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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It's the mid-nineteenth century in Freehaven, Raintree County, Indiana. John Shawnessy has just graduated from high school at the top of his class, with a promising career as a writer. He is a romantic, principled, and an idealist, believing the story of the golden raintree - after which the county is named - growing somewhere, most likely in the county's swamp area, searching for and locating it which would provide all the answers to one's life questions. An idea passed down from his father, John also has a strong sense of place as belonging, and as such there is much anticipation in the probable marriage between John and his sweetheart Nell Gaither, a born and bred Raintree girl. However, there is an undeniable mutual attraction on first sight between John and Susanna Drake, a visiting southern belle. Despite Susanna's temporary stay in Raintree County which means that she and John may not have a future, they eventually do marry out of circumstance, leaving behind a heartbroken Nell... Written by
The town of Freehaven of the mythical Raintree County was created in 1956 on MGM's vast Backlot #3 at Jefferson and Overland Boulevards in Culver City, California, by re-designing a portion of an old western set and adding some new buildings such as the Freehaven Town Hall and its clock tower. In 1971, MGM's Lot #3 was demolished to make way for a new apartment and condominium complex which became known as "Raintree Estates," named for this motion picture. Several Chinese Golden Raintrees were planted around the new residential property and many of the complex's streets and buildings were named for various MGM productions. 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 »
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.
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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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