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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sunday Movie Review: "The Rainmaker" (1956)

Hey, guys, today I've got a review of The Rainmaker (1956) for you all - and I'm sorry to say I didn't like it all that much!


THE RAINMAKER (1956): Cast, plot details

Flimflamming his way through the drought-plagued Southwest, Bill Starbuck (Burt Lancaster) promises -- for $100 -- to bring rain to farmer H.C. Curry (Cameron Prud'Homme). But Curry's spinster daughter (Katharine Hepburn) remains dubious about Starbuck's guarantee until he works his pitchman charm on her. [from Netflix]
  • Katharine Hepburn as Lizzie Curry
  • Burt Lancaster as Bill Starbuck
  • Wendell Corey as Deputy J.S File
  • Lloyd Bridges as Noah Curry


This movie has wonderful actors and a plot with substance, but the matter in which it is executed results in simply a ridiculous romp you weren't really expecting. Maybe give it a watch.

I was expecting this to be one of those "a spinster falls madly in love for the first time" kind of movies, which it sort of was, but then it wasn't.

The plot sounded pretty interesting to me, and then, of course, Katharine Hepburn - Kate Hepburn is a good enough reason to watch anything - so I was really excited to see this. So I'm very sorry to find that it didn't really live up to my expectations.

Let's start with the acting. As always, Kate Hepburn is perfect - no really, I couldn't hate Katie in anything - but truly. I like her character, because I like spinster characters, and Lizzie Curry was definitely one. Kate is brave and spunky, and it's really all her movie, despite the title. It's nice to watch her transform from the insecure spinster sister who has accepted the fact she's a "plain Jane" into a woman who knows how beautiful she is. She was Oscar nominated for this and her performance is one of, or perhaps the best, attributes to this whole film. 

Burt Lancaster is a little over the top as a rainmaker, but in his defense, Bill Starbuck is a wildly whimsical character and so I guess the only way you could play a role like that is to overreact. Wendell Corey and Lloyd Bridges were okay, but they were mostly props for Lizzie Curry and Bill Starbuck and don't really have the opportunity to do much. As a comic relief, Earl Holliman plays Jim Curry and he was entertaining to say the least.

The whole movie was very stagey and very talky; for that matter, it was based on a play, but plays can be easily transferred to the screen without feeling like you're watching a filmed stage performance - which was what this felt like. The whole movie takes course over one night that seems to go on forever, and so much happens within what really should be a short time frame, it just felt ridiculous. Lizzie & Bill's relationship seems pretty much frivolous and at the end of the movie you're not sure if you watched a melodrama or a comedy or what anymore.

Too bad, I really thought that this was going to be a good movie. The pros are pretty much the two main characters, Lizzie Curry & Bill Starbuck, which are just entertaining roles to watch. And then another pro is Katharine Hepburn, of course, and it's also very visually appealing. But otherwise I can't think of much else that I liked about this movie.


  • Paramount originally wanted William Holden for the role of Bill Starbuck
  • Bing Crosby wanted the role of Bill Starbuck
  • Elvis Presley tested for the role of Jim Curry


The whole movie's right on the tube of You -


New poll open!! It will be open for two weeks. The question is: Greta Garbo or Ingrid Bergman? Basically I want to know which Swedish actress you like best. Please vote, I can't wait to see the results, and hopefully I will actually do a post about the results this time! :)


Dani said...

I remember watching this movie a couple years back on TCM and hating it. On that day I had the afternoon off and I saw that Katharine Hepburn was in the movie, so I gave it a go.
But, like you I didn't like the movie. And, unlike you, the reason I didn't like it was mainly the casting. I thought the story was pretty boring, but the fact that they decided to cast Kate in that role in spite of her age made it worse for me. I mean, as you said, she played the role of a spinster and (at that time) girls in their twenties or thirties would be considered one. I just thought the role was too silly and too out of character for Kate. I had the same feeling when I saw Meryl Streep on "Mamma Mia!". It was ridiculous.
I hope I wasn't too harsh on Kate. I still love her to pieces :)

KimWilson said...

The film isn't really a standout. I always thought it was ridiculous that Hepburn's character ever thought Lancaster's character would ever be in her. There was an obvious age difference that didn't play well.

Rianna said...

I guess most everyone didn't like this movie ;)
I have to admit, Kate might have been a little long in the tooth for the role. However, she played a spinster, sort of, in "Summertime" (1955) opposite Rossano Brazzi who was several years younger then her. I loved that movie and I didn't think the age difference seemed to show; however I ought to add most people absolutely hate Summertime and I'm just a rare one. -;)
Anyways, I'm glad you still love her to pieces even if you didn't like this movie! :)

Rianna said...

I agree, there wasn't much chemistry between Kate & Lancaster and the age difference was simply too awkward for it to be believable.

Anonymous said...

It's such a unique story and I thought the writing was just brilliant. I liked it a lot actually, but one has to understand the desperate plea of a dreamer and the allegorical parallels to appreciate what the movie/play/story wants to say. Lancaster understood Starbuck inside out and gave an amazing performance.

Maria Stevens said...

I have always loved this movie! Watching Burt Lancaster walk across the screen in anything is like watching poetry in motion because of his athletic background. Even the motion of his hands is poetic. Watching him move is like watching Gene Kelly dance. Katherine Hepburn is always spectacular in anything she does. And Burt Lancaster played his role to a "T". He was supposed to be flamboyant, but also had a heart of gold and the ability to see "inside" people to see their true heart and character, which is what he did with Lizzie, (and Jimmy, by the way) and he showed her that inner beauty and how love-worthy she really was. "Melissant". She knew the whole time he was a flim-flam man, but she took his words to heart regarding her true beauty and worth, which was life-changing for her. Y'all are way too jaded.

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