Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about theater and whether they are true or false.
THEATER URBAN LEGEND: A Long Day’s Journey Into Night was released over twenty years earlier than Eugene O’Neill expressly stated that it should.
For a man who already had written a number of classic plays, A Long Day’s Journey Into Night is likely Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece.
The playwright finished the play in 1942, eleven years before his death.
For whatever reason, O’Neill decided that he did not want the play to be published until twenty-five years after he died. This might be because of the autobiographical parts of the play, but honestly I don’t know for certain what O’Neill’s motivations were. He had the manuscript of the play kept in the document vault of his publisher, Random House. O’Neill even had a contract written up that stated that the play not be published until twenty-five years after his death.
That’s not what happened.
Upon his death in 1953, his third wife, Carlotta Monterey, took control of the estate, and she gifted the play to Yale University.
They published the play in 1956, under the conditions that, “All royalties from the sale of the Yale editions of this book go to Yale University for the benefit of the Eugene O’Neill Collection, for the purchase of books in the field of drama, and for the establishment of Eugene O’Neill Scholarships in the Yale School of Drama.”
The play was a massive success, posthumously winning O’Neill the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
It was later turned into an acclaimed film, as well.
It is fascinating to think of how the play would have been received had it been released in 1978, as O’Neill intended it to be.
The legend is…
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