Eugene O'Neill's favorite film. John Ford gave him a print of it, which O'Neill wore out from repeated playing of the reel.
John Wayne once told biographer Maurice Zolotow: "Usually it would be Mr. Ford John Ford who helped the cinematographer get his compositions for maximum effect . . . but in this case it was Gregg Toland who helped Mr. Ford. 'Long Voyage' is about as beautifully photographed a movie as there ever has been."
John Wayne was asked by director John Ford to play the part of Ole Olson, who was Swedish. Wayne wasn't sure he could pull off the Swedish accent and was worried that the audience would laugh. Ford persuaded him to take the role.
Barry Fitzgerald, who plays the character of Cocky, and Arthur Shields, who played Donkeyman, were brothers in real life. They also appeared together in director John Ford's The Quiet Man.
According to John Ford's biography 'The Unquiet Man' by Dan Ford, Darryl F. Zanuck dropped John Ford's proposed remake of his silent film 'Four Sons'. Zanuck cancelled after some preliminary script work had been done and when he learnt of the similarly themed The Mortal Storm had gotten the green light at MGM. As such, John Ford, "Still upset over Zanuck's cancellation of 'Four Sons' decided not to present 'The Long Voyage Home' to him." Ford instead offered it to producer Walter Wanger who was a producer "who might appreciate a work of this caliber." Wanger soon after gave Ford the green light to make the film.
Cinematographer Gregg Toland's photographing of this movie utilized high contrast lighting.
Initially resistant to the idea of working with a Swedish accent, John Wayne was instructed by Danish actress Osa Massen. John Ford later complimented Wayne on his handling of the accent.
Producer Walter Wanger contracted with Reeves Lewenthal, director of the American Associated Artists Gallery in Manhattan, to have nine of it's artists go out to Hollywood during the filming and paint scenes from the movie and portraits of the actors in character as a publicity stunt for the film. "High Brow Publicity" as Time magazine dubbed it in a story from August 26, 1940. The artists (and their paintings) included Thomas Hart Benton (Shore Leave), Grant Wood (Sentimental Ballad), Ernest Fiene (portrait of John Wayne as Ole Olson), George Schreiber (scene from the film with Mitchell, Qualen and two others), Luis Quintanilla (The Bumboat Girls), George Biddle (portrait of Qualen as Squarehead Swanson), Robert Philipp (portrait of Thomas Mitchell as Drisk Driscoll), Raphael Soyer and James Chapin-all well known in art circles at the time. Wanger paid $50,000 and ended up with 12 canvases-including a portrait of Wanger by Ernest Fiene. The paintings were featured in Life magazine and, after an exhibition that opened in New York City in August 1940, went on to tour 23 museums across America.
The Broadway opening dates of the four Eugene O'Neill plays this film is based on are as follows: "Bound East for Cardiff" opened in Provincetown, Massachusetts on 28 July 1916; "In the Zone" opened in New York on 31 October 1917; "The Long Voyage Home" opened in New York on 2 November 1917; and "The Moon of the Caribees" opened in New York on 20 December 1918.The four plays were presented together in "One Act Plays of the Sea" and opened at the Lafayette Theater on Octobe 29, 1937 and ran for 68 performances.
The first spoken dialogue occurs nearly five minutes into the film.
The name of Arthur Shields' character, "Donkeyman", is a nickname for the job he performed, the sole caretaker of the ship's single-piston "Donkey" engine.
This film is based on four one-act plays by Eugene O'Neill. Writer Dudley Nichols had to distill all four of Eugene O'Neill's one-act plays into one cohesive screenplay.
This film's closing epilogue states: "So men like Ole Olsen come and go. And the Driscolls live and die, And the Yanks and Smittys leave their memories - but for the others, the Long Voyage never ends."
This film's opening prologue states: "With their hates and desires men are changing the face of the earth - but they cannot change the Sea. Men who live on the Sea never change - for they live in a lonely world apart as they drift from one rusty tramp steamer to the next, forging the life of Nations."
This is technically both the the first World War 2 film and first war film directed by John Ford as the film is set during WW II and it interfaces with the Second World War's Second Battle of the Atlantic as the steamer sails through the battle-zone and even goes under attack from enemy aircraft during the film. Ford's later They Were Expendable is Ford's first 'major' war feature film and first 'major' World War II movie feature.