Mourning Becomes Electra (1947) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Eugene O'Neill's updated version of the Oresteia. In New England, after the American Civil War, a war-weary Agamemnon, 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.

  • The Manons - parents Ezra and Christine, and their grown adult children Lavinia (Vinnie to most who know her) and Orin - are a wealthy and well respected New England family. Ezra is a war hero and former mayor of the town in which they live. Vinnie and Orin seem destined to marry their childhood friends, brother and sister Peter and Hazel Niles. But most in town realize that the Manon's public facade masks some hidden issues. Indeed, the Manons are a dysfunctional family. Vinnie has a special bond with Ezra, and Orin has a special bond with Christine (Orin, a mama's boy, is called a cry baby by Vinnie), both relationships bordering on the romantic. For Ezra and Christine, that romantic love for their child replaces what is missing from their own marriage. Ezra states that he loves Christine, but feels she doesn't return that affection. He does not realize the true, deep seated hatred she has for him. The beginning of the end for the family starts while Ezra and Orin are away fighting in the Civil War, the hope for Orin being that the experience will turn him into a man. Vinnie, in love with a ship's captain named Adam Brant, learns that Adam is having an affair with her mother. Jealousy turns into hatred for both when Vinnie further learns of Adam's true parentage. As Adam and Christine plot for a life together, Vinnie, upon Orin and Ezra's return from the now ended war, tries to convince her brother, who has returned a war hero and therefore a man, of their mother's infidelity and the appropriate action to take. The resulting events ultimately place Orin and Vinnie at odds with each other, they who end up having different priorities in achieving love and happiness, or at least peace which seems to be missing from the Manon household.



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  • This movie is a wonderful character study of both the Oedipal and Electra Complexes as portrayed in characters Orin (Michael Redgrave) and Lavinia (Rosalind Russell), respectively. After the questionable demise of both patriarch and matriarch of this well-to-do Civil War Era family, Lavinia usurps both roles while purposely and systematically driving her very sensitive and loving younger brother to madness and eventually suicide.Thus she seals her fate to be completely alone to mourn as the sole proprietor of the family house. This is a rare dramatic role for Rosalind Russell.

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