Eugene O’Neill’s post-Civil War version of the ancient Greek classic was at best ‘good for those who like that sort of thing’. The success of the 1931 play proved that there were plenty who did # or who were drawn by the O’Neill name and/or a sense that they owed it to themselves aesthetically to see Electra.
Unfortunately, the picture # although still laden with tense drama # lacks much of the impact of the play. The five-hour play (plus an hour’s intermission for dinner) seemed less long than the 2 hours and 53 minutes of picture, which is run without intermission.
Nichols, who produced, directed and wrote the adaptation for the screen, will rate a bow from the O’Neill lovers in that he has made no compromises. The picture is every bit as unrelenting in its detailing of family tragedy, brought on by the warping effect of Puritan conscience in conflict with human emotion, as was the play. Even the distorted Oedipus relationships are unflaggingly handled. Never is there concession to a smile or other relaxation from the hammering tragedy of murder, self-destruction and twisted, dramatic emotionalism. The legend has been set down in almost modern surroundings and given the locale and speech, the morals and manners of Civil War New England.
Performances are uniformly good, although they never rise beyond the drama that is inherent in the situations themselves. Too often the emoting consists of Rosalind Russell, and Michael Redgrave popping their eyes. Outstanding are Raymond Massey and Henry Hull, the latter in the secondary role of an aged retainer.
1947: Nominations: Best Actor (Michael Redgrave), Actress (Rosalind Russell)