Desire Under the Elms (1958): O’Neill’s Play On Screen, Starring Sophia Loren

Director Delbert Mann (Oscar-winner for “Marty”) and screenwriter Irwin Shaw’s adaptation of “Desire Under the Elms,” Eugene O’Neill’s version of a Greek tragedy, is too sedate and tame. It also suffers from miscasting of the leads: Anthony Perkins and Sophia Loren.

The story takes place in New England, circa the 1840s, where the emotionally detached but passionately hot farmer, Ephraim Cabot (Burl Ives, as usual, a rigid patriarchal), lives with is much younger and beautiful third wife, Anna Cabot (Sophia Loren).

When his stepson Eben (Anthony Perkins) arrives, the house’s sexual-social dynamics change, and he and Anna engage in a semi-incestuous love affair.

The tale reaches its melodramatic intensity and tragic end, when Anna gets pregnant, and Epraim thinks the child is his own.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Cinematography (b/w): Daniel L. Fapp

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner was Sam Levitt for “The Defiant Ones.”


Running time: 114 Minutes.

Directed by Delbert Mann

Written by Irwin Shaw.

Released: March 12, 1958.

DVD: August 31, 2004