The only son of wealthy widow Violet Venable dies while on vacation with his cousin Catherine. What the girl saw was so horrible that she went insane; now Mrs. Venable wants Catherine lobotomized to cover up the truth.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
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An abolitionist John Wickliff Shawnessy drifts away from his high school sweetheart Nell Gaither and enters into a passionate love affair with a wealthy New Orleans belle Susanna Drake but is tricked into marrying her when she falsely tells him that she is pregnant. But even after Susanna tells him the truth his still stays with her out of love. But John soon learns that Susanna is hiding a dark secret which leads her into madness. This madness causes Susanna to flee to the South during the Civil War taking their son with her. John leaves home and enlisting in the Northern Army as his only means to pursue Susanna. Written by
The first preview for this film was held January 24, 1957 at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara, the film ran 3 hours and 6 minutes. On March 19, 1957 the New York Times reported that retakes would begin later that month so "that certain dramatic points will be emphasized by re-shooting in close-up and that extra footage will be added to achieve smoother transitions in the sprawling drama." When the film was ready for release two options were offered to exhibitors, either the 168 minute version as a two screenings a day feature or a continuous performance version that ran 151 minutes. See more »
At the party celebrating Lincoln's election, a guest smears charcoal on some of his face. In the next shot, his face is almost entirely black. See more »
Idealistic Montgomery Clift (as John Shawnessy) is distracted by buxom Southern belle Elizabeth Taylor (as Susanna Drake), and marries her instead of pretty sweetheart Eva Marie Saint (as Nell Gaither). Life with Ms. Taylor proves to be a cursed existence, so Mr. Clift takes refuge as a Union soldier, after the United States Civil War breaks out. Of course, Clift is on the winning side of the war - but, his personal search for happiness, in an Eden called "Raintree County", is a more difficult path to manage...
Clearly, MGM was hoping for something approaching "Gone with the Wind"
and, they failed. However, "Raintree County" is not so bad, when
viewed without the comparative eye. The big budget production values are beautiful; the obvious expense, and the cast, helps maintain interest in the relatively weak storyline. And, it does get better, as the starring triad (Clift, Taylor, and Saint) slowly draw you into their lives. Viewing will require some degree of commitment, though; it's a long movie.
Early in the filming, Clift left a visit with friends at Taylor's home, and drove his car into a telephone pole. He nearly died, and his facial "reconstruction" is obvious throughout most of "Raintree County". Clift's performance is uneven, also - but, he was too good an actor to be completely derailed. And, Clift is better than you might have heard. Also, he, does not look as bad as many have claimed. The eventual toll on his "looks" was mainly taken by a growing dependence on alcohol and painkillers.
Taylor, who is credited with saving Clift's life, shows some of the sparkle that would quickly make her one of the best actresses in the business, especially during the film's second half. Nigel Patrick, Lee Marvin, Rod Taylor, and Agnes Moorehead head up a strong supporting cast. Robert Surtees' savory cinematography is noteworthy. And, Nat King Cole sings the Johnny Green title song, a minor hit, very sweetly.
****** Raintree County (10/4/57) Edward Dmytryk ~ Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, Eva Marie Saint
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