Raintree County - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Raintree County Reviews

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August 14, 2016
"Raintree County" is better seen as a footnote on a timeline than a film. Halfway during its production, star Montgomery Clift was involved in a serious car accident that left him with a broken nose, a split lip, a fractured jaw, and a half-paralyzed face. In a matter of months, he went from Hollywood Golden Boy, striking and charismatic, to miserable victim of circumstance, his good looks forever stained and his career's prosperity suddenly less important than daily bouts of self-medication.
Following the crash, his behavior started becoming unpredictable and dangerous. In a matter of years, he was virtually unemployable. Almost a decade after "Raintree County" was released to negative reviews and a public more concerned with trying to pinpoint which scenes were filmed before and after the calamity, Clift was dead from a heart attack.
The tragedy of Montgomery Clift is more interesting a story than "Raintree County" could ever tell, but because it was the second pairing of Clift and lifelong friend Elizabeth Taylor, and because it was the last movie he made before his career and personal life took a drastic turn, it's worth viewing. As an actual movie, though, it's a classic case of Hollywood muchness, big-budgeted and lavishly designed but also overlong and paint-by-the-numbers drivel in its obvious "Gone with the Wind" aspiration.
It's not the bad film that it's been made out to be - only one of its ten reviews on movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes are positive - but it isn't a good one, either. It's just a handsomely mounted, competently made MGM epic without an emotional pull, all eye candy and no authenticity. For half of its near three hour running time, it's tolerable. After that, it's a dubiously operatic bore.
Clift and Taylor are predictably reliable, but even their individual cults of personality cannot overcome "Raintree County's" overblown soullessness. In it, they are John Wickliff Shawnessey and Susanna Drake, residents of the eponymous Indiana town whose lives eventually become largely affected by the American Civil War. As the film opens, John is a graduating idealist romancing the kindhearted Nell (Eva Marie Saint); Susanna is a visiting New Orleans socialite with debauchery on the brain.
John plans on becoming a writer or a teacher, sharing his visionary beliefs with the open-minded, and plans on marrying his girl as soon as he finds financial stability. But Susanna's arrival in Raintree County spells trouble. She's an irresistible looker able to steal any man's heart, and the first guy she sets her sights on is John. Apparently, his devotion to Nell isn't all that it's cracked up to be: the two have a brief but torrid affair John hopes will be forgotten as a trivial fling of his youth.
But shortly after their fleet of rendezvous come to a close, Susanna returns to Raintree County to announce that she's pregnant. Though he'd prefer to marry Nell and have his first child with her, John, wanting to avoid scandal, weds his side woman (who proves to be mentally unstable), thus enforcing that the next five year be woebegone. The war only worsens things.
That premise, ripe with melodrama as it is, is "Raintree County's" most pertinent problem and is certainly not compelling enough to energize a movie without the spectacle of "Ben-Hur" and without the consequentiality of "Magnolia." For a short period of time is its materialism excusable - the stars are bright, the costume and set design are picturesquely palatial, the cinematography stately - but three hours is a long while to spend with a film more functional than impactful. Tedium is increasingly copious, and when Clift and Taylor's chemistry is surprisingly paltry (they were so sizzling in "A Place in the Sun"), the film has little to grab onto besides its lustrous looks.
I can't quite blame Edward Dmytryk ("Murder, My Sweet," "Crossfire") for the movie's lacking of life - he's the glue that holds everything together - but I'm comfortable pointing fingers at screenwriter Millard Kaufman, whose stiff script bears the evident characteristics of being cobbled together. John is a one-dimensional hero, mundanely good-natured and unbelievably unfaltering in his loyalty to Susanna (a nightmare). Nell puts up with so much shit that her eventual ending up with John is less heartwarming and more a disastrous perpetuation of the age-old myth that a woman is only worth something when she's standing behind a man. And Susanna, a Southern belle who trumps your old white conservative aunt in terms of racial prejudice, is a flimsily drawn lunatic who flaunts her lunacy through an august doll collection (her favorite resembles a post-accident Harvey Dent), erratic monologues seasoned with crocodile tears, and an irreversible belief that she could be half-black (which destroys her).
Remarkably, Clift, Marie Saint, and Taylor play these characters effectively (despite not having believable rapport) and remain unscathed. Taylor, in particular, turns a typical soap opera subplot into something absorbing. But the rest of the film, attractive as it appears, is insipid. Just goes to show that the right director, the right source material, the right stars, the right studio, and the right budget, are not enough to equal quality. Without a heart, zip is meaningless.
Super Reviewer
½ June 19, 2016
A lavish production that wants to repeat the success of Gone with the Wind but is boring to death in its massive running time of almost three hours and suffers also from Montgomery Clift's erratic performance and the bizarre change in his looks due to his tragic car accident.
August 10, 2015
I haven't seen Gone with the Wind yet so i don't know what everyone is talking about. Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor were amazing as always. I didn't realize the change in his face, which is mentioned everywhere, but i was shocked with that stupid ginger beard they put on him!
May 30, 2015
no "GWTW" as the studio hoped but still quite successful I liked it see if u can see the before & after the car accident with Monty Clift hint interior stuff was b4 the accident.
½ January 20, 2015
Pretendiò ser una segunda Lo que el viento se llevò,el resultado es fallido muy larga con un formato parecido a un telefilm.
Super Reviewer
½ February 18, 2014
Monty and Taylor lack the sizzle from A Place in the Sun. This Civil War "epic" is a mess in more ways than one.
December 22, 2013
one of my all time favs!!!
July 10, 2013
Another Diamond in the Rough...
April 18, 2012
this is my one of my all time favorite movies. i watched it as a child with my parents. i remember trying to force my eyes to stay open until the end (it is a long movie). it became a tradition like watching the wizard of oz and gone with the wind.
October 28, 2011
lol at Elizabeth Tailor's southern accent!! So pretty and pretentious :P

Lots of great actors, interesting story...yay for DeForrest Kelly Turning up randomly!
½ October 24, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011

(1957) Raintree County
DRAMA

Based on the popular novel, with some similarities to "From Here To Eternity" echoing the Montgomery Cliff's role as being one of the most desired and the most righteous person while growing up in a small town called "Raintree County", where at the beginning has him searching that tree through the swamp before going off to war while married to the Elizabeth Taylor character during the 1850s. The movie might seem to be too long in parts and ambitiously pointless, but interesting becauuse of it's history about slavery etc...


3 out of 4
August 3, 2011
Like Gone with the Wind, though not as good, it's a gorgeous but long "epic period piece." Pretty interesting story with quality actors from that era. Dame Elizabeth Taylor was deserving of the Oscar nomination but it's fitting that she didn't win it. If you liked GwtW, you'll enjoy RC. It's a classic with incredible costumes, lovely scenery, breathtaking cinematography of the Old South, good old-school Civil War scenes, humor, romance and the insanity of love. Just go into it knowing that although Taylor rivals Vivien Leigh in beauty, Montgomery Clift is no Clark Gable and this film is not as good as GwtW.
½ April 14, 2011
Classic! Love Monty and Elizabeth in this film!
½ April 5, 2011
no me gusta mucho...a veces bien, pero no es GWTW!!
December 10, 2010
Pretendiò ser una segunda Lo que el viento se llevò,el resultado es fallido muy larga con un formato parecido a un telefilm.
Super Reviewer
November 17, 2010
There are a lot of great actors in this movie (keep an eye out for DeForrest Kelly in a small role), but it's a boring civil war romantic drama. Gone with the Wind is much better than this movie. Overall it's okay, though.
August 28, 2010
Overly-long melodrama. Worth watching only to see Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor together.
July 30, 2010
Demasiado sobredratizada, Monty + Taylor es suficiente para querer ver una pelicula, pero estan muy desperdiciados y mal dirigidos, Elizabeth Taylor por momentos da risa involuntaria porque esta demasiado sobreactuada, al punto que raya en lo ridiculo, creo que ella tiene un talento natural, pero tambin que su naturaleza es comenzar a ser demasiado sobreactuada y que solo en las manos de un buen director brilla su talento, esta pelicula la filmo despues de Giant y antes de Cat on the Hot Tin Roof, y esas son dos de mis actuaciones y peliculas favoritas de ella, entonces ella estaba pasando por un muy buen momento, y talvz por eso esta actuacin apeste mas. Montgomery Clift no esta tan mal como ET, pero tampoco es solido en su actuacin. Raintree County parece mas una telenovela o serie de epoca, el ritmo es lento y poco interesante, los conflictos en el personaje de Taylor parecen ser lo que se va a destacar de la pelicula, pero el desarrollo es muy pobre para que en realidad funcione y como dije la actuacion de Taylor solo nos distancia del personaje, Raintree County no tiene nada especial, o que valga la pena recordar.
December 2, 2009
MURDER, MY SWEET director Edward Dmytryk helmed RAINTREE COUNTY, a tragic love story set against the American Civil War. Everything about this prestigious MGM production had tragedy attached to it. Not only did the story conclude on a tragic note, but also Montgomery Cliff lost control of his car on a twisting road and crashed it into a telephone pole. The facial and cranial injuries that Cliff suffered were so critical that MGM briefly contemplating scrapping the production. Indeed, Dmytryk did have to stop production until Cliff recovered from his injuries. The handsome young RED RIVER matinee idol was never the same after the car accident. After the film premiered, Cliff told NEWSWEEK magazine that quote--the audience spends too much time trying to figure out which scenes were made after my accident--unquote. Tragedy had struck already because the massive novel upon which the film was based was written by Ross Lockridge, Jr. The book was a Book of the Month Club bestseller in 1948, but writing this epic drove Lockridge to commit suicide. The last tragedy of this lost movie is that the copyright owner has not issued an official DVD release. The only copies of RAINTREE COUNTY are available in the now largely defunct VHS format. An Asian company called Castaways has released a DVD, but the DVD is abysmal. Instead of the widescreen letterboxed format of the VHS version, the Castaways version truncates the picture and the film no longer has an intermission and some copies are unreadable in a DVD.

This sprawling soap opera occurs over a period of six years before, during, and after the American Civil War. The film and the county both drew its name from an exotic Chinese tree that Johnny Appleseed planted in a swamp on his way through the wilderness sewing apple orchards. During an outdoor lecture, Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles (Nigel Patrick) regales his class with the story of the raintree. Stiles tells them that anybody who finds the raintree will find the secret of life. Unfortunately, nobody knows where the raintree is located. Idealist Indiana poet/scholar Johnny Wickliff Shawnessy (Montgomery Cliff) plunges into the swamp and searches for the raintree. He becomes an object of ridicule for his impulsive behavior. About a half-hour in the action, Johnny accepts a challenge to compete with the fastest runner in Raintree County, Flash Perkins (Lee Marvin of THE BIG HEAT), but the professor intervenes before they can start. Stiles convinces all parties involved to have the foot race delayed until July Fourth. He wants to bet a hundred dollars on Johnny. Later, Johnny runs into the dark-haired, North Orleans-bred, Havana-born southern belle Susanna Drake (Elizabeth Taylor) when he goes to have his photograph taken. He accompanies her to her house and their romance begins. Miraculously, Johnny beats Flash in the race. After the race, Johnny and Susanna joint Professor Stiles on a picnic in the woods with his girlfriend. Eventually, Johnny winds up marrying Susanna because she informs him that she is pregnant with his child. This ruins the love that our protagonist shared with his golden-haired childhood sweetheart Nell Gaither (Eva Marie Saint) and they drift apart.

Actually, Susanna was never pregnant. Later, he learns that she lied to him because she wanted him so much. The hero visits the south with his wife and learns about a mysterious fire that she was involved in and the tragic circumstances surrounding it. Susanna thinks that the worst thing that can happen to a white woman is to have tainted African-American blood. She remembers the night that their mansion burned. As it turns out, her father had to leave his post as a Congressman to tend to his ailing, hysterical wife. Since he could not have a meaningful, child-bearing relationship with her wife, he resorted to an extramarital affair with a slave and Susanna was the product of their union. The Congressman??s wife shoots both the slave and her husband and set the mansion on fire. Susanna blames herself for the incident because she left a nasty note for her in her scrapbook album.

MGM Studios spared no expense in the production of RAINTREE COUNTY. After lensing interiors in Hollywood, producer David Lewis took the company on location in Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee to finish the picture. According to RAINTREE COUNTY historian Stephen V. Russell, the film boasted 119 speaking roles, 72 interior studio sets, and 34 exterior location scene. QUO VADIS cinematographer Robert Surtees does an outstanding job lensing this movie. RAINTREE COUNTY was the film shot in an entirely new photographic process called Camera 65 that was designed to enhance pictorial detail. Indeed, the only other movie to employ this process was the Charlton Heston classic BEN-HUR. Not surprisingly, Surtees shot that movie, too. The cast is fantastic, but this MGM spectacle is no match for GONE WITH THE WIND. RAINTREE COUNTY is related from a Northern perspective, and the Montgomery Cliff hero is nothing like Clark Gable. The Elizabeth Taylor character has a mentally unstable history, keeps a massive collection of dolls, one with a half-burnt face, and she is supposed to symbolize the irrationality of the South. The actual Civil War scenes take place after the intermission, but they cannot compete with GWTW. The dialogue of BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK scenarist Millard Kauffman does not contain anything like the immortal Rhett Butler line at the end of the movie. Sumptuous set designs distinguish this film along with a fine, sensitive performance by Taylor that netted the London-born actress her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Lee Marvin, who had specialized in villain roles before RAINTREE COUNTY, played a sympathetic character for a change. Marvin??s performance is predictably agile, especially in the barroom scenes when he flexes his body for the upcoming race. Rod Taylor plays a slimy, Copperhead politician. Agnes Moorehead is cast as the mother of our hero Ellen Shawnessy.
November 29, 2009
Gorgeously queensized Civil War drama, with Montgomery Clift playing much more likable hero than self-describedly rotten Rhett Butler was: abolitionist Northerner taking care of his mentally ill wife. Elizabeth Taylor is sympathetically tragic Susanna, whose illness is never expoited for sleazy thrills, and Eva Marie Saint is heros true love.
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