Desperation and secret passions on a family farm lead to tragedy.


Delbert Mann


Irwin Shaw (screenplay), Eugene O'Neill (play)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Sophia Loren ... Anna / Wife-Ephraim's stepmother
Anthony Perkins ... Eben / Ephraim's youngest son
Burl Ives ... Ephraim / Husband
Frank Overton ... Simeon / Son
Pernell Roberts ... Peter / Son
Rebecca Welles ... Lucinda Cabot (as Rebecca Wells)
Jean Willes ... Florence Cabot
Anne Seymour ... Eben's Mother
Roy Fant Roy Fant ... Fiddler


Ephraim Cabot is an old man of amazing vitality who loves his New England farm with a greedy passion. Hating him, and sharing his greed, are the sons of two wives Cabot has overworked into early graves. Most bitter is Eben, whose mother had owned most of the farm, and who feels who should be sole heir. When the old man brings home a new wife, Anna, she becomes a fierce contender to inherit the farm. Two of the sons leave when Eben gives them the fare in return for their shares of the farm. Meanwhile, Anna tries to cause some sparks by rubbing up against Eben. Written by Ray Hamel <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Sophia Loren left the Cannes Film festival (4th May 1958) early and furious as the film was not given an evening screening as she requested. See more »


Eben as a child had brown hair, blue eyes and prominent jug ears. Eben as an adult has black hair, brown eyes and normal-sized ears. See more »


Eben: I don't like pretending that what's mine is his. I've been doing that all my life.
See more »


Oh Susannah
Written by Stephen Foster
Sung, with modified lyrics, by Simeon, Peter, Lucinda and Florence
See more »

User Reviews

Ignore the critics and intellectual snobs, and enjoy a good drama
11 December 2005 | by robin-moss2See all my reviews

When "Desire Under the Elms" came out at the end of the 1950s, it was dismissed by critics who were more interested in parading their education and artistic credentials than in assessing the movie sensibly. In particular, they commented on how far the film fell short of the original stage play. Nearly fifty years later, a more balanced perspective is possible.

Regardless of how it compares with the theatrical original, "Desire Under The Elms" works successfully as a dramatic movie. There is real tension as the drama unfolds, and the audience feels a sense of horror when it realises what Anna (Sophia Loren) is going to do to prove her love. The resolution is genuinely tragic, and this is reinforced by the fact that the two lovers were unlikable people until love entered their lives and gave them humanity and consideration for others.

The acting is quite good all round, and presumably much of the credit goes to the director Delbert Mann. (Some of his other films during this period were also well-acted: "The Dark At The Top Of The Stairs"/"The Bachelor Party"). Sophia Loren is a real surprise. I have never worshipped at her throne, but she is excellent in this movie, playing a greedy, calculating woman who marries a much older man merely to have a comfortable home. At the beginning, her venality and disregard for other people make her highly unpleasant, and she is not particularly attractive physically either. As love gradually dominates her, she becomes physically very attractive - her fans, no doubt, will say she becomes beautiful - until the circumstances she has helped create imprison her. Then once again, her physical allure subsides and she becomes gaunt and drawn. Obviously this play with Sophia Loren's looks was a joint effort, and presumably the camera department, costume department and make-up department all deserve credit.

Daniel L. Fapp's Vista-Vision cinematography is crystal clear and a major asset. The film's only big failing is the blatant artificiality of the back drops. "Desire Under The Elms" was obviously made in a studio.

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Release Date:

6 May 1958 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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