Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


RAINTREE COUNTY (1957). Director: Edward Dmytryk.

John Shawnessy (Montgomery Clift) lives in a Northern county which has the legend of a mysterious, magical raintree in the swamps, which he tries to find but fails. He is loved by Nell (Eva Marie Saint) but winds up married to a neurotic Southern gal named Susanna (Elizabeth Taylor), who fears that her true mother was a Cuban black woman with whom her father supposedly had an affair. What's worse -- for essentially racist Susanna -- John is an abolitionist ... and then the Civil War breaks out. If this all sounds interesting be warned that it's stretched out to a tedious 2 hours and 48 minutes and the movie never really jells. Part of the problem is a meandering script without any major focus, but director Dmytryk isn't much help, either. Clift gives a good performance, but it was clearly affected by the shattering car accident he was in that occurred during filming. Elizabeth Taylor deserves an A for effort but she's not really up to playing a character that has so many different facets and psychological problems. Rod Taylor is good as a swaggering rival of John's, and Lee Marvin certainly scores as the charismatic Flash, with whom John has a race and who winds up in the Army with him. But the best performance is from Eva Marie Saint, who stands by John through thick and thin, and who is better than the picture deserves. DeForest Kelley shows up briefly as a rebel soldier. Fine cinematography by Robert Surtees and a good score by Johnny Green, but this is mostly a bore.

Verdict: Three hours of your life you can never get back. **.

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