Well, here’s a “few” snags from one of the more important movies of the fifties, and I hope these bits and pieces will make you go rent a copy of this if you haven’t seen it before! The Rainmaker was nominated for Best Written American Drama by the Writer’s Guild of America for the 1957 awards, and at the Golden Globes, was nominated for 4 awards including Best Motion Picture, Best Actor in a Drama (Burt Lancaster), Best Actress (Katharine Hepburn), and Best Supporting Actor (Earl Holliman, who won). At the Oscars, it was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and Best Music in a Drama or Comedy, so you can see, it was a very popular and well-known film. There was some serious acting involved in the leading roles as well, so there must have been stiff competition for the awards that year.
As the movie opens, Burt Lancaster’s character, Starbuck, has been forced to take his con-game on the trail quickly from the previous town he was in, and arrives in “Three Point” to observe these two from the shadows.
Here is a fund-raiser dance party in the town of Three Point, Texas and the Curry family is all there, except Lizzie (Katharine Hepburn) who’s been sent off to stay with cousins for a week. They will go meet her at the train station after the dance. Her younger brother, Jimmy (Earl Holliman) has just been a winner at something inside and comes rushing out the door with a crowd of friends. They all go back inside except the blonde Snookie McGuire (Yvonne Lime/Fedderson), and it’s love at first sight for Jimmy, but it’s not the blonde he noticed right off; it’s the shiny red roadster parked out front that he’s attracted to.
If anybody can identify the make and model of this car, I’d love to be able to give it the correct name. And did it really have only 5 cylinders?
Sitting on the running board of the roadster, Jimmy says, “Your name is Snookie.” She answers, “Yours is Jim Curry.” He agrees, “Uh, huh,” then adds ungrammatically, “I seen you 3 times last week, and 4 times this week.” She proves she can add and says “Seven times all together.” He says “All together.”
Then she wants to know, “Why didn’t you talk?” Bashful Jimmy answers, “Didn’t have nuthin’ to say!” Eventually they take off in the roadster together to “see how she runs,” and then big brother Noah (Lloyd Bridges) and Dad “H.C.” Curry (Cameron Prud’Homme) have to go looking for him when it’s time to go to the train station and pick up Lizzie. Noah returns to pick up their Dad with a sulking Jimmy slouching in the back seat with his boots propped up on the front seat.
Mr. Curry asks his oldest son, Noah, “Where’d you find him?” Noah tattles, “He was parked – with Snookie McGuire. They were out there in the car, and they were so twisted up together, I couldn’t tell where he left off and Snookie began. If I hadn’t come along when I did, heck knows what might have happened.” By then Jimmy has jumped out of the back seat to sit on the running board and lean back on the rear fender. He pipes up with a dreamy look on his face, “Yeah, who knows, I might have come home with her little red hat.”
H.C. bends over to stare at Jimmy while his youngest son looks up at him, and demands to know, “With her what?”
Jimmy straightens up and wisely claims, “Nuthin.”
They go home and grill poor Lizzie about which one of their Uncle Ned’s sons look like the marryin’ kind. When did marrying your cousins become illegal?
These are the Curry men staring glumly at the drought-killed cattle around them after they’ve grilled Lizzie about her visit to the relatives, and found that none of them are suitable or willing husband-candidates, so it’s back to work the next day. And along comes Starbuck, back into the picture.
Coming into this scene below, Lizzie is fixing breakfast, and asks Jim how he wants his eggs. “Oh, Any ol’ way ” he says. Then she wants to know, “How Many?” “Jim says, “Oh, 5 or 6 will do.” Noah adds, “He ain’t so hungry today.”
While Jimmy is stuffing his face here, they’re discussing the subject of inviting the single and eligible Deputy File to supper. Lizzie protests, “Oh he doesn’t even know I’m alive. He’s got a big hello for you and Noah, and Jim, but nothing for me. He just barely sneaks his hat off his head. He makes a point of ignoring me.” Her Dad jumps on that, “When a man makes a point of ignorin’ you, he ain’t ignorin’ you a’ tall.”
On the subject of attracting men, Jimmy (Earl Holliman) in the scene above is telling Lizzie (Katharine Hepburn), “You don’t talk to a man the way you ought to. You talk too serious! If there’s anything that scares the hell out of a fella, it’s a serious-talkin’ girl.” Their Dad, H.C., protests, “That’s the way Lizzie is. She can’t be any different.” Jim argues back, “Yes, she can. She can go down to the social clubs on Wednesday nights, and she can giggle, and she can flirt just as good as any of ‘em.”
H.C. “What do you want her to turn into – Lilly Ann Beasley?”
Jimmy: “Well, Lilly Ann Beasley gets any man she goes for!”
The argument carries on as they’re moving over to the dining table, minus Deputy File who failed to bite on their invitation to supper, and poor Lizzie is all dressed up for nothing.
Lloyd Bridges, in his bossy big brother Noah mode again, says, “For once in his life, Jimmy said something sensible. If it’s a man you want, you gotta get him the way a man gets got.”
Lizzie’s feisty retort is “If that’s the way a man gets got, I don’t want any of ‘em!”
Burt Lancaster’s con-man character, who named himself Starbuck, has had a long, passionate argument with Lizzie that goes from the living room all the way upstairs to her bedroom. Then he goes back down and outside to get up on the wagon with Jimmy and ask him, “Don’t you feel foolish, beatin’ that drum? Lizzie thinks I’m making a jackass outta you. Is that what you think?”
All of these lead actors were so good and totally in character, a hint of the intelligent, sharp, people they really were never sneaks through. Earl Holliman (still sharp and funny) does the simple-minded Jimmy so well. His answer is, “Well, you said, ‘Beat the drum, and it’d bring rain.’ I’m beatin’ it.”
Jimmy keeps on beating the drum, which is heard all the way in town. Finally, ol’ deputy File decides to go out to Curry’s on the pretext of apologizing to Jimmy for that black eye he was sporting in the earlier scene with Lizzie. Wendell Corey, playing Deputy J.S. File, arrives at the Curry house to catch Lizzie flouncing around the living room, amusing her father by imitating the silly, never-seen character of Lilly Ann Beasley.
After a vicious argument with Noah, Jimmy has run off, and all the other men-folk have made themselves scarce to leave Lizzie alone with the single man. She makes a clumsy attempt at flirting, playing with File’s bow-tie and asking if it’s leather, saying all the wrong things. File is so freaked out by her behavior, he gets up and leaves after telling her to stop being so silly and “Be yourself.” She’s so mortified by her own foolishness, she grabs the quilt Jimmy had planned to take out to the tack room for Starbuck, and runs out to the barn.
I love this antique, horse-drawn rake they used here, where Starbuck urges Lizzie, “Dream you’re Somebody; Be Somebody!” He runs through a bunch of new names he thinks she should choose from to re-define who she is. (You’ve heard the line from a silly old song about “Got my education out behind the barn!”) Well, she did go back to the house with her hair all down and messed up!
Here he’s picked out a queenly character for her and crowned her with an oil or gas funnel, then wrapped her up in the quilt for a robe.
Meanwhile, Jimmy’s out necking with Snookie in the rumble seat of the shiny red roadster. The steering-wheel is tied to keep the car going in circles in low gear.
By the time he’s decided to go back home, he’s no longer the dumb little brother who’s been dominated by Noah. He bursts in the kitchen door, lets it slam, flips a chair around backwards in the air, and steps over it to sit down. Smoking a fancy cigar, he tells Noah where to get off, basically, and eventually threatens to smash the cigar in his big brother’s “mean ol’ face.” It’s a fun change-up in Jimmy’s mind-set.
So Jimmy has a surprising announcement to make about Snookie, and in the very end there is a whole lot of rain, Starbuck asks Lizzie to take off with him, and Deputy File says “Don’t Go!”
Which one does she choose? Well, you’ll just have to rent the movie and find out if you don’t know! And send a note, saying you’ve now seen it, and tell me who’s your favorite character!