Cast & Crew
Eva Marie Saint
In the town of Freehaven in Raintree County, Indiana, the high school class of 1859 poses for a photograph. Everyone expects great things of valedictorian John Wickliff Shawnessy, in particular his sweetheart, Nell Gaither, who admires Johnny for his idealism, poetry and respect for truth and justice. Before graduation, Prof. Jerusalem Webster Stiles, who smilingly describes himself as "pitiful and harmless," relates to his students a local legend: Raintree County is named for a golden raintree, which was planted somewhere in the region by Johnny Appleseed. Find it, declares the professor in an unusually pensive mood, and you will learn the secret of life itself. Johnny immediately sets out to locate the tree, but as he wanders through a swamp, he nearly drowns. Back in town, Orville "Flash" Perkins boasts that, in addition to being "half horse, half alligator," he is the area's top runner. Johnny challenges him to a race, and on the Fourth of July, the two competitors meet in the street. Before the race, the men engage in a drinking contest, and although Johnny, who has never before drunk whiskey, is rendered nearly senseless, he nonetheless wins the race. Later that day, Johnny goes to the river for a picnic with the professor, an attractive married woman named Lydia Gray, and a beautiful visitor from the South named Susanna Drake. Johnny and Susanna go swimming, and then, in a moment of passion, make love. The next day, Susanna returns to New Orleans, and Johnny returns to Nell. When Stiles tries to run away with Lydia, her outraged husband Ezra tries to shoot him, but after Stiles swears that he never touched Lydia, Johnny helps the professor to leave town. The same train that carries Stiles to safety, however, brings Susanna back to Freehaven with a desperate message for Johnny: She is pregnant. Johnny announces their marriage, whereupon his father, T. D. Shawnessy, a gentle and educated minister, somewhat sadly wishes the young man happiness. Nell also wishes him well but tearfully confesses that she still loves him. On the boat trip to New Orleans, Susanna is shocked to discover that Johnny is an abolitionist and nervously proclaims that nothing is worse than having a drop of Negro blood in one's veins. The couple visits the ruins of a family plantation that burned when Susanna was a child. Acting strangely, Susanna sorrowfully declares that she dearly loved her former nanny, a black Cuban named Henrietta Courtney, who perished with the girl's parents in the conflagration. Johnny questions Susanna's cousin and learns that after her parents were married, her mother went slowly insane. Her father met Henrietta and brought her home to care for little Susanna. When the bodies were taken from the fire, it appeared that the child's father and Henrietta had been shot, but no one was able to prove this. Johnny brings Susanna back to Raintree County, where he becomes a teacher. Susanna admits that she was never really pregnant, but Johnny assures her of his love nonetheless. When Lincoln wins the presidential election, Susanna announces that to please her husband, she has freed her two slaves and now pays them wages. This prompts several of their guests to laugh, and Susanna, believing she has again displeased her husband, becomes hysterical. Johnny calms her, but later, after giving birth to a son on the very day that Civil War is declared, Susanna informs him that two babies were born, and that "they" threw the dark one away. Several years later, Nell returns to Freehaven after living for a time in Indianapolis, and it is clear that she still loves Johnny. Susanna's nightmares and wild-eyed outbursts have become more frequent, and one evening, Johnny persuades her to tell him about the fire: Jealous of Susanna's love for Henrietta, the child's mother had flown into a rage, thereby angering the little girl. When Susanna realized that her father also loved Henrietta, she vengefully revealed this in an anonymous note to her mother. That night, she heard a crackling sound in Henrietta's room, and soon afterward, the fire consumed the house. Believing her mother had killed the lovers because of her note, Susanna had always felt responsible for the tragedy. Johnny tries to comfort Susanna, but one day, he arrives home to find that she has taken their son Jim and fled to Georgia. With his wife gone, Johnny joins the Union Army, and as his train departs, Nell confesses that she has never stopped loving him. Johnny joins an Indiana brigade that includes not only Flash, but his old friend Stiles, who is now a war correspondent. The men participate in a number of hellish battles, and in November 1864, find themselves in Atlanta. Wary of rebel snipers, Johnny and Flash approach an old cabin that once belonged to Henrietta. Inside are little Jim and two Drake slaves. One of them explains that although Susanna was not Henrietta's child, she always believed that she was. Consumed by madness, Susanna had been taken to an asylum some time earlier. Johnny carries little Jim toward the Union camp, but as they run through the woods, Flash is shot by rebel soldiers and dies. After the war, Johnny finds Susanna in a wretched asylum and takes her home. He returns to teaching, but his friends believe he should run for Congress. Susanna realizes that it is she who holds him back, and that Nell still deeply loves him. That night, Susanna, telling Jim that she hopes to find the golden raintree for Johnny, says goodbye and runs toward the swamp. Alarmed, Jim follows her, and soon afterward, a search party is organized. In the morning, Stiles, who has returned to Raintree County to marry the widowed Lydia Gray, discovers that Susanna has drowned. In agony, Johnny continues to search for his son. The weeping boy hears his father's voice, and with great relief, Johnny, Nell and Jim head out of the swamp, unaware of the tall tree gleaming golden in the sunlight.
Eva Marie Saint
Stacy S. Harris
Charles K. Hagedon
William A. Horning
Dr. Wesley C. Miller
Paul Francis Webster
Edwin B. Willis
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design
Ross Lockridge Jr., a preternaturally brilliant literary scholar with an archival knowledge of his native Indiana, invested six years into crafting an opus that would reflect America's development through the two generations flanking the Civil War. Houghton Mifflin conditionally accepted his manuscript in 1946, and Lockridge spent two stressful years paring away roughly half of his original 2000-page submission at his editors' behest.
In 1947, MGM awarded Lockridge $150,000 for the film rights to Raintree County, a prize that eventually escalated to $250,000 due to the novel's being made a Book-Of-The-Month Club selection and emerging as a best-seller. Both the studio and the Book-Of-The-Month Club demanded pre-publication cuts as well. Lockridge had longtime struggles with depression, and the price of compromise proved dear. In January 1948, with his novel topping the charts after two months in print, the author took his own life at age 33. MGM quietly tabled its plans for Raintree County for eight years.
Various scenarists struggled to adapt the screenplay, and Millard Kaufman's 200-plus page final draft eliminated roughly a quarter of the events from the novel. Edward Dmytryk, whose refusal to cooperate with the congressional anti-Communist inquiries of the late '40s resulted in prison time, and whose subsequent decision to name names placed his career back on track, was attached as director. Montgomery Clift accepted the lead after being coaxed by Elizabeth Taylor; the two developed a deep friendship while filming A Place In The Sun (1951), and were desirous of working together again.
The screenplay of Raintree County takes up the life of Lockridge's protagonist Johnny Shawnessy (Clift) at age 20, after he's finished with his studies and is tantalized with the notion of locating the lone, mythical raintree at his homeland's heart. His ambitions are swiftly sidetracked by the efforts of transient Louisiana belle Susanna Drake (Taylor), who wastes little time in duping a proposal out of him. Following her home to the South, abolitionist Clift is appalled towards the prevailing attitudes regarding slavery, and troubled by the increasing evidence of Taylor's mental instability. After the attack on Fort Sumter, Taylor disappears with their young son, and Clift signs up with the Union Army as his only means of searching for them.
On May 12, 1956, with the interior shooting complete and the cast and crew ready to travel to location in Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky, Clift accepted a dinner invitation from Taylor and then-husband Michael Wilding at their Benedict Canyon home. Afterwards, opting to follow friend Kevin McCarthy down the winding, unlit canyon road, Clift lost control of his vehicle and struck a telephone pole. The actor suffered a terrible litany of facial and cranial injuries; broken jaw, nose and sinus cavity, loss of teeth, severe concussion, heavy lacerations on his left profile. The Raintree County production shut down for two months while he recuperated, and film buffs to this day have a grisly fascination about which scenes with Clift were filmed before and after the accident.
Moreover, Clift's injuries went on to spur a painkiller dependency that, coupled with his troubles with alcoholism, ultimately shortened the performer's life. Narratives about the location shooting for Raintree County are rife with incidents regarding the star's erratic behavior. In his autobiography It's A Hell Of A Life, But Not A Bad Living: A Hollywood Memoir (Times Books, 1978), Dmytryk recounted how during dinner at a Danville, Kentucky restaurant, Clift "coated the steak with a thick layer of butter, took the cap off the pepper shaker and covered the butter with pepper, then picked the steak up with his bare hands and started tearing it to pieces...Nor was his image enhanced when a few nights later, blown out of his mind, he ran naked through the upper-class residential area of the town."
Despite his considerable inner turmoil, Clift turned in creditable work, as did Taylor and the strong supporting cast of Eva Marie Saint, Agnes Moorehead, Walter Abel, Nigel Patrick and Lee Marvin. Details from the studio's first usage of 70mm cameras (dubbed "Camera 65") to the painstakingly detailed costuming drove Raintree County's final production costs to a then-considerable $6 million. The film went on to score Oscar nominations for Taylor's efforts, as well as costume design, art direction/set decoration, and Johnny Green's moving score.
Producer: David Lewis
Director: Edward Dmytryk
Screenplay: Millard Kaufman; based on the novel by Ross Lockridge, Jr.
Art Direction: William Horning, Urie McCleary
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Editing: John D. Dunning
Music: Johnny Green
Cast: Montgomery Clift (John Wickliff Shawnessy), Elizabeth Taylor (Susanna Drake), Eva Marie Saint (Nell Gaither), Nigel Patrick (Prof. Jerusalem Webster Stiles), Lee Marvin (Orville "Flash" Perkins).
C-188m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Jay Steinberg
During the filming of this movie Montgomery Clift had a bad car accident on his way back home from a party at the house of 'Taylor, Elizabeth' . His friend 'McCarthy, Kevin' witnessed the accident from his car, drove back and informed Taylor and 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 all together they protected him from being photographed until the ambulance arrived. This was necessary because soon after the emergency call had come in at the local police station the 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 Clift returned to the movie set and finished the film with considerable difficulties. His dashing looks though were gone forever. The left side of his face was more or less immobile.
At the time of its release, it held the (dubious) honor of being the most expensive film ever made.
On 12 May 1956, during production, Montgomery Clift's face was disfigured after a near-fatal car accident. Filming was shut down until mid-July for Cliff to recover and undergo plastic surgery to reconstruct his face.
Onscreen credits acknowledge the cooperation of "the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, the Tennessee State Game & Fish Commission at Reelfoot Lake and the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky." The picture opens with a five-minute musical overture. Following "Johnny's" departure to fight in the Civil War, there is an intermission. Act Two begins as Johnny joins his brigade. The New York Times review lists a running time of 168 minutes. Apparently, sixteen minutes of the film were cut after its premiere.
The picture was, as the Variety reviewer notes, "one of the biggest and costliest (estimated at $5,000,000) productions from Metro since its release of David O. Selznick's Gone With the Wind." It took M-G-M six years to turn the novel into a screenplay. According to modern sources, shortly after the novel's publication, M-G-M purchased the film rights from author Ross Lockridge, Jr. for $150,000, but did not produce the film until 1956 because of script problems. Modern sources note that Raintree County was Lockridge's only novel, and that he committed suicide in 1948.
January and February 1956 Hollywood Reporter news items note that M-G-M originally considered Alec Guinness and Arthur O'Connell for leading roles. Filming was halted after Montgomery Clift's automobile accident on May 13, 1956 and did not resume until July 23, 1956. In the accident, which occurred after Clift had been to a dinner party at Elizabeth Taylor's house, the actor's face was severely injured. Modern sources note that numerous facial lacerations and broken bones altered the structure of Clift's face so much that filming of his scenes after his return to the production was difficult. Modern sources also note that audiences frequently went to the film to make comparisons of "before" and "after" shots of Clift.
Raintree County was the first picture to be filmed using Panavision's "Camera 65" process. Most release prints, however, were issued as 35mm anamorphic prints. Actor Gardner McKay (1932-2001), who appeared briefly as a Union soldier, made his feature film debut in Raintree Country. Most of the film was shot on location near Danville, KY. Variety reported that the swamp scenes were filmed at Reelfoot Lake, Tiptonville, TN, and that mansions were photographed in Natchez and Port Gibson, MS, while a June 11, 1956 Hollywood Reporter article adds location shooting along the Ohio River, Ohio. The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Actress (Taylor), Best Art Direction, Best Score and Best Costume Design.
Released in United States Winter December 1957
It was during the shooting of this film that Montgomery Clift had the now famous auto-accident that was to change the course of his career.
Released in United States Winter December 1957