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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Long Day's Journey Into Night (1973)

From early morning to late into the night, a day in the life of the Tyrone family around 1912. James Tyrone (Laurence Olivier) is an aging tight fisted Irish actor, his wife Mary (Constance Cummings, BLITHE SPIRIT) is a drug addict, their elder son James Jr. (Denis Quilley) is a mean spirited bitter drunk and the younger son Edmund (Ronald Pickup) is seriously ill with consumption. Written in the 1940s but not published or publicly performed until after his death, this is the masterwork of the great American playwright Eugene O'Neill. Its influence on American theater continues to this day, its most famous progeny is probably Edward Albee's WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?. Directed by Peter Wood, this is a faithful filmed production of the acclaimed Royal National Theatre 1971 production. Olivier (in an Emmy winning performance) is simply marvelous here. His monologue recalling his poverty stricken youth and his early promise as an actor more evidence as to why he's considered the greatest actor of his generation. While he dominates the production, the others are a mixed bag. Cummings tends to be a bit actressy which mars much of her performance which is otherwise solid, Pickup makes for a perfect Edmund which leaves Quilley the weak link. Still, it is one of the great works of the American theatre with a first rate performance by an actor's actor.

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