The Rainmaker (1957)

120-121 mins | Drama | February 1957

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HISTORY

According to HR , producer Hal Wallis purchased the film rights to N. Richard Nash's play The Rainmaker for $300,000 in Feb 1955. NYT reported that RKO had previously attempted to purchase the film rights to the play in Aug 1954, prior to its Broadway production. Joseph Anthony directed the play's original production, which ran for 124 performances, before directing the film adaptation. Actor Cameron Prud'Homme reprised his stage role of "H. C. Curry" in the film. The Nash play was later musicalized in 1962 as 110 in the Shade . On 6 Jul 1955, HR 's "Rambling Reporter" column stated that Wallis was negotiating with Daniel Mann to direct the picture.
       According to modern sources, William Holden was originally cast in the role of "Bill Starbuck." When Burt Lancaster read in Hedda Hopper's column that Holden had backed out of The Rainmaker , he called Wallis, agreeing to appear in the producer's 1957 production of Gunfight at O.K. Corral (See Entry) if he received the title role in this film. Modern sources add that Katharine Hepburn, having been so impressed by the actor's performance in Paramount's 1955 production The Rose Tattoo (See Entry), wired Wallis a congratulatory note for casting Lancaster as Starbuck. As confirmed in surviving footage of tests and outtakes for the film, Elvis Presley did a screen test for "Jim Curry," which would have been his first acting role. That part was played in the film by Earl Holliman.
       The Rainmaker received two Academy Award nominations: Hepburn was nominated for Best Actress (for the seventh ... More Less

According to HR , producer Hal Wallis purchased the film rights to N. Richard Nash's play The Rainmaker for $300,000 in Feb 1955. NYT reported that RKO had previously attempted to purchase the film rights to the play in Aug 1954, prior to its Broadway production. Joseph Anthony directed the play's original production, which ran for 124 performances, before directing the film adaptation. Actor Cameron Prud'Homme reprised his stage role of "H. C. Curry" in the film. The Nash play was later musicalized in 1962 as 110 in the Shade . On 6 Jul 1955, HR 's "Rambling Reporter" column stated that Wallis was negotiating with Daniel Mann to direct the picture.
       According to modern sources, William Holden was originally cast in the role of "Bill Starbuck." When Burt Lancaster read in Hedda Hopper's column that Holden had backed out of The Rainmaker , he called Wallis, agreeing to appear in the producer's 1957 production of Gunfight at O.K. Corral (See Entry) if he received the title role in this film. Modern sources add that Katharine Hepburn, having been so impressed by the actor's performance in Paramount's 1955 production The Rose Tattoo (See Entry), wired Wallis a congratulatory note for casting Lancaster as Starbuck. As confirmed in surviving footage of tests and outtakes for the film, Elvis Presley did a screen test for "Jim Curry," which would have been his first acting role. That part was played in the film by Earl Holliman.
       The Rainmaker received two Academy Award nominations: Hepburn was nominated for Best Actress (for the seventh time in her career, up to that point), while Alex North was nominated for Best Music Score. In May 1982, HR reported that Nash was taking legal action to challenge Paramount's right to do a video production of his play for the cable television network HBO. Paramount argued that, by taping the play in front of a non-paying audience, they were legally within the remake rights established in the studio's agreement with the playwright prior to production of the 1957 film. Nash, having retained the play's theatrical rights, argued that the HBO production was a commercial production of his play, not a remake of the film. It has not been determined if Nash lost his suit or reached a settlement with Paramount, but the HBO production was taped and aired on 22 Oct 1982, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Tuesday Weld under the direction of John Frankenheimer. The play was revived on Broadway (11 Nov 1999--23 Nov 2000) in a production directed by Scott Ellis and starring Woody Harrelson. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
15 Dec 1956.
---
Daily Variety
12 Dec 56
p. 3.
Film Daily
12 Dec 56
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 55
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jul 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 56
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jun 56
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Sep 56
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Dec 56
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 May 1982.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
15 Dec 56
p. 185.
New York Times
1 Aug 1956.
---
New York Times
13 Dec 56
p. 51.
Variety
12 Dec 56
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d unit dir/2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d cam
Asst cam
Grip
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Ed supv
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Props
Prop shop
Painter
COSTUMES
Cost
Women's ward
Men's ward
MUSIC
Mus score
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hairstyle supv
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to prod
Prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
Publicist
Casting dir
Casting
Casting
Casting
Casting
Casting secy
Scr clerk
Stage eng
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Rainmaker by N. Richard Nash (New York, 28 Oct 1954.)
SONGS
"She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain," traditional.
DETAILS
Release Date:
February 1957
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 11 December 1956
Production Date:
19 June--13 August 1956
retakes 21 August 1956
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corp., Hal B. Wallis and Jospeh H. Hazen
Copyright Date:
13 December 1956
Copyright Number:
LP7613
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
VistaVision Motion Picture High-Fidelity
Duration(in mins):
120-121
Length(in feet):
10,806
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18257
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1931, with the heartland of Kansas suffering a severe drought, confidence man Bill Starbuck plies his trade as a rainmaker, though he has failed to produce even a single drop of precipitation. After narrowly escaping another angry mob, to whom he has been selling bogus tornado deflectors, Starbuck arrives in the backwater town of Three Point. Although the town was once a prosperous farm community, the drought has killed most of the local crops, as well as much of the townspeople's livestock. Rancher H. C. Curry has problems beyond his dying cattle, however, as his spinster daughter Lizzie has returned home from a week's visit to Sweet River without making any conquests from among her Uncle Ned's three marriage-able sons. H. C., along with his two sons, Noah and Jim, then decide to match Lizzie up with J. S. File, the local deputy. Although Lizzie is agreeable to such an arrangement, File has little interest in romance, having come to accept his solitary life. After declining the Currys' invitation to dinner, File gets into a brief fight with the bumbling Jim, though H. C. strikes the final blow when he tells the deputy that the whole town knows that he is not the grieving widower that he claims to be. That evening, Lizzie is heartbroken to learn that File is not coming to dinner, but the deputy is soon replaced at the Currys' dinner table by Starbuck. The fast-talking confidence man offers to bring rain to Three Point in twenty-four hours, if he is paid $100 in advance. Though H. C. knows Starbuck is a liar, the desperate rancher agrees ... +


In 1931, with the heartland of Kansas suffering a severe drought, confidence man Bill Starbuck plies his trade as a rainmaker, though he has failed to produce even a single drop of precipitation. After narrowly escaping another angry mob, to whom he has been selling bogus tornado deflectors, Starbuck arrives in the backwater town of Three Point. Although the town was once a prosperous farm community, the drought has killed most of the local crops, as well as much of the townspeople's livestock. Rancher H. C. Curry has problems beyond his dying cattle, however, as his spinster daughter Lizzie has returned home from a week's visit to Sweet River without making any conquests from among her Uncle Ned's three marriage-able sons. H. C., along with his two sons, Noah and Jim, then decide to match Lizzie up with J. S. File, the local deputy. Although Lizzie is agreeable to such an arrangement, File has little interest in romance, having come to accept his solitary life. After declining the Currys' invitation to dinner, File gets into a brief fight with the bumbling Jim, though H. C. strikes the final blow when he tells the deputy that the whole town knows that he is not the grieving widower that he claims to be. That evening, Lizzie is heartbroken to learn that File is not coming to dinner, but the deputy is soon replaced at the Currys' dinner table by Starbuck. The fast-talking confidence man offers to bring rain to Three Point in twenty-four hours, if he is paid $100 in advance. Though H. C. knows Starbuck is a liar, the desperate rancher agrees to the crooked rainmaker's proposition. Arguing that he can only be successful in creating a storm if the family believes in him, Starbuck sends the three male Currys off on bizarre errands, leaving him alone with Lizzie. He soon reduces the skeptical spinster to tears by telling her that she will never be a real woman because of her lack of faith in anyone or anything. Meanwhile, with the encouragement of his boss, Sheriff Howard Thomas, File has a change of heart and decides to go out to the Curry ranch, under the pretext of apologizing to Jim. Instead, he confesses to Lizzie that he is a divorced man, who lost his wife to a near-sighted schoolteacher because he was too proud to ask her to stay. The two then sit down to talk, but the insecure Lizzie finds herself either arguing with File or acting like a brainless idiot. After the deputy literally runs out of the Curry home, Noah confronts his family, stating that Lizzie is plain and doomed to be an old maid. Though she seemingly accepts her elder brother's decree, Lizzie's spirits soon soar on the wings of Starbuck's charm, for he convinces her that she will be beautiful if she believes it. After letting down her hair, Lizzie is kissed for the very first time by Starbuck. She is not the only Curry to finally gain self-confidence, as Jim breaks away from Noah's domineering manner and becomes engaged to Snookie McGuire. Soon after, File returns to the Curry ranch looking for a swindler known as Tornado Johnson. Realizing that Tornado and Starbuck are one and the same, the Currys try to protect the rainmaker from the law, but he is arrested by File nevertheless. After the entire family, including Noah, asks for Starbuck's release, File agrees to let the confidence man go. As he begins to ride off, Starbuck stops his wagon and asks Lizzie to join him. File, however, asks her to stay, and realizing her place is with him, Lizzie remains behind. Starbuck then gives the Currys back their money and rides off, only to have a rainstorm break out. He then rides back to the ranch, collects his money and rides off again, finally a real rainmaker. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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