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Friday, December 30, 2011

The Rainmaker (1956)

In a drought ridden small western town, an "old maid" (Katharine Hepburn) must come to terms with her spinsterhood and the possibility of being alone for the rest of her life. But when a charlatan (Burt Lancaster) who claims he can make it rain rides into town, her life is changed. Based on the stage play by N. Richard Nash and directed by Joseph Anthony (who directed the original Broadway production), the film is opened up a little bit but wisely retains most of its theatrical origins which allows the actors to take center stage. The role of the con man Starbuck fits Lancaster like a second skin, if there was a role he was born to play, this is it. Hepburn is often cited for being miscast in this but I think it's her best performance of the 1950s (yep, that includes AFRICAN QUEEN and SUMMERTIME). She's funny, heartbreaking and poignant. Her beautifully played scene with Cameron Prud'Homme, who plays her father, where she realizes she's doomed to be an old maid is as fine a piece of acting as she's ever done. The excellent Oscar nominated score is by Alex North. With Wendell Corey, Lloyd Bridges, Earl Holliman, Wallace Ford and Yvonne Lime.

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