Robert Ryan as Bill 'Stoker' Thompson in "The Set-Up" (1949) directed by Robert Wise
Robert Ryan as Joe Parkson in "Act of Violence" (1948) directed by Fred Zinnemann
Robert Ryan as Montgomery in "Crossfire" (1947) directed by Edward Dmytryk
Robert Ryan as Larry Slade in "The Iceman Cometh" (1973) directed by John Frankenheimer
Edmund and Slade do not long for death in the mode of Whitman and his descendants -Wallace Stevens, T. S. Eliot, Hart Crane, and Theodore Roethke- all of whom tend to incorporate the image of a desired death into the great, triple trope of night, the mother, and the sea. Edmund Tyrone and Larry Slade long to die because life without transcendence is impossible, and yet transcendence is totally unavailable. O'Neill's true polemic against his country and its spiritual tradition is not, as he insisted, that "its main idea is that everlasting game of trying to possess your own soul by the possession of something outside it.''
The play's true argument is that your own soul cannot be possessed, whether by possessing something or someone outside it, or by joining yourself to a transcendental possibility, to whatever version of an Emersonian Oversoul that you might prefer. The United States, in O'Neill's dark view, was uniquely the country that had refused to learn the truths of the spirit, which is that good and the means of good, love and the means of love, are irreconcilable.
Such a formulation is Shelleyan, and reminds one of O'Neill's High Romantic inheritance, which reached him through pre-Raphaelite poetry and literary speculation. O'Neill seems a strange instance of the Aestheticism of Rossetti and Pater, but his metaphysical nihilism, desperate faith in art, and phantasmagoric naturalism stem directly from them.
"Mine [my dreams] are all dead and buried behind me. What's before me is the comforting fact that death is a fine long sleep, and I'm damned tired, and it can't come too soon for me".
"De old anarchist wise guy dat knows all de answers! Dat's you, huh?"
-"Forget the anarchist part of it. I'm through with the Movement long since. I saw men didn't want to be saved from themselves, for that would mean they'd have to give up greed, and they'll never pay that price for liberty. So I said to the world, God bless all here, and may the best man win and die of gluttony! And I took a seat in the grand stand of philosophical detachment to fall asleep observing the cannibals do their death dance".
Robert Ryan (Dreamer in my Dreams) video: Robert Ryan video featuring stills and scenes from "Crossfire", "Caught" (with Barbara Bel Geddes), "On Dangerous Ground" (with Ida Lupino), "Odds Against Tomorrow" (with Gloria Grahame), "Lonelyhearts" (with Myrna Loy), "Clash by night" (with Barbara Stanwyck) and "The Iceman Cometh" (with Lee Marvin and Jeff Bridges).
Songs "Here", "Range Life", "Heaven is a Truck" by Pavement, "That's the story of my Life" by The Velvet Underground and "Dreamer in my Dreams" by Wilco.