They’re featuring Elizabeth Taylor on FilmStruck this month. I watched a couple of her movies that I had not seen before.
Raintree County. This is the little sister of Gone with the Wind. The general plot and scope certainly share a number of similarities.
The cast is good: Montgomery Clift, Taylor, Eva Marie Saint, Nigel Patrick, Lee Marvin, Rod Taylor, Agnes Moorehead, and even a small part at the end of the movie with DeForest Kelley.
My advice? Watch Gone with the Wind again and skip this one. I think Taylor pales in comparison to Vivien Leigh as the high-spirited Southern belle. I’ve become a fan of Montgomery Clift but am of the opinion that as part of a small ensemble cast he’s at his best. But I don’t think he can hold the starring role very well all by himself. He certainly doesn’t in this one.
I think a valid opinion of this movie is contained in this reviewer’s comments:
The first excruciating hour of the picture is almost enough to drive audiences out of the theater. Since GWTW was long, Raintree County is long--and unfocused. In one particularly vapid scene Monty and Eva Marie Saint linger amid the widescreen splendor of well-scouted, photographically appropriate locations. As the two exchange graduation presents with Laurel and Hardy-like formality, the script calls for Eva Marie to coyly break into girlish giggles and say things like `Isn't that niiieeccce?...We think the same things. Isn't that crazy? Tee-hee-hee-hee-hee.' Privately, Eva Marie must have been wondering what crime she might have committed to have caused fate to whirl her from the triumph of her 1954 performance in On the Waterfront to this swampy mess.
At 188 minutes (that’s over 3 hours), my gut tells me that a particularly talented editor could have made an okay movie out of this if shortened a bit. But these “epic” movies just must be endured to some extent. I know we watch movies for entertainment, but there is also the “just sit down and eat your spinach…this is an epic movie” aspect.
Still, although I think Elizabeth Taylor is great in a a few movies, including Cleopatra, her performance as the Southern belle seems affected throughout this one….with one notable exception. She’s in the loony bin for a time. Clift comes to visit her and bring her home. Taylor’s portrayal of this battered and tattered Southern belle is suddenly quite exceptional. But it’s unfortunately a relatively short scene.
Then I moved onto:
Reflection in a Golden Eye. Another strong cast with Taylor, Marlon Brando, and Brian Keith. At this stage, Brando seems somewhat bored with acting. His subtle nuances that were masterful in “On the Watefront” and “A Streetcar Named Desire” (both from the 50s) seem exaggerated or off-key in this 1967 film.
Taylor plays an army brat wife of Major Weldon Penderton (Brando) who is stationed on a base in the South. For some reason (and we have no idea), Brando is a deeply angry man. For Taylor, he is just a mere plaything. She’s having an affair with Brian Keith.
The ranking general of the base was Taylor’s father’s chief-of-staff. Taylor thus have privileges that go far beyond being the wife of an Army major.
Horses are central to this, as is nakedness. Someone must have saw seen the play, Equus (the movie with Richard Burton would come later in 1977) and become enamored with it. But other than to try to replace a proper plot with a bunch of Freudian gunk, I can’t imagine why the movie takes this direction.
I think if you want to watch Liz Taylor act in a movie which is pretty much only about how people’s lives can be so screwed up, you’re better off going with “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and do it properly at 220 volts. And maybe somebody else can watch this and tell me what the character of Anacleto is all about.
This is a somewhat strange movie. It might have been good if Huston hadn’t gone down the cul-de-sac of trying for showy symbolism. As it is, it’s watchable enough for the star power. This is one of Brian Keith’s best. And, oh yeah, a couple people, of course, die in an attempt to make the plot make sense or have some meaning. But I think it clearly misses on this account. You have to decide whether this movie is full of “cheap shock value,” as one reviewer wrote, or “a chilling descent in dark sexuality and madness” as did write another.
Anyway, enough beating of this dead horse (which is another plot point from this movie). My search for truly great Liz Taylor movies that I have not seen goes on. I’m sure I’ve seen this years ago (or part of it), but I’ve got Ivanhoe and The Comedian queued up. Both feature Liz Taylor.