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
It seems highly likely that MGM saw this movie as another Gone with the Wind (1939), a Civil War epic on a grand scale. Like the earlier movie, it was based on a first novel by a previously unknown writer who never wrote a second work. However, this movie - unlike Gone with the Wind (1939) - was a huge flop. The novel, published in 1948 after many delays, was set on a single day, many years after the Civil War, albeit with reminiscences of the past, and its author, Ross Lockridge, Jr., was so disturbed by its unexpectedly immense success that he committed suicide only a few weeks after its publication. 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 »
Did you ever hear your father's sermon on the evils of tobacco? Ends with a regular poem: "Some do it chew, and some do it smoke, while some it up their noses do poke."
John Wickliff Shawnessy:
I do all three at the same time.
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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 »
A Beautiful Evocation of the North During the Civil War, and More
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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