The Rainmaker (1956)

How does one cure a drought-ridden town in the middle of Kansas? Well, you call the handsome and charming rainmaker of course! And maybe he can bring more than just a little rain to this Midwest rural town…if you know what I mean…

"an enjoyable film with charming and eccentric performances from Hepburn and Lancaster"

When con man Starbuck (Burt Lancaster) rolls into town with his irresistible charms and rugged looks, its not long before he makes use of his “skills” on the Curry family, especially on the spinster daughter, Lizzie (Katharine Hepburn). Though Lizzie is not so taken with the silver-tongue cowboy. For $100, Starbuck promises to bring rain to the dry land where the Curry family’s cattle ranch is suffering. Meanwhile, just having returned home from a trip, Lizzie tries to act as if she’s fine. She cooks, she cleans, and being the sole woman of the family, she keeps her father and two brothers in line. She’s strong, she’s smart, but as her family puts it, she’s “plain.” This weighs heavy on the family and especially on her. Will she ever find a man that will think she’s beautiful? Perhaps she can impress the widowed Sheriff File (Wendell Corey). Or perhaps she must change with the fear of perpetual spinsterhood hanging over her head.

The Rainmaker is a film that, in a lot of aspects, unfortunately does not age very well. Viewing it with modern eyes, Lizzie’s conundrum of being in her twenties (though Hepburn was quite a bit older when she filmed this) and not being married yet makes one roll their eyes a bit. Especially when Lizzie has so many other great qualities and refuses to act like every other dim-witted girl that has the sole purpose of acting dumb to get a man. In fact, this point is directly addressed when Lizzie stuffs her chest with a pillow and acts like a ditzy, “beautiful” girl in a quite hilarious fashion. But, after all, this is a 1950’s film and it is hard for me to hold be too upset about it.

But luckily, the overarching story of the film does not necessarily make or break it. In fact, it does have some redeeming qualities that lie in its various themes. There is this conversation of who you are vs. who you are supposed to be that, I think, every character at some point, especially Lizzie and Starbuck. They both deal with being disappointments in their respective families and that is something they are able to bond over. The film may be predictable, but it not without substance.The Rainmaker (1956)

Being that this film was based on a play, there do seem to be some issues transferring it from stage to screen. At a lot of moments, the performances are quite over-the-top with bursts of tears or fits of anger. Though this quality does actually make it quite hilarious in Earl Hollliman’s performance of the gleefully naïve Jim, who’s Lizzie’s youngest brother. His comic relief is delightful with all of his silliness.

Overall, The Rainmaker is an enjoyable film with charming and eccentric performances from Hepburn and Lancaster. If you go into it with the right frame of mind and with the consciousness of the time period, that’s how you’ll get the most out of it. And on a quick note, the town’s drought as a metaphor for Lizzie’s love life and her relationship with Starbuck does give you a nice little smirk on your face.

The Rainmaker is now available on Blu Ray with a very fine restoration courtesy of Kino Lorber.

3/5 stars


The Rainmaker (1956)

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- October 25, 2022
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English SDH
Audio: 2.0

Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Under the spell of a wandering charlatan named Starbuck, a lonely ranch girl blossoms into full womanhood in The Rainmaker. Katharine Hepburn (The Lion in Winter) garnered an Oscar nomination as the (believably plain yet magnificently beautiful) tomboy rancher, with Burt Lancaster (Elmer Gantry) brilliantly cast in the role of the smooth-talking con man who sells his rainmaking powers to unsuspecting, drought-ridden western towns. Writer N. Richard Nash (Porgy and Bess) meticulously enlarges his Broadway play to the big screen without losing any of the earthy, gut-wrenching emotions or the sheer, hilarious fun. The result is a genuinely appealing and beautifully executed romance directed by Joseph Anthony (The Matchmaker). Featuring Wendell Corey (I Walk Alone), Lloyd Bridges (Canyon Passage), Earl Holliman (Giant), Cameron Prud’Homme (Back from Eternity) and Wallace Ford (Flesh and Fury).


Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 the newly remastered High-Definition restoration taken from 6K scan of the 35 mm Vista Vision original camera negative is pretty impressive. The sharpness and clarity of the picture is nice and consistent, but there is a little bit of stabilization issues that are noticeable mostly in the exterior scenes. The color grading has a nice, but muted tone that greatly represents the location and era of that the film takes place in. There are small scratches and specks that can be seen throughout the whole film, but there isn’t nothing major that is too distracting. Overall, for a print that is closing in on seventy years old, I’d say it’s rather good.


With a 2.0 monoaural soundtrack included on this restoration, Lancaster’s con man persuasions and Hepburn’s infamous New England accent come in clear as a bell. No buzzing, hissing, or any other imperfections can be heard. Overall, a nice sounding and healthy track.


Alas, with films of this age, special features are sometimes hard to come by and this release is no exception. But of course, the brand new commentary included is informative and delightful and perfect for anyone wanting to dive deeper into the film and its actors (especially for all of the Lancaster fans out there).


  • Audio Commentary by Film Historian and Writer Julia Kirgo

Special Features:

  • Theatrical Trailers

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 3/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 3/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

4/5 stars


Film Details

The Rainmaker (1956)

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
121 mins
: Joseph Anthony
N. Richard Nash
Burt Lancaster; Katharine Hepburn; Wendell Corey
: Romance | Western
It's about the magic that makes a woman beautiful when she's wanted by a man!
Memorable Movie Quote: "What *do* you believe in, mistah? Dyin' cattle?"
Theatrical Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
December 13, 1956
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 25, 2022
Synopsis: During the Great Depression, a drought is wreaking havoc on a small, destitute Kansas town. Bill Starbuck (Burt Lancaster), a slick grifter, arrives in town, promising he can make it rain in exchange for $100. His offer is accepted by H. C. Curry (Cameron Prudhomme), a rancher whose spinster daughter, Lizzie (Katharine Hepburn), is desperate for a suitor. Lizzie finally finds confidence when Starbuck, ever the smooth talker, convinces her she's beautiful.


The Rainmaker (1956)