Raintree County (1957) Poster

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9/10
He Married Scarlett O'Hara and Wound up with Blanche Dubois
bkoganbing6 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
When MGM filmed Raintree County it had high hopes that it would be a second Gone With The Wind. It didn't quite come up to that, but it is still a good film on its own merits.

It took about 10 years for MGM to finally bring this to the screen. Shortly before the tragic suicide of author Ross Lockridge, MGM acquired the screen rights to this one and only novel by Lockridge which was a number one best seller in post World War II years.

The story opens in ante bellum Civil War Indiana, specifically in RaintreeCounty. Our hero is John Shawnessy, a sort of aimless young man who teaches school for lack of better direction. He's a sensitive soul with deep abolitionist convictions and no one was a more sensitive soul on the screen than Montgomery Clift.

If all had gone well, Monty would have probably married the girl from home played by Eva Marie Saint. But a visiting Southern belle played by Elizabeth Taylor in her best fiddle-dee-dee Scarlett O'Hara manner sweeps Monty off his feet. He hasn't got a prayer.

But Liz Taylor got her first Academy Award nomination not for simply imitating Scarlett O'Hara. Her role requires her to descend into the madness of Vivien Leigh's other Southern belle Oscar part, Blanche Dubois. It's on this devolution of character that Liz Taylor the actress really shines. She lost the Oscar sweepstakes that year to Joanne Woodward's Three Faces of Eve.

The film almost wasn't finished because of a horrible automobile accident that nearly killed Monty Clift during production. As it was, it was held up for three months while the best plastic surgeons looked to reconstruct Montgomery Clift's face. You can see clearly those shots before and after the accident.

Liz Taylor in her documentary tribute to her favorite leading man and best friend in the world said that Monty Clift did not lose the physical beauty, but he did lose the delicacy of his features which were her own words. In a strange way it probably helped his performance because John Shawnessy does go to war and war is an experience known for scarring and aging people.

As in A Place In the Sun, Monty and Liz's scenes together have that extra dimension that people who care about each other deeply can give a scene. Raintree County should be seen for that alone.

Eva Marie Saint as the good girl from home does all right, but her character just doesn't have the depth that Liz's and Monty's do. Eva Marie is just given less to work with. Others in this nicely rounded cast are Lee Marvin as Clift's friend and rival from his hometown, Agnes Moorehead and Walter Abel as Clift's parents, Rod Taylor as a sleazy politician and Nigel Patrick who observes it all as a wandering reprobate who takes a liking to Clift.

It's not Gone With the Wind, but it's pretty good.
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6/10
Montgomery Clift and the making of "Raintree County"
ecjones195120 July 2006
"Raintree County" is one of those movies like "Ishtar" or "Waterworld;" troubled productions remembered as much -- if not more so -- for what went on behind the scenes as in the finished picture. Patricia Bosworth's definitive biography "Montgomery Clift" (1978) is the source of the facts that follow.

While "Raintree County" was in rehearsals, Montgomery Clift's drinking was out of hand, and threatened to hamper production. Elizabeth Taylor had no real influence on him, despite being his dearest friend and soulmate. Many in the cast and crew expressed their concerns to MGM higher-ups. This led to a series of meetings between Clift and MGM Production Chief Dore Schary. "Raintree" had a $5 million budget, the highest of any American film up to that time, so it was up to Schary to solve problems on the set or behind the scenes before they happened.

Schary left the meetings believing Clift was sincere in his desire to straighten up and behave himself. But he was not convinced that Monty would be able to do it. His demons were too powerful; every picture he made was held hostage to Clift's self-destructiveness. Schary decided to take out a $500,000 insurance policy on "Raintree County" just in case there was a halt in production for whatever reason.

Schary had never done this before, but his "funny premonition" tragically came to pass.

On May 12, 1956, half of "Raintree County" had been filmed. Elizabeth and other of Monty's friends had prevailed upon him to stay sober during shooting, and he was trying to live up to his side of the bargain. At a party at Elizabeth's and husband Michael Wilding's that night, Monty was sober and quiet. He had one glass of wine, and made his excuses and left. He was uncertain about driving down the steep hill to Sunset Blvd., and asked his close friend, Kevin McCarthy ("Invasion of the Body Snatchers") to lead him to the road.

McCarthy described many times in later years seeing Monty's headlights move wildly from one side of the road to the other in his rearview mirror. Then he watched in horror as Monty's car slammed into a telephone pole.

Montgomery Clift's impossibly beautiful profile and the planes of a face the camera adored were destroyed. He was crumpled on the floor of the car, his face and jaws crushed. Elizabeth Taylor resisted all attempts to keep her from going to his side. When she got to him, she straightened him up and pulled his two front teeth out of his throat before he strangled on them.

Recovery was long, slow; unbearably painful. Monty had friends sneak liquor into the hospital. Three weeks after rebuilding his jaws, Monty's doctors realized they had done the job incorrectly. They re-broke his jaws and wired them again.

Production was shut down for weeks. With over $2 million already invested in it, MGM was not about to abandon "Raintree," nor replace its star. Resumption of the project was primarily a question of money for the studio, but to Monty and those who loved him it was a question of pride.

Weeks after the accident, Monty was allowed to see himself in a mirror for the first time. He was not elated with the results, but relieved to see he looked enough like himself that he could continue acting in front of cameras. Greater than his pain had been the fear that his career was over.

Montgomery Clift returned to work on "Raintree County" knowing that the picture was no better than when he left. He returned knowing that audiences would come to see it to play a ghoulish game: they would try to spot him "before" and "after." He returned to the production numbed and dulled by painkillers and alcohol.

Despite his horrific ordeal, despite the liquor and the pills that eased his pain and enabled him to complete the picture, I still believe Montgomery Clift's performance of Johnny Shawnessy to be one of his best.

Clift had an unusual voice and unorthodox phrasing. On screen he was intuitive and sensitive, his portrayals always highly intelligent. However much he rehearsed (and he was notorious for doing things to death) Clift's readings always seemed quite natural. The accident changed none of these things. And equally fine performances were to come, in "Lonelyhearts" (1958), "The Misfits" and "Wild River" (both 1960); and "Judgment at Nuremburg" (1961).

Montgomery Clift died 40 years ago this week, on July 22, 1966. He was 45 years old. But part of him had died ten years earlier on a twisting road in the Hollywood hills. The accident that nearly killed him left him prey to his weaknesses but also to the enormous strength and passion that informs his later performances. "Raintree County" divided Monty Clift's life into "before" and "after."
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sumptuous and nostalgic
IRVIN822 July 2003
An individual's life is formed by his memories. Books, music and - yes, movies - influence us. We remember the situations and the dialogue, we remember the sweet melodies. These memories enable us to react, as well as give us the ability to identify situations as they occur.

I saw "Raintree County" when I was 15. Orphaned at six, I'd just departed from an orphans home in Dallas, after nearly nine years. Knowing virtually nothing of the outside world, I was receptive to everything, every person that I encountered. That summer of 1958, I sneaked into the Forest Park Drive-In to see Elizabeth Taylor, of whom I knew little, other than that she was a breath-taking beauty, and had been recently widowed when Michael Todd's chartered plane had crashed.

The characters in the movie (when I was 15) were literal, if not visceral: the magnificence of Miss Taylor's satin gowns encased over crinoline, Lee Marvin's sharp, smart-alecky wit, the professor's lechery, Montgomery Clift's Yankee stoicism, Agnes Moorehead's curious detachment, were all primary colors.

Forty-five years have passed. Those primary colors are now a multitude of blendings and shadings of secondary colors. Montgomery Clift's character is now a beautifully controlled young man who reflects his parents' stoicism, a young man whose intelligence and self control are at the core of the film, and upon whom all characters revolve.

Originally, I thought that "Raintree County" was strictly Taylor's vehicle. She is the burr under the saddle, the exquisite seductress that interfers with Clift's heretofore regulated, almost predestined lifestyle upon his college graduation.

'Raintree' is an achingly beautiful film, and Miss Taylor, who is the most gifted in her portrayal of anguished characters, blesses the movie. Norma Shearer could be beautiful in 'Marie Antoinette", but she lacked depth. Betty Davis portrayed Sturm und Drang, but was never a clothes horse. Taylor combines the two.

Having read some of the other's comments, most of whom disliked the story, perhaps it helps to be Southern to truly love this film. And also, one wants to realize that it depicts two diametrically opposed cultures: North and South. When Northern chill mixes with Southern humidity, chaos results. And so it did, and it was known as The War Between the States.

In conclusion, one wants to luxuriate in this film: Lockridge wrote a brilliant story, and for the most part, it is well delivered. It is rich in history and characterization.
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8/10
Susanna Drake is among Taylor's most colorful and intelligent characterizations…
Nazi_Fighter_David7 February 2009
Liz is a disturbed New Orleans belle with a vision that she's part black… She's the beautiful femme fatale to Eva Marie Saint's inevitable cowardly heroine… As in "A Place in the Sun," Liz is used as the symbol of a particular social class and a particular kind of woman… She sets her mark on an idealistic young man John Wickliff Shawnessy (Montgomery Clift) who's looking for the mythical rain tree that contains the secret of the meaning of life…

Trapping him into marriage with the lie that she's pregnant, and then proceeding to lose her hold on her sanity, Susanna detains the good and helpless John for eight years… He is released, able to return to his magnificent dream and to his pure childhood sweetheart, only after tragic events…

Retaining the essence of Ross Lockridge, Jr. best-seller, the movie states the equality of the unhappy romance with the Civil War: the personal drama is therefore a reflection of the nation's wounds… According to the top-heavy symbolism, Susanna Drake represents the South, corrupting and dragging down the North; she's the Body contaminating the poet's Soul…

Taylor plays Susanna Drake's character with an intensity that exceeds all her earlier work… Montgomery Clift as the unlucky poet and Eva Marie Saint as his high school sweetheart and true love are on the remote side, but the scenes with Liz strike fire in a wonderfully brilliant way…

With its battles and its formal balls, its magnificent riverboats and decayed mansions, its bordellos and madhouses, its childbirth and deathbed scenes, and its evacuation of Atlanta, Edward Dmytryk's "Raintree County," like its source, has undeniable epic dimension…
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GWTW it's not
burgbob97520 July 2002
Raintree County, MGM's attempt to make a picture that would faintly remind audiences of Gone With the Wind, did have two things in common with the earlier film: Technicolor and length. Otherwise, it was a disaster, a clichéd period piece heavy on costumes, very light on absorbing human situations.

Raintree had two insurmountable problems: ham-handed direction and a clumsy, uninspired script that failed to flesh out the characters of several cast members including two leading players. Worst impacted was Monty Clift as Johnny Shawnessy, a role so bland that it offered the actor nothing to grab hold of. Johnny is simply a nice person, honorable, loyal, patient, and truthful. He is someone of good values, a person to rely on, occasionally funny in an adolescent sort of way, and a good son to his boring two-dimensional parents. (Correction. Agnes Moorhead as Johnny's mother is one dimensional. The script's fault, not hers.) In short, there's nothing interesting about Johnny. He's ordinary. Apparently, studio executives didn't see a problem with this, even though Johnny Shawnessy is continuously front and center in a film that originally ran for almost three hours, as it does again in the restored video version.

Clift, one of the most gifted American film actors of the twentieth century, knew he was prostituting himself by appearing in Raintree. He responded by delivering what is arguably the worst performance of his career. It's painful to watch him: in most of his scenes he appears pallid, slightly dwarfish, and insignificant, giving the impression that he was privately making believe he really wasn't in the film at all.

The first excruciating hour of the picture is almost enough to drive audiences out of the theater. Since GWTW was long, Raintree County is long--and unfocused. In one particularly vapid scene Monty and Eva Marie Saint linger amid the widescreen splendor of well-scouted, photographically appropriate locations. As the two exchange graduation presents with Laurel and Hardy-like formality, the script calls for Eva Marie to coyly break into girlish giggles and say things like `Isn't that niiieeccce?...We think the same things. Isn't that crazy? Tee-hee-hee-hee-hee.' Privately, Eva Marie must have been wondering what crime she might have committed to have caused fate to whirl her from the triumph of her 1954 performance in On the Waterfront to this swampy mess.

The film is equally inept in making use of Lee Marvin, who was reduced to doing his loutish, clumsy, I'm-so-dumb schtick. Marvin wasn't nearly as good at broad physical comedy as he and some others seemed to think he was. (Doing more subtle comedy, however, where less is more, was another thing altogether for Marvin. Watch him as a clueless wannabe in a wonderful film like Pocket Money to see what he can do with a great comic role.) We watch as Lee challenges Monty first to a race (lots of grotesquely exaggerated, manly calisthenics at the starting line), then to see who can out-drink the other, while a dozen equally buffoonish male extras shout and yell on cue. Johnny, a guileless innocent, gets thoroughly looped for the first time in his life, whoops it up, and executes a flying swan dive into a bunch of liquor barrels. (In real life, Monty was a little less innocent than Johnny Shawnessy; according to his biographers, he was a walking all-nite pharmacy of illicit substances.)

To give credit where it's due, the film is briefly buoyed by the presence of the wonderful Nigel Patrick as a roguish schoolmaster with an eye for other men's wives. Happily for us, Patrick steals all of his scenes, impatiently bellowing at or comically insulting his young charges and generally pumping some desperately needed fire and energy into the film.

After a very long time, something of major interest finally occurs: Elizabeth Taylor makes her entrance. Sexy, conniving, dark-eyed Liz steals Johnny away from poor, decent Eva Marie and soon hornswoggles him into marrying her by falsely claiming to be pregnant. While on their honeymoon aboard a paddlewheeler, she nonchalantly arranges a dozen dolls on their bed and shows Monty her all-time favorite, a hideous half-white, half-black doll, appearing burnt in a fire and looking like it was designed by Bela Lugosi. This creepy figurine seemingly makes no impression on Monty, even as members of the audience are rearing back in horror, crossing themselves, and yelling `Monty! Watch out!!'

Taylor delivers a solid performance that displays the rising talent that she had already shown a few years before in A Place in the Sun and which would later would come to fruition in such films as Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf and Giant. As Susanna Drake, she is initially sexually beguiling towards Johnny. Then, after they marry, she begins to show the first signs of the madness within her. As the atmosphere around her grows slowly darker, you find yourself surprised to realize you're at last being drawn into the story. The actress took a gamble with this unsympathetic role, that of a southern-born woman who fails to see anything wrong with owning slaves and is terrified of possibly finding that she might have a single drop of `negra' blood in her veins. At the same time she manages to elicit a measure of sympathy for this narrow and unbalanced woman by displaying a touching vulnerability simultaneously with her fear of what's happening to her mind.

If anyone triumphs in this upholstered turkey, it's Liz Taylor, always a born survivor.
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Luxurious parts = lumpen whole.
gregcouture26 May 2003
M-G-M assigned some pretty heavy-hitters to cobble together this almost indigestible attempt to tell a Civil War story without a producer like David O. Selznick to insist that the whole thing should somehow come together. Other comments on this site tell the sad story of miscasting, a seemingly unfocused script, apparently disinterested direction and the obvious tragedy of Montgomery Clift's catastrophic automobile accident during production and its effect on all the performances he was to give thereafter.

Elizabeth Taylor is about the only central player who emerges relatively unscathed and her Academy Award nomination was deserved (and certainly more worthy of the Oscar she did win for "BUtterfield 8".)

I bought reserved seat tickets for this before its initial engagement began and the reviewers' generally negative appraisals were available. M-G-M's new big screen process, MGM Camera 65 ("Window of the World" as they termed it, used only once again by the studio for "Ben-Hur"), afforded a handsome showcasing of all the expense lavished upon this production, but, even as a teenager, I squirmed in my seat as its oh-so-lengthy reels unspooled and I left the theater regretting that its makers hadn't somehow achieved something memorable for its quality and dramatic impact, rather than for its longueurs. Johnny Green's score (and Nat King Cole's rendition of the title song) did sound awfully good over the stereophonic sound system at that Beverly Hills, California theater and that's one aspect of this disappointment that is now probably lost forever.
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6/10
Speak of Angels and Hear Their Wings
wes-connors21 February 2009
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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6/10
A Beautiful Evocation of the North During the Civil War, and More
silverscreen88816 June 2005
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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1/10
Muddled Mess
wc1996-428-36610124 November 2012
I feel really guilty because my partner of 40 years, who is an avid film collector, fished this tape out of his vast repository (5000 films) and set it up so I could watch it. Since his media center is in one room and our eating space in another (the kitchen)I was running back and forth between the movie and my breakfast lasagne waiting breathlessly for La Liz's entrance which I caught just in time between bites of food and of course she was ravishing as always and utterly the center of attention in every shot, everyone else fading into the woodwork - there will never be a star to equal her! But alas the script is a muddled mess and there is no question the studio (MGM)could not have found a worse writer than they did - I looked him up here and he did nothing to warrant being asked to adapt Raintree County from the book which he did along with the book's author. Right off the bat both the story and the central character (The Professor) are just plain silly with heartthrob Clift running off into a swamp in his Sunday Best for absolutely no reason and the professor running off with some man's wife. What all this has to do with the main storyline is anyone's guess, but after reading the synopsis of the story here I realized that poor MGM in its quest to film a sequel to GWTW failed miserably with this pathetic attempt. As the old saying says, you can't go home again!
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Swollen Snoozer
dougdoepke15 August 2016
Plot-- Before the Civil War, a pair of lovers marry and move from the North to the South where John finds out that new wife Susanna is haunted by a childhood trauma. Returning North they get caught up in the War, while Susanna becomes dysfunctional. What will John do, especially when lovelorn Neil (Saint) is still available.

Oh my, I guess MGM had too big an investment not to release this swollen turkey. As I recall, it got a lot of hyped promotion in '57. For fans, like me, of the Taylor-Clift romantic pairing (A Place In The Sun, {1951}), this misguided sequel should be avoided like the plague. Taylor does her best in a part disjointed badly by a perforated script, while Clift struggles manfully following his traumatic road accident. Also undercutting the romantic theme is the absence of close-ups emphasizing the vital tender emotions. I suspect that was because of Clift's mid-filming disfigurement. Nonetheless, the first 2-hours of personal relationship is further pulled down by impersonal staging. And since so much of the film follows the romance, recovery is near impossible.

The movie does come alive when Lee Marvin's blustery rough-neck comes on-screen. Clearly, he's on his way up the Hollywood ladder. But pity poor Eva Marie Saint of On The Waterfront (1954) whose sterling acting chops are almost totally wasted as the lonely heart in waiting. Where the movie does shine, as others point out, is in the visuals of costuming and massed army men. In short, the sort of production features big-budget MGM typically excelled at. I also like the effort at using the Raintree symbolism to bind the film into a poetic whole. Too bad, the script muddies that with sporadic development.

Anyway, it's regrettable that such a prestige production got undercut by factors not entirely under studio control. I suspect there's a practical moral at work here, but I'm not sure what it is.
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Hated it!
hernanjp12 January 2003
This is one bad movie and a waste of some great talent. The characters are totally unsympathetic. The story is dreary and plodding and plays like a soap opera whose characters we don't care about. After two hours of hoping it would get better I gave up. Life is too short to sit through junk. If you like Elizabeth Taylor or Montgomery Clift or Lee Marvin see anything else that they've done-it's bound to be better! Many `B' movies are more interesting and engrossing than this. There's only one reason to see this and that's to see what Liz would have looked like if she could have played Scarlett in Gone With the Wind. But that's still no excuse to waste three hours.
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4/10
Boring Southern epic is better than taking a tranquilizer...an utter waste of time and talent...
Doylenf21 July 2003
This is the kind of epic that makes you realize how wonderful GONE WITH THE WIND was by comparison. Dull characters are defeated by a dull script. It's better than taking a tranquilizer to put you to sleep.

A long, lumbering, disorganized tale that takes so long in getting to the heart of the story that it's very likely you'll tune out before the story begins. Nothing helps. Not the costumes, the scenery, the pallid performances--the wooden behavior of Montgomery Clift--the syrupy Southern accent affected by Elizabeth Taylor--the pale performance of Eva Marie Saint. Only Nigel Patrick and Rod Taylor bring what little life the story has to realization. They all seem to be trying but nothing works and it remains strangely uninvolving.

Taylor's role is so buried in whatever torment she's supposed to feel with regard to her past, that it becomes annoyingly clear that we're never going to know the truth about her character until the very end of the story. And that end takes an excessively long time in coming without providing enough interesting plot ideas to keep one interested or even caring about the fate of these colorless characters.

An awful bore--so bad that the only compliment I can give the film is its rich musical score by Johnny Green and the title tune which is sung by Nat King Cole with an attractive choral arrangement as backup. Sadly, it can't compensate for the film's many drawbacks.

A total waste of time and talent. Montgomery Clift's accident may have contributed to his lifeless performance but his role, as written, is no help and his character is an insufferable bore. Miss Taylor is no Scarlett O'Hara and Eva Marie Saint makes no impression whatsoever.
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Production values crowd out the personal drama
Philby-310 September 2000
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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7/10
Not nearly as bad as has been said over the years
jackhutchinson15 February 2005
I have always loved this film, mainly because of the hauntingly beautiful score by Johnny Green. For too long "Raintree County" has been compared with "Gone with the Wind". The whole story and concept is very different. I agree with another poster here that Liz Taylor is marvelous in this, playing out her mental illness. How very sad that Monty Clift died so young. There was so much potential in him for older male roles of character years later. Maybe there will be a time when gay actors won't live quiet lives of desperate misery in fear of losing their careers. Also I think the cinematography is quite rich. Perhaps the late MGM work is not all that great but this one is hardly as terrible as so many film critics and historians have told us over the years since it was made in 1957.
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5/10
Oh, Susanna!
rmax3048231 September 2017
This soap opera really sprawls over the years before and after the Civil War. Montgomery Clift is a quiet homegrown college graduate in mutual love with pretty young Eva Marie Saint. They seem fated for each other. They'll probably be married, raise a number of surviving children, and live in a white two-story house on the outskirts of Fairhaven in Raintree County, Indiana. But then, the luscious Southern belle, Elizabeth Taylor, visits Fairhaven. She and Clift fall in love forever after.

But dark Elizabeth is Veronica to Saint's blond Betty. Or is it the other way around? No matter. Anyway they have contrasting personalities: the intensely passionate Taylor and the winsome and innocent Saint. Saint, for instance, would never dream of putting out for handsome, intelligent, and sensitive Monty, whereas Taylor does so on their second or third date and then LIES to him about having gotten pregnant. He doesn't mind one way or the other, besotted as he is.

I don't know whether it's worthwhile trying to get through the plot. It's probably been done elsewhere, and I'm too tired to trace the trips, the outbursts of anger and guilt, Sherman's march through Georgia, and the finale, which no power on earth could force me to reveal. Much of it has to do with the fear of having a touch of the tar brush in one's blood.

But I must say, New Orleans is given rather a bad rap as a representative Southern city. It wasn't like any of the others. It had an animated and rich multi-ethnic heritage at the time -- American, French, Spanish, Caribbean, and African. Edgar Degas visited French relatives there late in the '19th century. Slaves of course but not nearly as brutal a system as elsewhere. William Tecumseh Sherman taught at Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy, later to become Louisiana State University.

Others have claimed that it was easy to tell the difference between pre- and post-accident scenes of Montgomery Clift but I couldn't. As for the accident, Clift was doing booze and other substances to excess on a daily basis during the shooting. I mean, eating steaks he'd spilled on the floor and so on. After an evening at Liz Taylor's manse perched on a hill, he drove drunkenly down the winding road and didn't quite make it.

Neither the accident nor the booze seemed to interfere with his acting, although the part of the pathetic loner in "A Place in the Sun" suited him better than the idealist he's forced to portray here. Elizabeth Taylor is blindingly beautiful. Many of her films cast her has a frustrated nut job. Eva Marie Saint has the more sympathetic role as the unspectacular girl from home who never manages to shrug off her love for Clift.

It's long. It has an overture and even an entr'acte, evocative photography by Robert Surtees, and a lushly orchestrated but fulsome score by Johnny Green. It's no "Gone With the Wind," though, partly because it substitutes anguish for laughs.
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6/10
With all that money and gloss, a surprisingly bland and uninvolving flick
MartinHafer20 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Considering the budget and big name actors involved, this movie is a big disappointment. After all, with these ingredients and the hope of MGM execs that this would repeat the success of GONE WITH THE WIND, the movie came up surprisingly short. Sure, the story is set in the same time period, though mostly in the North, but somehow sparks just never fly. Most of this, it seems, is because none of the characters or what happens to them are very interesting and the audience is left feeling little connection with them. Now this isn't to say it's a bad film, just a pretty average time-passer--a very, very, very long time passer!

Eva Marie Saint plays the ultra-nice but rather bland sweetheart of Montgomery Clift when the movie begins. They had apparently been sweet on each other for some time and it looks as if they will eventually marry,...that is, until pretty and vivacious Liz Taylor comes to town and throws herself at Clift. Considering that Ms. Saint's character is never allowed to develop into anything other than a lady who pines for Monty, I could see why Clift ultimately fell for Taylor in the story. Saint's character just was way under-written--needing to be hashed out into a three-dimensional person instead of a rather broad and pathetic character who inexplicably hung around for the whole movie.

Now as for Clift, he, too, was a bit bland. While he had much more depth than Ms. Saint, much of the movie he just reacted to events instead of being a man of action. For example, he never actually asked Liz to marry him until she told him she was pregnant, he was an abolitionist but never really said of did anything about this until the war was about to begin--even though his wife brought a couple slaves with her when they first got married, he didn't enter the war until it was half over and his wife disappeared into the South with their son, and he wanted to go into politics at the end of the film but wouldn't commit since he felt an obligation to stay and take care of his mentally ill wife--at which point the wife killed herself because she knew he wouldn't do anything about politics until she was dead. What a total wimp--a very, very far cry from Rhett Butler or even Namby-pamby Ashley Wilkes!! As for Liz Taylor, she was the only one of the main characters with any depth or interesting back story. The problem, though, is that her character was histrionic and became progressively more and more mentally ill as the story went--but that alone was the only depth given to her character.

So, we are left to conclude that the story involves pretty dull and uninvolving people. And, considering that much of it occurs during the Civil War, it is amazingly turgid and slow. There are so many better and more interesting epic films or films about the war. This one just seems like it has a lot of style but absolutely no substance. This is the rare case where I really thought the movie could stand to have at least 25% of the film edited out to make for a tighter and more watchable film.
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Focus on Monty
harry-7616 December 2002
Had Montgomery Clift remained working at that drug store in Omaha, Nebraska, he might still be alive and well today.

He might have missed a childhood of excessive travel, disruption and confusion, spurred on by overly maternal ambitions. He might also have bypassed debilitating career experiences on Broadway.

In an excellent 1993 book, Biographer Patricia Bosworth captured the essence of Clift as a basically average, sensitive man, who was thrust into a world of grossly misplaced values and ambitions.

Before he made his screen debut in "Red River," Clift had already ten hard years of Broadway experience opposite such illustrious names as Tallulah Bankhead and the Alfred Lunts. His quest for perfection became an obsession, and while it proved a asset to his film work, it rendered disaster to his private life.

It seems, according to Bosworth, the man was unhappy most of the time.

It's downright weird watching Clift in "Raintree County," in which his pre- and post-facial surgery persona appears unexpectedly in juxtaposed scenes. For example, he might leave a scene with "wife" Elizabeth Taylor with his pre-accident face, then seconds later he's there with "old sweetheart" Eva Marie Saint in his post-accident countenance. The effect is jarring, rather like watching Dorian Gray's picture in its early stage of decline.

Sometimes a single scene can include both the pre- and post-image, which is really strange--and not unlike Mario Lanza's "gaining and loosing" up to 75 lbs. in a single scene during his later film career.

While some might say the only thing that's important is what's up there on the screen, I can't help but feel a certain empathy for Clift the person. On the one hand, a fine screen actor of legendary quality; on the other, one who probably should have stayed in Nebraska.

"Raintree County" itself turns out to be a mixed bag, despite an impressive cast. The film's over all quality is heralded early on: Johnny Green's credits' title song (beautifully rendered by Nat Cole) begins with two lovely phrases, then quickly turns diffuse and disjointed--then beautiful again upon the main theme's return. That's exactly what proceeds to transpire in the movie.

This film is long on intention and short on realization, at the same time having a production design, costuming and sets that are quite professionally executed.

As for "Clift" as subject, it is "natural" material for a biopic, as much as if not more compelling than that of a "counterpart," Rock Hudson. In the meantime, we can enjoy the work of this fine actor in "Raintree County" and many other films.
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6/10
Civil War-era scandals and family skeletons...
moonspinner5524 July 2006
Sprawling MGM production (the studio's attempt to outdo their own "Gone With the Wind"), based on Ross Lockridge Jr.'s book and featuring Elizabeth Taylor as a southern belle haunted by a family trauma. Montgomery Clift plays an Indiana schoolteacher who chances to meets belle Taylor in his beloved Raintree County, leading to a pre-marital affair (and pregnancy); they marry, but he finds living in her neck of the woods undesirable, and she's not welcomed graciously among the Yankees. The Civil War works as a catalyst to bring the two together, where Clift finds his passion for politics coming to the fore. Eva Marie Saint plays an unmarried, moral girl who loves Monty despite his mistakes, Lee Marvin is a tough rowdy who takes on all comers, Rod Taylor plays a political snake, and so on. The story is engrossing, occasionally over-heated and over-zealous, but seldom dull. Still, Taylor, despite getting an Oscar nod for Best Actress, disappears for a long stretch of the proceedings--and this isn't an attractive role for her anyway (she gets to play the insane bit, but it's a groaner). The movie really belongs to Clift, and his performance in the first hour is quite strong (an off-the-set car accident causes his acting in the second-half to be a bit timid). Far too long and predictable, "Raintree County" still isn't bad, with terrific cinematography by Robert Surtees and a sumptuous, Oscar-nominated background score by Johnny Green. **1/2 from ****
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5/10
A worthwhile film to see, but not better than average
FilmOtaku1 December 2003
When I finally was able to catch Raintree County on television, I expected to find it akin to the Technicolor epics of the time, like East of Eden or Giant. Unfortunately, it did not approach the greatness of these two films, but is a good film nonetheless.

Montgomery Clift does what he does best – playing the slightly flawed and tragic hero. Elizabeth Taylor is fairly over the top as Clift's wife with a dubious and fleeting southern accent. Eva Marie Saint is the long-suffering former girlfriend who probably would have been Clift's wife had Taylor not dug her claws in.

While I found this film pretty long and slow at times, there were certainly rewarding elements to it. The supporting cast consisting of Lee Marvin, Agnes Moorhead and Rod Taylor among others sometimes outshine the primary cast. Additionally, a game to pass the time during some of the slow moments of the film was to try to guess which scenes were filmed before Clift's disfiguring car accident (thin, angular faced matinee idol Clift) and which were filmed post-disfiguring car accident (puffy, doesn't even look like Clift Clift). Deciding which Clift was more appealing was like trying to vote on whether you want young Elvis or fat Elvis on a postage stamp. Aesthetically, you want the classic, attractive guy, but secretly you want to see the latter on a stamp for the hell of it.

Anyway, the cinematography was very lush and the direction was smooth. An interesting note is that the film's director is Edward Dmytryk, one of the `Hollywood Ten', presumably as one of his `comeback vehicles' since it was released three years after the black period of HUAC. After reading some other reviews, I may have missed the epic greatness of the film that others saw, but I thought it was a fairly decent film nonetheless.

--Shelly
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10/10
TCM showing restored Raintree.
Len-158 October 1998
One of my favorite films, and Turner Classic Movies began showing a "restored" version that includes deleted scenes. The film now runs 190 mins. Turner does some good work.
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4/10
..it's nice to watch..
fimimix2 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Many of the other "posters" are very good at judging movies - WHY does EVERYONE have to tell the whole story, naming all the actors-actresses, etc.? By the time one gets to posting a commentary, we're all familiar with all of that......after all, we're not writing a "critque", we're just giving personal opinions.

This is a gorgeously-filmed movie - isn't that enough? Taylor gets her chance to look beautiful and attempt to live-up to her reputation of being a "great" actress. Huh? As I am quite old, I know people who saw her in public when she was young - say "Suddenly Last Summer" age (my opinion, her best) - say no one could take their eyes off her, she was so lovely. I've heard she has often said, "My beauty is a burden". What a clear message of "dont'!" to other ladies whose sole goal is to stand-around and look gorgeous - Ms. Taylor has been subconsciously trying to destroy her beauty all of her life. If you've seen her appearance at the Acadmey Awards for 2004, then you'll see she has achieved her goal, no matter how. They should have locked her in her house! I wanted to slap those who allowed to appear in public looking like that. Yet, perhaps I am being unkind, because I think there will be no other great beauty like hers. I am quite content to watch her in amazement of her beauty, no matter how unfulfilling the acting may be..... knowing she has had so much tragedy in her life.....and knowing it is public information that she does great charity-work: The American Foundation for AIDS Research, to be specific. Perhaps she has accepted the fact that beauty comes in many forms. Long live Liz !!

I've found only one other commentary which states that Cliff was gay, covered-up by studio-politics for a long time. Can that be important? He was a fine actor - just as Eva Marie Saint was a fine actress, and under-played her role wonderfully. So good to see Lee Marvin as a "hunk" instead of the character-actor roles he was usually assigned to.

I don't believe "Raintree County" was meant to make a statement - they didn't even allow the actors to see the rain-tree in the end !! Wasn't its existence supposed to be the ultimate "healer"? This movie, so far as I can see, is just pure entertainment, done well. Ms. Taylor and Mr. Montgomery were huge stars - what else could be done with them but allow them to exploit their "star-power"? As for acting, Montgomery was much better in "The Heiress", and had to produce against the magnificent Olivia de Haviland.

So, Guys - lighten-up and just enjoy this beautiful film. To all who had any part of its production, Bravo!
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5/10
Ten ton turkey
jamdonahoo19 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The attempt of MGM to replicate GWTW resulted in a forty pound robin of a film. While the scenery is beautiful the characters are dull as dish water. In GWTW all the players are memorable while in this mess not one interesting, likable, or even hateable character exists. Poor Montgomery Clift, no wonder he was drinking heavily throughout the filming. Compare his role as Johnny to Gable's Rhett Butler. An example of total miscasting. Clift's acting skills were becoming increasingly wooden as his career progressed. Even the lovely Liz could not redeem this worthless extravaganza. It is bad, pretentious, poorly written, overbaked and excruciatingly long.
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faulty Indiana scenery
kerrytrout20 August 2006
Goofs- This movie takes place in part in Indiana. Although Raintree County is fictitious, the backgrounds should have been authentic. In the swamp scenes, it shows Clift wading among cypress trees. Indiana does have swamps, but cypress trees do not grow here. Several scenes showed fieldstone walls that separated pastures, but these stone walls are indicative of New England, not Indiana. Several landscape scenes showed pine trees, and Indiana has very few. They don't dot the horizon as they did in this movie. I believe the movie was filmed in Danville, KY. That would explain the abundance of pine trees, but cypress? The swamp scenes must have been filmed on a sound stage.
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