Rains of Ranchipur, The (Blu-ray Review)19 Nov, 2012 By: Mike Clark
Stars Lana Turner, Richard Burton, Fred MacMurray, Michael Rennie.
Even in a turban (or, if you wish, possibly because of it), Richard Burton makes such a formidably attractive co-star with Lana Turner here that one wishes that 1955 screens could have been a bit looser and that this Fox DeLuxe Color remake could have taken place somewhere a bit closer to an ‘NC-17’ Raunch-iper. Even so, the studio’s second go at novelist Louis Bromfield’s The Rains Came was suggestive and thus popular enough in its day (Turner’s “Lady Edwina” character has “been around,” as they used to say) to justify its year-end holiday release and to get held over for a second week in my city’s first-run engagement. I can recall my parents making the trek to see Rains downtown, where the then current competition included The Man with the Golden Arm and also one of those crack-head double bills the local bookers used to concoct: The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (Otto Preminger was ubiquitous in those days, wasn’t he?) and The Bowery Boys in Dig That Uranium. I dig that pairing and would pay top dollar to see it today.
Taking over roles from Myrna Loy (borrowed with director Clarence Brown from MGM by Fox) and Tyrone Power in the 1939 Rains original, Turner and Burton are, respectively, a gossip-columnist delight and dedicated physician in India. The latter is not educated in “the ways of women” — having been adopted as the protégé of a practically palace-dwelling person of influence (Eugenie Leontovich) after being sired by “untouchables” (not Bob Stack’s crew but the other kind). Michael Rennie plays Turner’s perpetually cuckolded husband (he at least gets to wear evening clothes a lot), and there’s a second romance (definitely a subplot) that slows down the narrative thrust. It’s between Fred MacMurray as a financially well-heeled juicehead who’s turned sour on the world and Joan Caulfield (by now “playing younger”) as a recent Iowa college grad who struggles to get him on track. It’s either this or teacher’s college.
Here, as in ’39, the rains are coming — and though it may not be as much fun as it used to be, given recent real-life tragic events, to see rampant flooding destruction, the dramatic payoff is still the huge earthquake/dam-bursting scene (same movie year as The Dam Busters, matter of fact) that creates a life-altering situation for all. (And especially for those crossing one ill-paced bridge) The sequence earned a special effects Oscar nomination, and it’s still fairly impressive on Twilight Time’s CinemaScope rendering. In fact, I’m kind of surprised this flaunting-it potboiler lost the effects Oscar to The Bridges at Toko-Ri (a much better movie overall), but Busters was the third nominee in the category, so perhaps the dam-busting vote got split that year.
Ranchipur was directed by Jean Negulesco, who (along with its cinematographer, Milton Krasner) had just been responsible for one of Fox’s Big Ones of the era: Three Coins in the Fountain. In her accompanying pro-job liner notes, Julie Kirgo tries (a little) to rebut critic Andrew Sarris’s claim that Negulesco was a good director in his black-and-white Warner days (I really like Deep Valley) and then in his pre-Scope color days at Fox (ditto for Take Care of My Little Girl) — only faltering artistically when wide screens took over. I basically stick with Sarris, though I’m happy that the conflicting eras exist — less for this film than for the Negulesco/Scope pleasures I still take from How To Marry a Millionaire, Fountain, Woman’s World (which would make a great Twilight Time release) and parts of Daddy Long Legs. Negulesco had an artistic background and thus an eye — and his movies always looked good, even when they were dramatically stilted. Accordingly, Turner comes off as super-hot here (even when I was in elementary school, I savored her shoulders), with Burton pulling his own looks load while somehow surviving his minefield casting. If he had wearing a turban opposite Liz Taylor, somehow I think he’d have looked more ridiculous.