MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA
(director/writer: Dudley Nichols; screenwriter: from a play by Eugene O’Neill; cinematographer: George Barnes; editors: Roland Gross/Chandler House; music: Richard Hageman; cast: 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 (Landlady), Thurston Hall (Dr. Blake); Runtime: 173; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Dudley Nichols; RKO; 1947)
“was a bomb at the box office.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The long, talky film, based on an ancient Greek tragedy play, was a bomb at the box office, though receiving mostly positive reviews. It’s theatrical and static, but the play’s psychological insights are so timeless they greatly influenced the likes of a Freud. Dudley Nichols (“Sister Kenny”), unevenly but unswervingly faithful to O’Neills florid prose, directs this gloomy three-hour version of the Eugene O’Neill drama, which had run six hours onstage.It’s inspired by the “Oresteia” trilogy by Aeschylus. Theaction begins in 1865 Massachusetts. Rosalind Russell is cast as Lavinia, a Civil War-era Electra. She received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
At the end of the Civil War, the wealthy family patriarch of a long established New England familythat made its money in shipping, Union army Brig. Gen. Ezra Mannon (Raymond Massey), returns to his estate and his wounded son Orin (Michael Redgrave) will soon also return from the war. Ezra’s devoted daughter Lavinia, who has a fixation on dad, rejects the love of her good guy returning soldier suitor Peter Niles (Kirk Douglas), but finds out that her foreign mother Christine (Katina Paxinou, Greek actress) is having an affair with sea captain Adam Brant (Leo Genn). He’s the man she’s in love with, and blackmails mom to give up the dashing captain or else she’ll tell dad. Later the incensed daughter learns that Adam is the son of Lavinia’s banished great uncle David and his wife Marie, a former Mannon servant as a nurse.
The return of a hubby she hates and the blackmail, stirs the heartless bitchy Christine to murder hubby in bed while plying him with poison instead of his heart meds. This sets the stage for the children seeking revenge. It sets off a vortex of bloody violence that includes murder and two suicides, and after the bloodbath the drained Lavinia closing her mansion to the outside world to live as a recluse.
It’s framed around three chapters: “The Homecoming,” “The Hunted” and “The Haunted.”
REVIEWED ON 6/12/2011 GRADE: B-