EUGENE O’NEILL: A GLORY OF GHOSTS
(1986) Part 1 (RT 60:00) | Part 2 (RT 90:00)
In this in-depth film biography, dramatic and documentary techniques are freely combined to recreate the life, work and personality of Eugene O’Neill, great American playwright. Eugene O’Neill is recognized as the pioneer who transformed American drama, experimenting with new techniques, modern Freudian ideas and controversial subjects. O’Neill detested the cloying sentimentality and the false, melodramatic dramas of his day. His plays overturned century-old styles of writing and performing, bringing a fresh approach to all aspects of theatrical production. To achieve the realism he sought, he incorporated American vernacular speech and found many of his characters in the outcasts of society.
The playwright’s personal story is as full of drama as his plays, many of which arise from his own experience. During his adventurous sea-going youth, he struggled with depression, alcoholism and tuberculosis. In Greenwich Village he met and married writer Agnes Boulton. Two children were born. Some years later, O’Neill would abandon home and family for beauteous actress Carlotta Monterrey who became his wife and the muse who believed her mission was to keep the world at bay so that O’Neill was free to write. This included old friends and drinking pals, as well as his children. The playwright’s tangled relationships with his actor-father, his drug-addicted mother and his alcoholic older brother were powerful influences upon him and were reflected in some of his greatest plays.
To tell of O’Neill’s intricate life and work, Eugene O’Neill: A Glory of Ghosts mines film and photo archives as well as personal collections, and makes innovative use of actors in dual capacities, both as themselves and as characters in excerpts from O’Neill’s plays. The film features specially-staged dramatizations taken from eight of his plays. These are enacted by a distinguished cast including: Jason Robards, Zoe Caldwell, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Blythe Danner, James Naughton, Tony Lo Bianco and Frances Conroy. Penetrating insights into O’Neill’s personality and his dramas are presented on-camera by people close to him and his work. These include comments from close personal friend, Theatre Guild producer Armina Marshall Langner, O’Neill scholar and critic Travis Bogard and actors who have frequently performed in O’Neill plays on Broadway. Celebrated actress Colleen Dewhurst, who starred in many O’Neill productions, tells us: “With O’Neill, you can’t hold anything back.” Playing O’Neill deeply affected the lives of certain actors. Jason Robards credits his playing the role of Jamie, an alcoholic, in O’Neill’s drama, Moon for the Misbegotten with his own break with alcohol.