ikUGENE O'NEILL i; gen. -I erally revered as America's leading dramatist. So it is startling to see on the opening credit titles of the Long Day's Journey Into Night ("A", Paris-Pullman) "written by
Eugene O'Neill". For once it is justified.
The play was one of O'Neill's most powerful and poignant tragedies, supposedly of some autobiographical inspiration. But O'Neill was also steeped in classical drama so that the tragedy of an Irish immigrant actor's family in the nineteenth century United States is presented on the same scale as the author's essay in neo-classicism, Mourning Becomes Electra.
Even on the stage in London the "Long Days Journey" was deeply moving and impressive. The film is one of the very few cases I remember where the movie seemed to me even greater than the play. Without the opportunity to compare the scripts word for word I can only say the play is the same. Eugene O'Neill is indeed the author in the sense that Francois Truffaut the French director speaks of authors as thc makers of their films rather than as the writers of their scripts.
Partly it is the nature of the medium which tends to gather the play together. Because the play has not been as much "dissipated" as usual with translation to the screen, the long day seems even more of an unbearable unity: a unity of lime and place in the New England home where all the family skeletons are rattled before the agonising day is done,
The agony of the particular day is waiting to see whether the mother (Katherine Hepburn) who has undergone a cure for drug addiction will get through the day without relapse, without recourse to her only consolation. During the terrible suspense the whole background of the family relationship pours out.
More, there is even an eloquent account of the potato famine which had driven the family to the United States, Whether the differcried is due to the greater realism of the medium or of the performances. I feel since the film that every member of the tragic family is burned into my mind never to be forgotten.
The difficult character of course is the father (Ralph Richardson)-difficult because he is a barnstormer, a touring matinee idol. It is his professional and personal unity, and his mask of artificiality which have been the real crack in the family structure.
I can't think of an actor who could have given a more honest but still moving account of this half-bogus murmer of shallow emotions. Through his eyes and his son's, as well as through Katherine Hepburn's luminous performance, we see the lovely young woman whose life has broken into pieces.
A prototype in a way of all Tennesse Williams' Southern Belles, she can only comfort herself with drugs and pretences, memories of hope.
Dean Stockwell, one of the must sensitive of young American actors, plays the younger son, apple of his mother's eyes. Jason Robards, a good actor I have never before fully appreciated, plays the elder with a restraint all the more moving when he finally breaks through.
But it is Katherine Hepburn's display of pure human pain, naked pain, still shot through with darts of charm arid grace. that makes this such a memorable film.
This is a rare film which leaves one richer so that I could never again look on a drug addict without the deepest compassion for the victim and all concerned, A harrowing but rewarding film.
Each of the four members of the FR. PAUL BIDONE, of the ottier of the Sons of Divine Providence, certainly believes in providential assistance!
Although he only arrived in this country in 1949, Fr. Bidonc has been extremely busy. By 1952 he had opened a home for the aged in South London, and no sooner was that finished, than he was planning another, which materialised in the form of Our Lady of Westminster House, in Kingston.
Then Westminster House, which looks after some 40 elderly men, extended itself down the road to a nursing home which caters for another 40 elderly women.
This had hardly been finished before the good father was planning and then building. a mother house and seminary for the order in Lancashire. The seminary -also a farm — will have its first students this autumn.
Last week Fr. Ridone's latest project got off the ground a home for menially handicapped children in Teddington. With the help of an Italian family, longtime friends of his, who bought him a house for £10,000, and furniture and money subscribed locally, the house was ready for the Apostolic Delegate: Archbishop Cardinale, to open on Friday.
When it is finished. the home will have cost nearly another £10,000, of which 12,000 has already been raised. Special furniture has been necessary, for the children are very badly handicapped indeed.
What is still desperately needed. Fr. Bidone tells me, is the voluntary assistance of women and girls, trained in the care of the mentally handicapped. And toys! "These oe could really use,' he said. "There must be many people who have discarded children's toys at home."
And is Fr. Bidone now satisfied Cast of Long Day's Journey into Night received a Best Acting award at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival. I cannot think of any festival awards that have been better deserved.
It is only rather shameful that such a film should have to wait two years before being shown to us. Presumably it was accounted too serious for the great cinema public. 11 so. it was a wise decision to send ii to the Paris-Pullman, one of the RION discerning "specialist" ci nemas.
TORE SJOBERG, the Swede who produced Mein Kampf has made a further contribution to the history of Nazism in the Secrets of Nazi War Criminals. The film is to be distributed by Eagle Films and is to be shown later at the Jacey in the Strand.
This film is a very expert piece of film editing. It deserves attention, tot,. because any documentary account from a supposedly neutral and objective source is a valuable contribution to the ghastly history of the Nazi evil which is still far from being completely clarified.
Much of the material has the feeling of being familiar, though it is set out in sections. arranged according to the various accounts on which the Nazi leaders were tried and executed at Nuremburg.
More than half the material is quite new. Its sponsors claim that 100 per cent of it is authentic, and 60 per cent unique in never having been shown before, A single instance struck me—we always hear how the Poles in 1939 had cavalry instead of tanks and here one shot of a long ribbon of mounted hussars winding across the plain makes the fact real as never before.
For the rest, the condensation is brilliant: the concentration camps. the Auschwitz guards, the living skeletons and piles of human bones shock and appal as always.
That the film is a valuable piece in the patchwork of history I am certain; of its individual value I am more doubtful, again because of the medium. The facts are familiar —no film can make them truer because of the camera's proven propensity for lying.
This does not imply any doubt of Sjoberg's material, only the impossibility of proof. And this particular record does not attempt to illuminate any explanation as history Vl ill still one day surely have to do.
Meanwhile it is another horrific and valid part of the record to be kept and remembered.