Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mourning Becomes Electra (1947)

An adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's play. As an updated Greek tragedy, the film features murder, adultery, love and revenge. All taking place after the American Civil War. [wiki]

Nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Actor: Michael Redgrave
Best Actress: Rosalind Russell

This is the movie I've wanted to see the most for the past... I dunno 2, 3, 4 years! I didn't expect it to be bad or brilliant, I just needed to know what the fuss is all about. And I'm glad I finally found out. It's a strange movie experience, as I could give it a 6, an 8 or maybe a 5. Hard to tell if I liked it, as during its 160+ minutes (yes, I've seen the original unedited version I think) it had many good moments, but also bad ones.
You probably know the controversy of Rosalind Russell losing the Oscar! She was already standing up before they've announced the winner, as she was sure she'd got it. However, the winner was Loretta Young (must've been popularity vote) for the light comedy The Farmer's Daughter and so it became one of the (I'd say) top 5 Oscar shockers. Even though it's the only Best Actress nominee I've seen from 1947, I can say I understand what the surprise was all about. Great or just good, the role that Rosalind plays is highly dramatic and she's in charge of the entire film. I myself found her to be terrific at times and it's quite a nuanced performance.
Michael Redgrave acted a bit too much for my taste, but I understand the nomination and it's not a bad performance at all. A bit surprised that Katina Paxinou didn't receive a supporting actress nomination (it's the type of flashy that Oscar usually rewards) or the film an Original Score nom. As I read about it, Mourning... was apparently a box office flop that's why they cut it down. The screenplay is too theatrical and confusing at first. Actually, the whole film is theatrical and the direction is mostly missing. It's too long and while the 2nd chapted is most interesting, the 3rd one just goes for boring. Many to say about this one, but I'll stop here.
My rating for the film: 7/10. Again: 7 is chosen mostly randomly. I can see why some might love or totally ignore the film. Because a copy is not easy to find, I might consider posting it on youtube in the next couple of weeks.


  1. I have soooooooo many thoughts on this play. It was one of our school drama plays last year...and it really is looooong and creaky. It's good and it's bad and it's all the reasons I hate O'Neill in one...I saw it from the middle a while ago and it is hard to get...especially over here. I think the film should have started with the fathers death and ended with the mother's. Point black. It's too faithful an adaptation.

    PS. Did you know Kate H. wanted to do this film with I think Garbo as her mother. Wouldn't that have been cool?

  2. Garbo as Kate's mother? :D I would've never believed that. Anyway, Katina Paxinou WAS a bit too old for the role. I can believe Rosalind as a 20-something, but Katina looked 60.

  3. Same story in 1950 (Baxter, Davis, Swanson, Parker VS Holiday).
    Too much dramatic's roles very praised (Russell, Crawford, the young Hayward and MacGuire in the year's big movie ....)and just one comic performance. The "dram/deglam/prestig" amators had too many choices.
    Redgrave say in his memory that "Mourning don't become to Rosalind" or something like that.
    I know the short version (in the uncut version Has Sarah Algood a role ? In the short you see her 30 seconds.
    For Russell is too old, with her husky voice, but impressive, a strong performance in a difficult part. And she looks very unsympathetic, as she has to be.
    Paxinou plays that as she play Euripide. Very curious to see.

    I have seen the 5 nominated and I think the most deserving is Crawford (may be her best role ever.) But I like very much the charming, gentle, clever Young's performance.
    Beautiful year (every body is, at last, interesting), but without the marvelous Deborah Kerr in Black Narcissus.

  4. thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    actually I thought Judy Holiday was close to brilliance in Born Yesterday, but so were Bette Davis (my favorite female performance ever) and Swanson (not sure if considered by me).

    I'm not sure about Sarah Algood. I don't remember any landlady, except for the 2 women at the beginning of the film. if she was one of them, she couldn't have been in it for more that 5 minutes. I dunno.