Desire Under The Elms

1958, Movie, NR, 111 mins


O'Neill's sultry classic based on the Greek tragedy "Oedipus" receives a brutal, almost contemptuous approach under the heavy-handed direction of Mann and a turgid script by Irwin Shaw. Ives is the cold-eyed patriarch of a suppressed New England family, circa 1840, who takes on a new wife, 20-year-old Loren, so red-hot she sizzles the screen. She is a greedy immigrant who will do anything to gain property and makes a bargain with Ives. She will sire a son for Ives if he will wed her and will her his farm. He agrees, but it is Perkins, Ives' son, who is the father of the baby Loren produces. Ives announces his deal with Loren at a celebration for the infant and Perkins, full of rage, departs. Loren, her mind warped, attempts to show her love for him by smothering the child to death. When Ives learns the truth, he disowns his son. Perkins returns, penitent, asking Loren's forgiveness for deserting her. They meekly surrender to the sheriff to await justice. The film is basically a disgrace and a great disservice to O'Neill's complex and arresting play. Mann and Shaw abandon almost completely the intricate interplay between the Perkins and Ives characters, centering attention on Loren in her American film debut, which was a disaster. She was wholly unsuitable for her role, which she undoubtedly received because of the constant pressure by Italian producer Carlo Ponti, her husband. Perkins renders an acceptable if neurotic performance and Ives is just doing his "Big Daddy" role all over again, but with a New England accent. Cinematographer Fapp received an Oscar nomination. leave a comment

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