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
After Lincoln's 1860 election, the crowd sings "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". However, Julia Ward Howe wrote the poem, on which the song was based, for the Atlantic Monthly in 1861. See more »
John Wickliff Shawnessy:
[People are gathering in the town center]
What's going on here?
You haven't heard? They've attacked Fort Sumter. It means war sure as anything.
I'm not so sure. Now, say what you will, Americans will never fight each other. We'll settle our difficulties peacefully.
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M-G-M assigned some pretty heavy-hitters to cobble together this almost indigestible attempt to tell a Civil War story without a producer like David O. Selznick to insist that the whole thing should somehow come together. Other comments on this site tell the sad story of miscasting, a seemingly unfocused script, apparently disinterested direction and the obvious tragedy of Montgomery Clift's catastrophic automobile accident during production and its effect on all the performances he was to give thereafter.
Elizabeth Taylor is about the only central player who emerges relatively unscathed and her Academy Award nomination was deserved (and certainly more worthy of the Oscar she did win for "BUtterfield 8".)
I bought reserved seat tickets for this before its initial engagement began and the reviewers' generally negative appraisals were available. M-G-M's new big screen process, MGM Camera 65 ("Window of the World" as they termed it, used only once again by the studio for "Ben-Hur"), afforded a handsome showcasing of all the expense lavished upon this production, but, even as a teenager, I squirmed in my seat as its oh-so-lengthy reels unspooled and I left the theater regretting that its makers hadn't somehow achieved something memorable for its quality and dramatic impact, rather than for its longueurs. Johnny Green's score (and Nat King Cole's rendition of the title song) did sound awfully good over the stereophonic sound system at that Beverly Hills, California theater and that's one aspect of this disappointment that is now probably lost forever.
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