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Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson Director: Sidney Lumet
I never cared much for Katherine Hepburn’s acting until she began her triumphal progress through middle years to a very robust old age. Her acting just got better--in part because she was given more substantial material. I saw her on stage once. The play wasn't anything to speak of--and Hepburn had broken her leg & was confined to a wheel chair. But from the moment she rolled herself on stage the actress RADIATED. I was sitting in the cheapest seat in the very last row of the house--and didn't feel I was missing anything at all. KH filled the entire theatre with her stage presence. I know how corny it sounds, but KH had a magnetic aura.
In terms of this particular film, Hepburn is certainly at her most commanding. The signs of Huntington’s disease (resulting in tremors, particularly of the head) are barely discernable & could pass off as the symptoms of the addictive process of the role she was portraying. I also think that LONG DAYS JOURNEY was playwright Eugene O’Neil’s best work—probably because it hit so close to home. It is basically a 4 character play (5 if you include the Irish maid who represents an outsider momentarily peeking in at the most dysfunctional of dysfunctional families.)
The 4 people—Father, Mother & 2 adult sons—represent 16 possibilities of familial addictive relationship—addiction, co-dependency, enabling, etc. Everyone is addicted to something; with the mother it’s shooting morphine, the father is an alcoholic & egotist & the sons are both alcoholics with physical & behavioral problems. The interplay between the family are often painful to watch, but they are snared together—probably because no one else would put up with them.