After his car accident during shooting, there was some consideration given to re-casting of Montgomery Clift's role. Production insurance would have covered the costs of re-shooting, but Dame Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson insisted that Clift be allowed to continue once he recovered from his injuries.
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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.
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The scenes which Montgomery Clift shot for this movie just before his accident represent the only color footage available of him before he was disfigured. All of his previous movies had been shot in black-and-white.
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The town of Freehaven of the mythical Raintree County was created in 1956 on MGM's vast Backlot #3 at Jefferson and Overland Boulevards in Culver City, California, by re-designing a portion of an old western set and adding some new buildings such as the Freehaven Town Hall and its clock tower. In 1971, MGM's Lot #3 was demolished to make way for a new apartment and condominium complex which became known as "Raintree Estates", named for this movie. Several Chinese Golden Raintrees were planted around the new residential property and many of the complex's streets and buildings were named for various MGM productions.
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At the time of its release, this was the most expensive movie ever made.
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Some of the Civil War battle footage was re-used for How the West Was Won (1962).
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This has never been available to purchase on DVD, Blu-ray or digital, despite its frequent availability on VHS in the past. It was the first of only two movies - Ben-Hur (1959) being the other - shot in the widescreen process MGM Camera 65, and the restoration of the remaining elements has always been considered to be prohibitively expensive.
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Hopped up on painkillers and other drugs, Montgomery Clift's post-accident behavior became increasingly erratic. Director Edward Dmytryk noted in his autobiography that one day he went looking for his non-appearing star in his trailer, only to find one hundred containers of virtually every prescription drug, and a case full of needles and syringes. Clift would disappear for long periods of time and was even caught running naked through the town in which they were filming (Danville, Kentucky). The situation got so bad that a Policeman was stationed outside of his hotel room every night to make sure he stayed put.
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The first preview for this movie was held January 24, 1957, at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara, California, and it ran three hours and six minutes. On March 19, 1957, the "New York Times" reported that retakes would begin later that month so "that certain dramatic points will be emphasized by re-shooting in close-up and that extra footage will be added to achieve smoother transitions in the sprawling drama." When this movie was ready for release, two options were offered to exhibitors, either the two hour and forty minute version as a two screenings a day feature, or a continuous performance version that ran two hours and thirty-one minutes.
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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.
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The cast and crew developed code names as to how drunk Montgomery Clift was on any given day. If he was bad, they used the word Georgia, if he was very bad it was Florida and Zanzibar was used when he was off-the-charts drunk.
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Filming did not resume for a little over two months following Montgomery Clift's car accident.
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Dame Elizabeth Taylor had her own problems on the set, finding the costumes so constricting that one day she fainted due to hyperventilation. She also suffered from tachycardia.
Dame Elizabeth Taylor was being romanced by producer Mike Todd at the time which would often explain her frequent bouts of lateness on-set.
Montgomery Clift's first movie in two years. Never one for the trappings of Hollywood, he had deliberately taken time out following the success of From Here to Eternity (1953), his biggest hit.
This movie gave Dame Elizabeth Taylor the first of her five Academy Award nominations.
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The real-life Windsor Ruins in Claiborne County, Mississippi, stood in for Susanna's destroyed childhood house.
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MGM first announced this in 1949 as a starring vehicle for Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, Van Heflin, and Robert Walker.
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Turning the novel into a workable screenplay took six years.
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Approximately 15 minutes were cut following this movie's premiere.
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Sir Alec Guinness was the first choice for the role of Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles.
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This movie was the first to be photographed in the MGM Camera 65 process; the second was Ben-Hur (1959). Later, the process was renamed Ultra Panavision 70. It involved using a 65mm negative with the addition of lenses that applied a 1.25 X anamorphic squeeze. When projected, the aspect ratio would be 2.21:1 X 1.25 = 2.76:1. However, around 1957, theaters were still showing Around the World in 80 Days (1956), which forced MGM to release this movie only on 35mm anamorphic prints, with an aspect ratio of 2.55:1. MGM used the older CinemaScope format because it allowed for the inclusion of four-track magnetic audio, in contrast to the mono-only audio offered by 2.35:1 optical soundtrack prints.
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Shot over a period of one hundred five days.
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Rod Taylor actively lobbied for the lead role of John Wickliff Shawnessy.
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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.
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Of the many movies produced in the aspect ratio of 2.55:1 from 1953 to 1957, this was the last released at that aspect ratio. After this, an optional mono soundtrack was added to many movies made in stereo, reducing the aspect ratio on them to 2.35:1. However, Ben-Hur (1959), also filmed in Camera 65, was the first movie in that process to be released with an aspect ratio of 2.76:1. When MGM filmed this movie in Camera 65, they were forced out of necessity to release it in the CinemaScope aspect ratio rather than the correct Camera 65 one.
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Finnish censorship visas: 1) Visa delivered on March 8, 1988 (theatrical). 2) Visa # T-49650 delivered on September 27, 1995 (video).
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Italian censorship visa #27929 delivered on October 20, 1958.
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