The Rain People


1h 41m 1969
The Rain People

Brief Synopsis

A housewife who feels trapped leaves home and takes up with a hitchhiker.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Drama
Release Date
Jan 1969
Premiere Information
New York opening: 27 Aug 1969
Production Company
American Zoetrope
Distribution Company
Warner Bros.--Seven Arts, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 41m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

Pregnant Long Island housewife Natalie Ravenna deserts her husband. While driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike she picks up former college athlete Jimmie Kilgannon. Touched by the revelation that the young man has suffered brain damage during a football game, the housewife drives the athlete to West Virginia, where he has been promised employment by the father of his former girl friend. The family, however, is repelled by Kilgannon, and Natalie persuades him to accompany her to Chattanooga, where she tries unsuccessfully to drop him off. In Nebraska she places the youth as a handyman at a reptile zoo. Speeding from the town she is apprehended by widowed motorcycle policeman Gordon and subsequently fined by Justice of the Peace Alfred, Kilgannon's treacherous employer. When the athlete releases abused animals from their cages, Alfred fires Kilgannon, exacting $800 from the young man's $1,000 savings. As Gordon entertains Natalie in his mobile home, the couple is observed by the athlete and the policeman's adolescent daughter Rosalie. When the officer attempts to make love to the housewife he is assaulted by Kilgannon. Alarmed, Rosalie shoots and kills the youth.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Drama
Release Date
Jan 1969
Premiere Information
New York opening: 27 Aug 1969
Production Company
American Zoetrope
Distribution Company
Warner Bros.--Seven Arts, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 41m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

The Rain People


By the late 1960s, Francis Ford Coppola had made a name for himself as a screenwriter on several big-budget films, and had directed a couple of quirky features--a low-budget horror film for Roger Corman's American-International Pictures, Dementia 13 (1963), and his UCLA masters' thesis film, the goofy comedy You're a Big Boy Now (1966). Warner Bros. then entrusted him with the musical Finian's Rainbow (1968), starring Fred Astaire. The studio was pleased with Coppola's speed and efficiency, and even though the film was a flop, the studio agreed to finance his next project. Unhappy with his lack of control on Finian's Rainbow, Coppola decided to make a smaller, more personal film that he would write and direct, The Rain People (1969).

Coppola had met actress Shirley Knight at the Cannes Film Festival in 1967, when he was there with You're a Big Boy Now, and she was there as the star of the searing Dutchman (1967). Upset by a confrontation with a journalist, Knight was crying when Coppola saw her and he said, "Don't cry, I'm going to write a film for you." In The Rain People, Knight plays a pregnant runaway housewife. Natalie Ravenna is not sure she wants to be a mother, and not sure she wants to be married. She impulsively gets in her car, and begins a cross-country odyssey of self-discovery. She picks up a hitchhiker (James Caan), a former football player whose career ended when he suffered a brain injury during a game. In Nebraska, the two have a fateful encounter with a widowed motorcycle policeman (Robert Duvall).

Coppola filmed The Rain People entirely on location, traveling with a caravan of five cars plus a refurbished minibus to carry equipment. Among his crew were associate producers George Lucas and Mona Skager, both of whom would become key players in his production company. Lucas also directed a "making of" documentary that gives a fascinating glimpse of Coppola's guerrilla filmmaking style. He went on the road without a completed screenplay, inserting incidents that they stumbled upon in their travels, such as a parade in Tennessee, and constantly revising the script. He also relied on improvisations by the actors to help him shape scenes. Shirley Knight had trouble working in such an unstructured environment, and she and Coppola had some arguments about it. Nevertheless, she gives a superb performance as the conflicted housewife.

In spite of the difficulties of filming on location, Coppola finished The Rain People on schedule and slightly under budget. Energized by the experience, the director became determined to make his films away from the Hollywood movie factory. He set up his own company, American Zoetrope, in San Francisco in late 1969, with Lucas as vice-president and Skager as secretary-treasurer. The Rain People was the first film released as an American Zoetrope production, although Warner Bros. distributed it.

Reviews were mixed. According to Variety, "Writer-director Francis Coppola, scrutinizing the flight of a neurotic young woman and her efforts to assist a brain-damaged ex-football player, has developed an overlong, brooding film. Often lingering too long on detail to build effects, he manages to lose character sympathy." Pauline Kael observed, "There's a prodigious amount of talent in Francis Ford Coppola's unusual, little-seen film, but the writer-director applies his craftsmanship with undue solemnity to material that suggests a gifted college student's imitation of early Tennessee Williams." And Roger Ebert was admiring, but non-committal. "It's difficult to say whether this film is successful or not," he wrote. "That's the beautiful thing about a lot of the new, experimental American directors. They'd rather do interesting things and make provocative observations than try to outflank John Ford on his way to the Great American Movie."

Most critics had praise for the performances in The Rain People, and it won both the Grand Prize and the best director award at the San Sebastian Film Festival. But it did not perform well at the box office. Over the years, however, it has acquired a cult status as an early feminist film for its provocative treatment of a woman seeking her own identity. And even though it was not a success, Coppola's next film as a director, featuring two of the actors from The Rain People, Duvall and Caan, would be a blockbuster: The Godfather (1972).

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Producer: Bart Patton, Ronald Colby
Screenplay: Francis Ford Coppola, based on his story, "Echoes"
Cinematography: Wilmer C. (Bill) Butler
Editor: Blackie (Barry) Malkin
Art Direction: Leon Ericksen
Music: Ronald Stein
Principal Cast: James Caan (Jimmie "Killer" Kilgannon), Shirley Knight (Natalie Ravenna), Robert Duvall (Gordon), Marya Zimmet (Rosalie), Tom Aldredge (Mr. Alfred), Laurie Crews (Ellen), Andrew Duncan (Artie).
C-102m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.

by Margarita Landazuri
The Rain People

The Rain People

By the late 1960s, Francis Ford Coppola had made a name for himself as a screenwriter on several big-budget films, and had directed a couple of quirky features--a low-budget horror film for Roger Corman's American-International Pictures, Dementia 13 (1963), and his UCLA masters' thesis film, the goofy comedy You're a Big Boy Now (1966). Warner Bros. then entrusted him with the musical Finian's Rainbow (1968), starring Fred Astaire. The studio was pleased with Coppola's speed and efficiency, and even though the film was a flop, the studio agreed to finance his next project. Unhappy with his lack of control on Finian's Rainbow, Coppola decided to make a smaller, more personal film that he would write and direct, The Rain People (1969). Coppola had met actress Shirley Knight at the Cannes Film Festival in 1967, when he was there with You're a Big Boy Now, and she was there as the star of the searing Dutchman (1967). Upset by a confrontation with a journalist, Knight was crying when Coppola saw her and he said, "Don't cry, I'm going to write a film for you." In The Rain People, Knight plays a pregnant runaway housewife. Natalie Ravenna is not sure she wants to be a mother, and not sure she wants to be married. She impulsively gets in her car, and begins a cross-country odyssey of self-discovery. She picks up a hitchhiker (James Caan), a former football player whose career ended when he suffered a brain injury during a game. In Nebraska, the two have a fateful encounter with a widowed motorcycle policeman (Robert Duvall). Coppola filmed The Rain People entirely on location, traveling with a caravan of five cars plus a refurbished minibus to carry equipment. Among his crew were associate producers George Lucas and Mona Skager, both of whom would become key players in his production company. Lucas also directed a "making of" documentary that gives a fascinating glimpse of Coppola's guerrilla filmmaking style. He went on the road without a completed screenplay, inserting incidents that they stumbled upon in their travels, such as a parade in Tennessee, and constantly revising the script. He also relied on improvisations by the actors to help him shape scenes. Shirley Knight had trouble working in such an unstructured environment, and she and Coppola had some arguments about it. Nevertheless, she gives a superb performance as the conflicted housewife. In spite of the difficulties of filming on location, Coppola finished The Rain People on schedule and slightly under budget. Energized by the experience, the director became determined to make his films away from the Hollywood movie factory. He set up his own company, American Zoetrope, in San Francisco in late 1969, with Lucas as vice-president and Skager as secretary-treasurer. The Rain People was the first film released as an American Zoetrope production, although Warner Bros. distributed it. Reviews were mixed. According to Variety, "Writer-director Francis Coppola, scrutinizing the flight of a neurotic young woman and her efforts to assist a brain-damaged ex-football player, has developed an overlong, brooding film. Often lingering too long on detail to build effects, he manages to lose character sympathy." Pauline Kael observed, "There's a prodigious amount of talent in Francis Ford Coppola's unusual, little-seen film, but the writer-director applies his craftsmanship with undue solemnity to material that suggests a gifted college student's imitation of early Tennessee Williams." And Roger Ebert was admiring, but non-committal. "It's difficult to say whether this film is successful or not," he wrote. "That's the beautiful thing about a lot of the new, experimental American directors. They'd rather do interesting things and make provocative observations than try to outflank John Ford on his way to the Great American Movie." Most critics had praise for the performances in The Rain People, and it won both the Grand Prize and the best director award at the San Sebastian Film Festival. But it did not perform well at the box office. Over the years, however, it has acquired a cult status as an early feminist film for its provocative treatment of a woman seeking her own identity. And even though it was not a success, Coppola's next film as a director, featuring two of the actors from The Rain People, Duvall and Caan, would be a blockbuster: The Godfather (1972). Director: Francis Ford Coppola Producer: Bart Patton, Ronald Colby Screenplay: Francis Ford Coppola, based on his story, "Echoes" Cinematography: Wilmer C. (Bill) Butler Editor: Blackie (Barry) Malkin Art Direction: Leon Ericksen Music: Ronald Stein Principal Cast: James Caan (Jimmie "Killer" Kilgannon), Shirley Knight (Natalie Ravenna), Robert Duvall (Gordon), Marya Zimmet (Rosalie), Tom Aldredge (Mr. Alfred), Laurie Crews (Ellen), Andrew Duncan (Artie). C-102m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning. by Margarita Landazuri

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Location scenes filmed in New York, West Virginia, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Colorado.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall September 1969

Released in United States 2009

Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival (Tributes, Founder's Directing Award) April 23-May 7, 2009.

Released in United States Fall September 1969

Released in United States 2009 (Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival (Tributes, Founder's Directing Award) April 23-May 7, 2009.)