6.5/10
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37 user 9 critic

Mourning Becomes Electra (1947)

Approved | | Drama | 19 November 1947 (USA)
Eugene O'Neill's updated version of the Oresteia set in New England, after the American Civil War.

Director:

Dudley Nichols

Writer:

Eugene O'Neill (play)
Reviews
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 2 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Rosalind Russell ... Lavinia Mannon
Michael Redgrave ... Orin Mannon
Raymond Massey ... Brig. Gen. Ezra Mannon
Katina Paxinou ... Christine Mannon
Leo Genn ... Adam Brant
Kirk Douglas ... Peter Niles
Nancy Coleman ... Hazel Niles
Henry Hull ... Seth Beckwith
Sara Allgood ... Adam Brant's Landlady
Thurston Hall ... Dr. Blake
Walter Baldwin ... Amos Ames
Elisabeth Risdon ... Mrs. Hills
Erskine Sanford ... Josiah Borden
Jimmy Conlin ... Abner Small
Lee Baker Lee Baker ... Reverend Hills
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Storyline

Eugene O'Neill's updated version of the Oresteia. In New England, after the American Civil War, a war-weary Agamemnon, Brigadier General Ezra Mannon (Raymond Massey) comes home to his unhappy wife Christine (Katina Paxinou) and loving daughter Lavinia (Rosalind Russell). But Lavinia's ex-suitor, Adam Brant (Leo Genn), has become Christine's lover, and together Adam and Christine plot to poison Ezra. When they succeed, Lavinia turns to her brother Orin (Sir Michael Redgrave) to help bring the lovers to justice, but when they succeed, Orin goes mad and his suicide note may come between Lavinia and her new suitor, Peter Niles (Kirk Douglas). Written by Kathy Li

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

...Mother and daughter in love with the same man ... rivals in ruthlessness even to murder! See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

19 November 1947 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Eugene O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$435,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (edited)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Eugene O'Neill liked Writer, Producer, and Director Dudley Nichols' adaptation of "The Long Voyage Home" so much that he allowed him to film "Mourning Becomes Electra". O'Neill and The Theater Guild agreed to defer payment until the movie made a profit. See more »

Goofs

While Orin is standing by a bench where Lavinia is seated, he holds his hat by his side and drops it. It just lies there on the dirt path as he sits down, and he doesn't pick it up. See more »

Quotes

Orin Mannon: You folks at home take death so solemnly. You have to learn to mock or go crazy.
See more »

Alternate Versions

This is (unfortunately) usually shown on television in a heavily cut 105-minute version. The 159-minute UK version can sometimes be seen on Turner Classic Movies. See more »

Connections

Referenced in That Girl: Mission Improbable: Part 1 (1969) See more »

Soundtracks

Oh Shenandoah
(uncredited)
Traditional sea chantey
Sung over credits and throughout film by unidentified male chorus
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Intense and depressing, but far from dull
27 February 2002 | by critic-2See all my reviews

Most of the professional reviews of this unjustly neglected film dismiss it as "stagy", "wordy", and "dull". Yes, it is wordy, if you consider a film entirely propelled by dialogue wordy, and yes, it is stagy if you consider a film largely confined to a single set stagy, with no fancy cutting, camera tricks, or quick editing to disturb or interrupt the flow of language. And yes, at nearly three hours, it is one of the longest film versions of a classic Eugene O'Neill play ever made. (The original play clocks in at six hours!)

I myself have never been able to understand those critics who claim to appreciate great achievements in film and theatre, and yet grow restless at the thought of too much dialogue in a film. Who cares, when the dialogue is written by one of the greatest playwrights this country has produced, and when the storyline is as riveting as this?

O'Neill never actually wrote a suspense drama, but this updated revision of the Electra-Orestes-Agamemnon myth is as close as he ever came to it. The story features elements of murder, revenge, insanity, and more than a hint of incest, and when Rosalind Russell as Lavinia and Michael Redgrave as Orin, her beloved brother, plot together to carry out their scheme, the story becomes as gripping as any suspense film ever made.

There are very few completely calm moments in this film; nearly all of the performances take on a quality of seeming to be on the verge of a total nervous collapse. Some of Rosalind Russell's acting, particularly during the first hour or so, may strike you as slightly over-the-top, especially her facial expression (accompanied by an ominous musical chord) when she sees her thoroughly evil mother Christine (Katina Paxinou) in a lover's clinch with Adam Brant (Leo Genn), an illegitimate relative of the Mannon family, while Christine's husband (Raymond Massey) is off fighting the Civil War, but once Russell becomes the cold, scheming avenger, she is magnificent. Michael Redgrave is slightly uncomfortable with his attempt an an American accent, but he effectively conveys the essential goodness of a conscience-stricken young man on the verge of madness who only wants to do the right thing. Katina Paxinou is despicably nasty and self-dramatizing as the utterly selfish Christine Mannon. Raymond Massey ,so often cast as a villain, gives what is one of the best, most dignified and most restrained performances of his career as Ezra Mannon, head of the family, a man who is supposedly unfeeling and callous (according to Paxinou's character, but then, can we trust her?), but who in the story reveals only a genuinely sympathetic and tragic side of himself. Leo Genn is sincere as Christine's misguided and basically kind lover, and Kirk Douglas, in one of his first film roles, plays Lavinia's bewildered and decent suitor.

Because of the film's disastrous reception at the box office, a barbaric decision was made to cut an entire hour by simply lopping off the entire final section, unnecessarily mutilating a film that deserves to take its place as one of the great dramatic stage-to-film adaptations of all time, and certainly one of the few great film adaptations of a Eugene O'Neill play. His plays, on the whole, have been frequently distorted and/or mutilated for the big screen, unlike Tennessee Williams's, whose works made it relatively unscathed, and even sometimes improved, to film. O'Neill's plays have not fared as well on film as they have on television, but along with 1962's "Long Day's Journey Into Night", and 1940's "The Long Voyage Home", "Mourning Becomes Electra" can be rightfully considered a film classic.


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