Raintree County (film)

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Raintree County
Raintree movieposter.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Produced by David Lewis
Written by Millard Kaufman
Based on novel by Ross Lockridge, Jr.
Starring Montgomery Clift
Elizabeth Taylor
Eva Marie Saint
Lee Marvin
Rod Taylor
Music by Johnny Green
Cinematography Robert Surtees
Editing by John D. Dunning
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Release dates December 20, 1957 (1957-12-20)
Running time 182 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $5,474,000[1]
Box office $9,080,000[1]

Raintree County is a 1957 Technicolor drama film about the American Civil War. It was directed by Edward Dmytryk[2][3] and stars Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, Eva Marie Saint, and Lee Marvin.

It was adapted from the novel of the same name by Ross Lockridge, Jr.


Raintree County was shot at various locations, including Dunleith; an antebellum mansion, Windsor Ruins, in Lorman, Mississippi; Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee near the Kentucky border;[4] and two locations in Kentucky, the Liberty Hall Historic Site on Wilkinson Street in Frankfort and settings in and near Danville.

The movie was a "passion project" for Dore Schary, then head of production at MGM. Rod Taylor actively campaigned for his role in the film.[5]

Raintree County was the first film shot in Ultra Panavision 70, under its original name, "MGM Camera 65." Although MGM expected to release the film in 70mm, the studio ultimately opted not to as the only projectors at the time were being used to screen Mike Todd's Around the World in 80 Days.[6]

During filming, Montgomery Clift was injured and nearly killed in a serious automobile accident. After several weeks of recovery and surgery, he returned to finish the film. Damage to his face was apparent in several scenes filmed after the accident; the left side of his face was partially paralyzed.[7]

At the time, the film was the most expensive US-based film in MGM's history. Though a success at the box office, it did not recoup its cost.[5] In the credits for the film, the author's name is misspelled as Ross Rockridge Jr.


In 1859, idealist John Wickliff Shawnessey (Montgomery Clift), a resident of Raintree County, Indiana, is distracted from his high school sweetheart Nell Gaither (Eva Marie Saint) by Susanna Drake (Elizabeth Taylor), a rich New Orleans girl. He has a brief and passionate affair with Susanna while she is visiting. Following her return to the South, she comes back to Indiana to tell Shawnessey she is pregnant with his child. John marries her out of honor and duty, leaving Nell heartbroken.

The couple initially live in the South with Susanna's family. An abolitionist, Shawnessey cannot fit in. He learns that Susanna's mother went insane and died in a suspicious fire, along with Susanna's father and a female slave implied as being the father's concubine. Susanna suspects that the slave may have been her biological mother. Gradually Susanna appears to be suffering from mental illness. She tells John that she faked pregnancy to trick him into marriage.

The Shawnesseys return to Freehaven in Raintree County, before the outbreak of the American Civil War. John works as a teacher and they have a child, Jimmy, born at the outbreak of the war. In the war's third year, Susanna develops severe paranoia and delusions. She flees Indiana with Jimmy and seeks refuge among her extended family in Georgia.

Shawnessey is determined to find her and recover his son. He enlists in the Union Army in hopes of encountering his wife and child. After fighting in terrible battles, he finds Jimmy at an old plantation and learns that Susanna has been placed in an insane asylum. He is wounded while carrying Jimmy back to Northern lines, and is discharged from the Union Army. Johnny searches for Susanna, finding her kept in terrible conditions at an asylum. He brings her back with him to Raintree County.

After the end of the war and President Abraham Lincoln's assassination, Shawnessey considers his future. Nell urges him to run for political office. Recognizing that Nell and John still love each other, Susanna decides to sacrifice herself. She enters the nearby swamp in the middle of the night to find the legendary rain tree. Four-year-old Jimmy follows her. The search party eventually finds her body. John and Nell find Jimmy lying asleep and carry him out of the swamp, failing to see the tall rain tree glowing in the sunlight.



According to MGM records, the film earned $5,830,000 in North America and $3,250,000 internationally. But because of its high cost, the movie recorded a loss of $484,000.[1][8]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Elizabeth Taylor was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. The film was nominated for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (William A. Horning, Urie McCleary, Edwin B. Willis, Hugh Hunt), Best Costume Design and Best Music, Scoring.[9] The film was shot in a 65-millimeter widescreen process called MGM Camera 65. This was used for MGM's 1959 version of Ben Hur.


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ Variety film review; October 9, 1957, page 6.
  3. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; October 12, 1957, page 162.
  4. ^ http://usmarshals.warnerbros.com/mainframe.html
  5. ^ a b Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood, Bear Manor Media, 2010 p54
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ "Clift upsets Hollywood.". The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982) (1933 - 1982: National Library of Australia). 20 June 1956. p. 46. Retrieved 3 June 2012. 
  8. ^ See also "All Time Domestic Champs", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
  9. ^ "NY Times: Raintree County". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-23. 

External links[edit]