Mourning Becomes Electra (film)

Mourning Becomes Electra is a 1947 American drama film by Dudley Nichols adapted from the 1931 Eugene O'Neill play Mourning Becomes Electra. The film stars Rosalind Russell, Michael Redgrave, Raymond Massey, Katina Paxinou, Leo Genn and Kirk Douglas.

Mourning Becomes Electra
Directed byDudley Nichols
Produced byDudley Nichols
Written byDudley Nichols
Based onMourning Becomes Electra
by Eugene O'Neill
StarringRosalind Russell
Michael Redgrave
Raymond Massey
Kirk Douglas
Music byRichard Hageman
CinematographyGeorge Barnes
Edited byRoland Gross
Chandler House
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
November 19, 1947 (1947-11-19)
Running time
173 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$435,000[1]

It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Michael Redgrave) and Best Actress in a Leading Role (Rosalind Russell). Originally released by RKO Radio Pictures at nearly three hours, it was eventually cut to 105 minutes (losing more than an hour) after it performed poorly at the box office and won no Oscars. It has since been restored to its full length and shown on Turner Classic Movies.

An Oscar upset occurred in connection with the film. All who saw it had taken it for granted that Rosalind Russell would win for her performance as Lavinia, to the point that Russell actually began to rise from her seat just before the winner's name was called. However, it was Loretta Young, and not Russell, who was named Best Actress for her performance in The Farmer's Daughter.

The film recorded a loss of $2,310,000, making it one of RKO's biggest financial disasters.[1][2]


A wealthy New England family, the Mannons, await the return of patriarch Ezra, general for the Union army, and son Orin, a timid young man before becoming an Army officer at the end of the Civil War. Lavinia, who adores her father, is shocked to see mother Christine kissing another man. Worse yet, the man is sea captain Adam Brant, someone whom Lavinia has long fancied herself, even though her childhood friend Peter Niles has been courting her.

Learning from family servant Seth that, complicating matters further, Adam is actually a relative, a son of Lavinia's uncle, causes her to confront her mother. To her astonishment, Lavinia finds out that Christine is completely aware of the family relationship, but has hated Ezra since the day she married him.

Adam has hidden motives as well. He hates the Mannons for the way they treated his mother, who is now deceased. He is seeking revenge by toying with Christine's affections. But when she comes to him with a plot to kill Ezra by poisoning him, Adam is reluctant to go that far with his scheme.

Ezra returns home. His harrowing experiences during the war have persuaded him to try for a closer relationship with his wife. Christine is thrown by this, but elects to proceed with her plan to kill him. Ezra does indeed die, but Lavinia comes into possession of the pills that her mother used to poison him.

One tragedy follows another. Orin decides to shoot Adam for what he's done. Christine commits suicide. Lavinia decides to marry Peter after all, but his sister Hazel discloses that her family has all but disowned Peter for having anything to do with the Mannons.

Orin is riddled with guilt and kills himself as well. All is lost for Lavinia, who has Seth nail shut the shutters of the windows to their home, locking herself away from the world forever.


Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1947 19th National Board of Review Awards Best Actor Michael Redgrave Won
1948 5th Golden Globe Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role Rosalind Russell Won
20th Academy Awards Best Actor Michael Redgrave Nominated
Best Actress Rosalind Russell Nominated


  1. Jewel, Richard (1994). "RKO Film Grosses, 1929–1951: the C. J. Tevlin ledger". Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television. 14 (1): 46. doi:10.1080/01439689400260031.
  2. Jewell, Richard B. (March 22, 2016). Slow Fade to Black: The Decline of RKO Radio Pictures. University of California Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-0520289673. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
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