Mourning Becomes Electra

  • 1947
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

The sheer audacity in attempting to boil down O'Neill's American version of a Greek tragedy from nearly six hours to just three rates a high mark for the effort. Not so for the result. It took nearly 16 years to get the play from the stage (where the leads were played by Alice Brady, Alla Nazimova, and Earle Larimore) to the screen, where the same roles...read more

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The sheer audacity in attempting to boil down O'Neill's American version of a Greek tragedy from nearly six hours to just three rates a high mark for the effort. Not so for the result. It took nearly 16 years to get the play from the stage (where the leads were played by Alice Brady, Alla

Nazimova, and Earle Larimore) to the screen, where the same roles were done by Russell, Paxinou, and Redgrave. The picture lost almost $3 million when all quarters were heard from. Nichols attempted to compress the trilogy of "The Homecoming," "The Hunted," and "The Haunted" and remove the seams,

but this is such a heavy story that it's hard to watch at any length. O'Neill's story takes place in 1865 in Massachusetts, and is an adaptation of Aeschylus' "Oresteia" trilogy, with the Electra character becoming Lavinia (Russell). The Civil War ends and Massey, the father of the house, returns.

He is hated by his wife, Paxinou, who has been conducting an affair with Genn, a sea captain, while Massey was away. Russell hates her mother for having betrayed Massey but she is also jealous because she has a fixation with her father that borders on derangement. Paxinou murders Massey, then

Russell and her brother, Redgrave, murder Genn. This makes Paxinou go insane and she commits suicide. The rest of the film is even gloomier. Douglas plays a suitor for Russell's evil hand but that doesn't work out (nothing much does in the story), and Coleman and Redgrave are also romantically

entwined. This is a very static film-- a kind of photographed play, although there is little power coming off the screen to compare with the stage version. Some good acting from Russell, Massey, and Genn but, in the end, it just proves that Greek tragedy doesn't play well on screen.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: The sheer audacity in attempting to boil down O'Neill's American version of a Greek tragedy from nearly six hours to just three rates a high mark for the effort. Not so for the result. It took nearly 16 years to get the play from the stage (where the leads… (more)

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