Department of Tourism
Pioneer Playhouse Recalls 'Raintree County' Filming
DANVILLE, Ky. – For two weeks starting July 24, Pioneer Playhouse will host a festival to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Hollywood film Raintree County. About half of the lavish MGM Studios production was filmed in and around Danville in 1956, and the Hollywood stars who came to Kentucky to make the movie left a lasting impression on residents of the small Boyle County town.
The festival will include several free screenings of the Civil War film, along with nightly performances of an original comedy based on the culture clash of Hollywood and Central Kentucky, A Jarful of Fireflies by Catherine Bush. Also on the program are daily discussions of the film, memorabilia displays, a street dance, a wine tasting and Civil War reenactments.
The stars of the film included Elizabeth Taylor, at the height of her violet-eyed beauty, and heartthrob Montgomery Clift, originator of the “anti-hero”-rebel look. Eva Marie Saint, Nigel Patrick, Rod Taylor, Agnes Moorhead, and Lee Marvin rounded out the all-star cast, directed by Edward Dmytryk. A host of out-of-town reporters also descended on Danville, adding to the hype and feverish activity that accompanied the production.
“Elizabeth Taylor had just announced her second divorce, she was wearing a 30 pound dress in 100 degree heat,” recalled Holly Henson, artistic director of the playhouse and daughter of its founder, Col. Eben Henson. “Hypersensitive Monty was recovering from a near-fatal car crash that has altered his face -- and possibly career -- forever. Everyone, including the governor of Kentucky and every autograph hound in the state, was thrown together for six intense weeks, to make what everyone hoped will be the greatest picture in the world.
“Even if you never caught a glimpse of the stars, it was incredible to watch an army of craftsmen transform local areas into stunning visual images on the screen. For one glorious summer, Raintree County was a collective community experience...and suddenly everyone was in show business, from steeple chase jocks to men hired to whittle whistles or scare away snakes.”
Of special interest today is the movie’s place in film history. Raintree County has a quiet but lasting legacy, and remains a gilded pinnacle of technological achievement, by the “Tiffany” of movie studios, Henson said. It won Elizabeth Taylor her first Academy Award nomination and the musical score, cinematography and costumes are outstanding. As one of the last and best examples of “old style” studio filmmaking, it has become a cult classic and favorite of film buffs, although sometimes for reasons that were not intended.
For more information on the Raintree County Festival, contact the playhouse at 866-597-5297 (email@example.com) or the Danville/Boyle County Tourism Office at 800-755-0076.
The Kentucky Department of Tourism, an agency of the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet, exists to promote The Commonwealth as a travel destination, generate revenue and create jobs for Kentucky’s economy.