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
This is the second movie that Rod Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor starred in together. The first was Giant a year before. Both movies took place in the South the latter during the early to middle 20th Century. 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 »
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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