Lizzie Curry is on the verge of becoming a hopeless old maid. Her wit and intelligence and skills as a homemaker can't make up for the fact that she's just plain plain. Even the town sheriff, File, for whom she harbors a secret yen, won't take a chance --- until the town suffers a drought and into the lives of Lizzie and her brothers and father comes one Bill Starbuck - profession: Rainmaker.Written by
After Starbuck shows up at the Currys' house, H.C. and Noah are playing a game of checkers. They start the game with H.C. playing red and make a few moves, then the phone rings. After the call, the game has reset to the beginning, and H.C. is playing black. See more »
Although the screen adaptation of "The Rainmaker" remains firmly stage bound, once the film's fine cast involves viewers with the characters' complex emotions, the obviously fake sets are rarely noticed again. The painted skies, over-lit interiors, and western back-lots would under cut the film's veracity with a lesser cast. However, the leads are sterling, and, only a short time into the film, the small dreams of a lonely woman, who is just beyond her marrying years, engage the audience to such an extent that distractions from pedestrian direction, an often overly dramatic music score, and sound-stage exteriors will fade away.
Katharine Hepburn gives arguably one of her finest performances as Lizzie, the plain spinster who harbors a repressed yearning for marriage and a family. Despite the ploys of her brothers, well played by Lloyd Bridges and occasionally over played by Earl Holliman, Lizzie returns from a visit to a family of eligible bachelors without a beau. Although her sights had originally been set on Wendell Corey, a divorced sheriff who is disguised as a widower, he is an independent man and prefers to remain in the single state. Enter Starbuck, a flamboyant con man, played to the hilt by Burt Lancaster, who was born to inhabit such roles. Starbuck is cousin to Elmer Gantry, the Crimson Pirate, and other athletic extroverts that created Lancaster's larger-than-life screen persona, and Lancaster plays to this image in "The Rainmaker." Meanwhile, Hepburn is at the peak of her aging spinster parts, which also include such indelible women as those in "The African Queen" and "Summertime." Together, the two stars captivate viewers and lend credence to a some-times predictable story line. Actually, during a few of playwright N. Richard Nash's over-wrought scenes, the cast seems about to burst into song, which makes the play's subsequent musical adaptation, "110 in the Shade," almost inevitable.
Despite the film's flaws, patient viewers who persist beyond the first half hour will be rewarded. Although Hepburn became mannered as her later career progressed, the portrayal of Lizzie Curry does not rely on ticks and quivering chins, and the sensitive dreamer beneath the weathered woman shines through with the help of Lancaster's charismatic Starbuck. Hepburn's glowing demeanor, when faced with a cross-roads decision that she has dreamed of for years, will bring a tear to all but the toughest in the audience.
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