It's the mid nineteenth century in Freehaven, Raintree County, Indiana. John Wickliff Shawnessy (Montgomery Clift) 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 (Eva Marie Saint), a born and bred Raintree girl. However, there is an undeniable mutual attraction on first sight between John and Susanna Drake (Dame Elizabeth Taylor), a visiting southern belle. Despite Susanna's temporary stay in Raintree County which means that she and John may not have a future, they ...Written by
On the evening of May 12, 1956, during the shooting of this movie, Montgomery Clift was involved in a serious car accident on his way back home from a party at the house of Dame Elizabeth Taylor. He apparently fell asleep at the wheel of his car while driving and smashed his car into a telephone pole. 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 this movie, but with considerable difficulties. His dashing looks, though, were gone forever. In some scenes throughout the movie, despite the cinematographer's skill, Clift's nose and chin look different, and the entire left side of his face is nearly 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 »
The longer Roadshow version was released on VHS by Warner, where it was labeled as Reconstructed Original Version. It has also been shown on Turner Classic Movies cable channel. This version contains nearly 15 minutes of additional material not found on the General Release Version. See more »
They don't make movies like this any more, thank goodness! This `late MGM' historical costume drama from 1957 has great costumes, rather underemployed big stars, lovely locations and expert cinematography, overdone interior sets, rather ordinary dialogue and a trite storyline. The version I watched ran for about three hours; beautiful as it was, it seemed twice that length. It also lacked emotional intensity and the storyline was telegraphed far in advance, not what you would expect from Dmytryk, the director of `The Caine Mutiny'.
I understand Montgomery Clift (John Shawnessy) had a disfiguring accident during filming and thus he can be forgiven for looking a bit wooden in some scenes. In his mid-thirties, he was far too old for his character who was meant to be fresh out of college. At least Liz Taylor looked right as Susannah (from Savannah), the cracked Southern Belle. Eve Marie Saint as Nell, the hero's `best friend,' spends most of the movie just floating a few inches above the ground. Lee Marvin and Rod Taylor both have parts as eager young men (which they were at the time) and are reasonably convincing, and the British actor Nigel Patrick has a good turn as one of those charismatic/charlatan `professors' who seem to inhabit 19th century American literature.
The civil war and the battle against slavery get some screentime here, but the underlying theme is Shawnessy's search for personal meaning, for the Raintree of life. For him the answer is; find your patch, settle down, marry your own kind (Susannah was a big mistake) and don't run for congress. Ross Lockridge, the original author, a resident of Indiana where most of the movie is set (though not filmed), wrote this single best seller before committing suicide in 1948, and was thus not around to tell the filmmakers what he intended, but Dmytryk at least seemed to realize the story was a rather personal one. Someone forget to tell the set and costume departments.
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