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Raintree County (1957)

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A graduating poet/teacher falls in love with a Southern woman, and then the Civil War and her past create problems.



(screenplay), (novel)
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Title: Raintree County (1957)

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Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
John Wickliff Shawnessy
Nell Gaither
Nigel Patrick ...
Prof. Jerusalem Webster Stiles
Orville 'Flash' Perkins
Garwood B. Jones
Ellen Shawnessy
T.D. Shawnessy
Jarma Lewis ...
Barbara Drake
Tom Drake ...
Bobby Drake
Ezra Gray
Russell Collins ...
Niles Foster
Southern Officer


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 Matt Patay

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


In The Great Tradition Of Civil War Romance


Drama | Romance | War | Western


See all certifications »




Release Date:

20 December 1957 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El árbol de la vida  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$5,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(original) | (Turner Library Print)

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System) (70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The all-too-brief scenes which Montgomery Clift shot for this picture just before his accident represent the only color footage available of him before he was disfigured. All of his previous movies had been shot in black and white. See more »


After Lincoln wins the election, John and Nell say good night in front of John's house. The same wagon with the same people in it pass by them twice in the background. See more »


Prof. Jerusalem Webster Stiles: [Narrating] May the 16th, 1864. Resaca, Georgia. Another day of dramatic corpse-making.
See more »


Featured in Hollywood Remembers Lee Marvin (2000) See more »


Raintree County
Music by Johnny Green (uncredited)
Lyrics by Paul Francis Webster
Sung by Nat 'King' Cole
See more »

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User Reviews

sumptuous and nostalgic
22 July 2003 | by (st. monica) – See all my reviews

An individual's life is formed by his memories. Books, music and - yes, movies - influence us. We remember the situations and the dialogue, we remember the sweet melodies. These memories enable us to react, as well as give us the ability to identify situations as they occur.

I saw "Raintree County" when I was 15. Orphaned at six, I'd just departed from an orphans home in Dallas, after nearly nine years. Knowing virtually nothing of the outside world, I was receptive to everything, every person that I encountered. That summer of 1958, I sneaked into the Forest Park Drive-In to see Elizabeth Taylor, of whom I knew little, other than that she was a breath-taking beauty, and had been recently widowed when Michael Todd's chartered plane had crashed.

The characters in the movie (when I was 15) were literal, if not visceral: the magnificence of Miss Taylor's satin gowns encased over crinoline, Lee Marvin's sharp, smart-alecky wit, the professor's lechery, Montgomery Clift's Yankee stoicism, Agnes Moorehead's curious detachment, were all primary colors.

Forty-five years have passed. Those primary colors are now a multitude of blendings and shadings of secondary colors. Montgomery Clift's character is now a beautifully controlled young man who reflects his parents' stoicism, a young man whose intelligence and self control are at the core of the film, and upon whom all characters revolve.

Originally, I thought that "Raintree County" was strictly Taylor's vehicle. She is the burr under the saddle, the exquisite seductress that interfers with Clift's heretofore regulated, almost predestined lifestyle upon his college graduation.

'Raintree' is an achingly beautiful film, and Miss Taylor, who is the most gifted in her portrayal of anguished characters, blesses the movie. Norma Shearer could be beautiful in 'Marie Antoinette", but she lacked depth. Betty Davis portrayed Sturm und Drang, but was never a clothes horse. Taylor combines the two.

Having read some of the other's comments, most of whom disliked the story, perhaps it helps to be Southern to truly love this film. And also, one wants to realize that it depicts two diametrically opposed cultures: North and South. When Northern chill mixes with Southern humidity, chaos results. And so it did, and it was known as The War Between the States.

In conclusion, one wants to luxuriate in this film: Lockridge wrote a brilliant story, and for the most part, it is well delivered. It is rich in history and characterization.

55 of 74 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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