Raintree County (1957)

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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 2,504 users  
Reviews: 42 user | 4 critic

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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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


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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: [On the back of the train, leaving town in a hurry] Goodbye, dear friend. Remember me as a man who loves Raintree County, but just happens to loathe most of the people in it.
See more »


Referenced in Gods and Monsters (1998) 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

A Beautiful Evocation of the North During the Civil War, and More
16 June 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I discovered Ross Lockridge Jr.'s attempt at the Great American Novel when I first saw "Raintree County" the film in 1957. I was aware that the story that was put on the screen was not perfect, although it is a beautifully-made and often-interesting film; so I read the novel, to discover what had been omitted. Because I have become an expert on both the book and the film, I appreciate even more what is right about cinematic achievement and find myself more willing to ignore the story's flaws. First, consider the direction, a near-miracle of taste, shot composition, blocking and work with actors achieved by Edward Dmytryk. Art direction, lighting, set design, Walter Plunkett's costumes, the low-key music by Johnny Greene, the theme song, the dialogue by Millard Kaufman, and some of the acting rate with Hollywood's finest. In particular, Eva Marie Saint's work as Nell Gaither, Nigel Patrick as Professor Stiles, Walter Abel as T.D. and Lee Marvin as Flash Perkins deserved Oscar nominations. The smaller parts in the film, from James Griffiths to De Forest Kelley to Tom Drake are all well-nigh flawless. And the memorable scenes such as the Southern ball, the visit to a bordello, the great July Fourth race, Johnny's misadventure in the swamp, the scenes on the Academy lawn, the handling of Johnny Shawnessey's house in Freehaven, Indiana, the war scenes, the great rally in 1860, Rod Taylor's office as Garwood Jones in Indianapolis, all are very well mounted. The flaw in the script, which has a story much-altered from the novel that has one philosophical error also (the author cannot accept American individualism as being not social but reality-based) was confirmed for me by Eva Marie Saint. In 1966, I complimented her acting then asked if the story might not have been handled more strongly, to reflect the novel. Sadly, she noted, "Oh no--they GAVE the picture to ELIZABETH!". A multi-million-dollar film had been made to wangle an undeserved nomination for an Academy Award for Elizabeth Taylor, who tries hard but lacks the classical dimension. But, there is a way to enjoy this superbly-made film that renders the problem of Johnny Shawnessey's obsession with the Taylor character smaller: watch it in 'thirds'. The film then becomes Young John Shawnessey; Johnny and Susannah Drake; Aftermath. It was shown this way on a Los Angeles TV station once, and the structure became much more evident. As the central character, Montgomery Clift starts well but the accident he had during the film and his miscasting vitiate some later work; he gets by with most of his very-demanding role, however, and his work in the last third of the film has some real power. I would not have missed this film for anything; it has been part of my life for fifty years; why not make its power, haunting successful scenes and many lovely attainments a part of yours also.

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