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Raintree County (1957)

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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 2,485 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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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?


On May 12, 1956, during the shooting of this film, Montgomery Clift was involved in a serious car accident on his way back home from a party at the house of Elizabeth Taylor. His friend Kevin McCarthy witnessed the accident from his car, drove back and informed Taylor and her then husband Michael Wilding, who immediately drove to the location together with Rock Hudson. Taylor entered the car through the back door, crawled to the front seat and removed the two front teeth from Clift's throat that threatened to choke him. Hudson finally managed to pull him out of the wreck and together they protected him from being photographed until the ambulance arrived. This was necessary because soon after the emergency call had come in to the local police station, reporters were already on their way and arrived at the scene when Clift was still in the car. The accident was well publicized. After nine weeks of recovery and with plastic surgery, Clift returned to the movie set and finished the film, but with considerable difficulties. His dashing looks, though, were gone forever. If you notice in some scenes, his nose and chin look different, and the left side of his face is more or less immobile. See more »


While celebrating Lincoln's election in 1860, the band can be heard playing "Rally Round the Flag". This song was not penned until 1862 by George F. Root. See more »


Prof. Jerusalem Webster Stiles: Greatness? Ha! If that great philosopher, Socrates, were living today, he'd be reduced to sitting on a cracker barrel, chewing tobacco. That's what America does for greatness.
See more »


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


Never Till Now
Music by Johnny Green
Lyrics by Paul Francis Webster
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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