of the more than a hundred feature films John Ford directed many are considered as untouchable masterpieces, The Searchers, Stagecoach, The Grapes of Wrath, Rio Grande, etc. But you don't often see The Long Voyage Home on his best films list. This is a little known film that diserves its place amongst the best of his greater films. A gem amongst one of the greatest careers of this Hollywood director.
Coming soon my personal Top 10 of John Ford's films!
Until then please read my other Ford's films reviews:
How Green Was My Valley (1941) *in french only*
They Were Expendable (1945)
Fort Apache (1948)
She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949)