Eugene O'Neill's updated version of the Orestaia. In New England, after the American Civil War, a war-weary Agamem--er, Ezra Mannon comes home to his unhappy wife (Christine) and loving ... See full summary »
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Eugene O'Neill's updated version of the Orestaia. In New England, after the American Civil War, a war-weary Agamem--er, Ezra Mannon comes home to his unhappy wife (Christine) and loving daughter (Lavinia). But Lavinia's ex-suitor, Adam Brant, has become Christine's lover, and together Adam and Christine plot to poison Ezra. When they succeed, Lavinia turns to her brother Orin 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. Written by
Rosalind Russell received an Academy Award nomination for her role in this film. Apparently, she was so sure she was going to win that, when the winner was about to be announced, she had risen from her seat to accept it... only to discover that the winner was Loretta Young for her performance in The Farmer's Daughter (1947). See more »
About 22 minutes into the film, Orin is standing by a bench where Lavinia is seated. He holds his hat by his side and he drops it....it just lies there on the dirt path as he sits down and he doesn't pick it up. See more »
Mourning Becomes Electra did for Rosalind Russell what Nightmare Alley did for Tyrone Power. It established her as an actress with range not previously realized and in her case she got an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. But it was an absolute financial flop.
Dudley Nichols in his adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's marathon play about the Mannon family of New England managed to get it down to almost three hours in length. In its first release that's about how long it was and later when the public proved indifferent to it, it was cut further rendering it totally unintelligible for O'Neill purists.
Rosalind Russell had a three picture deal going with RKO films and one of those films she wanted to do was Sister Kenny whom she had met and was very impressed with. According to her memoirs Dudley Nichols agreed to help with Sister Kenny if she would do Mourning Becomes Electra. She actually wanted to play the role of the mother that Katina Paxinou did, but had to settle for daughter Lavinia.
The film got good critical acclaim and should have stayed in the art house circuit. But RKO put it in general release and it lost money big time. Russell's Sister Kenny biographical film also went the same route and she also got an Oscar nomination. However when Howard Hughes bought RKO he took one look at the red ink beside both of those films and told her to forget that third picture on the deal. No more art house stuff would come out of RKO while Hughes was in charge.
O'Neill work is always long on characterization, but this one could have been better. A very static camera was at work here, always filming scenes from a single perspective. Both the films of Long Day's Journey Into Night and The Iceman Cometh though they are both taking place on one set are far better done for the cinema than Mourning Becomes Electra.
Russell mentioned that her best accolade was a handwritten note from Eugene O'Neill himself about how much he liked her performance. It was better than the Academy Award that everyone thought she would get, but Loretta Young got for The Farmer's Daughter.
Michael Redgrave was nominated for Best Actor, but he also lost to Ronald Colman for A Double Life. It was back to the British cinema for him after this.
Russell and Redgrave are brother and sister, children of Raymond Massey and Katina Paxinou. Paxinou has a lover on the side in Leo Genn who's also courting Russell. Russell finds out and sets loose a whole chain of events that witness the destruction of the family.
Kirk Douglas and Nancy Coleman are another brother and sister named Niles who get involved with the Mannon offspring. This was an early film for Douglas, had he been a bigger movie name then, he might have taken on the role Redgrave had.
No matter how badly executed Mourning Becomes Electra was for the screen if I had a note from Eugene O'Neill praising my performance, that would be all the accolade I'd ever need.
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