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Mrs. Iselin

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Lansbury

Why don't you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?
~ Mrs. Iselin, putting Raymond into his trance
Mrs. Iselin is the main antagonist in the novel and film The Manchurian Candidate.  In the 1962 version, she is played by Angela Lansbury, who recieved an Oscar nomination for the role.  In the 2004 version she was played by Meryl Streep.

Background

Mrs. Eleanor Iselin is a Communist secret agent plotting to take over the United States government.  She disguises this by creating a very patriotic public image, heading many conservative American organizations. She also marries the ultra-conservative  Senator John Iselin.  Her husband takes orders from her, and keeps up their image by spreading false rumors about Communist agents in the government, thus sowing disorder in the country.

She is intensely controlling and holds her son Raymond Shaw under her sway for years, though he openly hates her. When Raymond falls in love with Jocie Jordan, the daughter of a liberal senator who opposes the Iselins, Mrs. Iselin forbeds Raymond to marry her. Eventually Raymond is drawn into her plot to take over America.  During the Korean War, Raymond and his unit are taken prisoners by Chinese agents and brainwashed.  Raymond slips into a hypnotic state when he sees the Queen of Diamonds, who reminds him of his mother.  In this state, he is used as an assassin.

Mrs. Iselin gets her husband nominated as the Republican candidate for Vice President.  She allows Raymond to marry Jocie, in the hopes of winning Senator Jordan's support.  When Jordan tells her he will fight Senator Iselin's nomination, she puts Raymond into his hypnotic state. In a trance, Raymond murders his now father-in-law, and his new wife under his mother's orders.

Mrs. Iselin's plan is to have Raymond assassinate the Presidential nominee during the Republican Convention, at which point her husband will make a prepared speech that will mark him in the media as a hero, and ensure his victory, putting them both in power as President and First Lady.  She confesses to Raymond that she did not mean him to become the assassin, and plans to take revenge on her former Communist masters when she is in power.

Unfortunately, Raymond's army friend Ben Marco manages to discover Mrs. Iselin's hold on him, and breaks it.  Instead of carrying out his orders at the convention, Raymond shoots Senator Iselin, then his mother, before killing himself.

It is strongly hinted that Mrs. Iselin has an obsessive, even sexual attraction to her son.  While he is in his trance state, after explaining her plan to him, she kisses him passionately on the mouth.

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